Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Cow We're Not Going to Get

This is Cabaret, a Dexter heifer that I went to look at on Saturday. She's a good looking heifer, but she won't be coming home with us after all. While I was very impressed with the herd, I don't feel that we'd get the milk I'm looking for in a homestead milking cow.

I've decided at this point to let the rare breeds go and to try to find myself a Jersey cow already in milk. If that fails, I'll go with a heifer.

My decision is based primarily on our needs here at the farm and what will best meet those needs. I'd like to have plenty of milk for drinking, butter, cheese, ice cream, etc. as well as to use as supplemental feed for our chickens and pigs. With the rising cost of feed—and organic feed prices are going through the roof!—I'd also like to be able to offset our off-the-farm feed with milk and whey.

We'd be able to run the cow and her calf on our pasture together with our sheep and goats, which would also have several benefits for the farm. They graze differently and at different heights, making for better pasture management, and they don't share parasites, so they'd help control internal parasites for each other.

Yes, we'll need to feed the cow, but round bales cost considerably less than organic pellet feed, so I'm hopeful that our overall feed costs will go down. Besides, I like the idea of producing more of our feed on farm. Although Jim remains unconvinced, I think that when everything falls out we'll come out ahead. Besides, having our own milk's gotta be healthier than big dairy—even local big dairy.


Madeline said...

if you ever do need to to sell it, "pet milk" will definitely make you come out ahead. Mmmmmm. You are going to have so much fun with your own milk (and cow of course)!

El said...

So many people (homestead-y bloggers mainly) seem so enthralled with cute little Dexters, but I wonder. I would be scared off by their propensity to miscarry, as well as all the other genetic problems these rapidly-bred cows seem to have. I'm with you: go with a high-fat Jersey or Guernsey: so what if they're big? They'll give you 3-5 gallons a day, which would be enough for your family's needs, AND some wonderful milk for the rest of the farm crew. Just steer (hah) clear of Holsteins and their watery milk.

karl said...

we love our jersey. best breed ever. trust me, you can never have enough milk. yogurt, cottage cheese, cream, ice cream, regular cheese, pressed cheeses, aged cheeses, butter milk and finally the best rich creamiest milk ever.

nimue, our cow, is the biggest best pet. she is so peaceful and loving. we got her as a heifer. she was obviously a 4-H project.

don't overlook all that wonderful manure. we compost ours for our garden.

finally once per year we get a calf to raise and slaughter if we like.

it is a win, win, win, win situation.

we have a milking machine and highly recommend it. we have a good list of resources for supplies and such. researched to the Nth degree for value, functionality and cost effectiveness.

best of luck, i recommend bred jersey heifer to a jersey bull if you can find it.

jenny said...

A milking cow is what I'd like to have one day. We don't have enough pasture for one yet, and have some tree-clearing to do before we can get a cow. I remember visiting a friend's dairy farm when I was a teen and I was so impressed! I saw a cow give birth to a calf!! wow! I had milk from the cow! wow! We made butter from the milk! Triple wow!! It was, to this day, one of my favorite week-long visits with any of my friends.

After you get a cow, Jim will be convinced it was such a great idea to get one and wonder why you didnt ever suggest getting one earlier!! :o)

Jenny said...

If and when we ever get semen from Fin, our mini jersey bull, we'll send you a straw or two. Then you can move towards a smaller line if you so desire. I'm right there with you! I'm going for a mini jersey heifer this year. That works for me because I would like to postpone the milking commitment for just a bit longer until the kids are older and the farm is better established (and maybe we'll be closer to finishing the house too).

nita said...

Probably the best decision you'll make this year. I vote with Guernsey (because that's what I have) but Jersey would be second choice. I think some people are scared of cows - size doesn't matter. Cattle can read you and if you do right by them, they reward you constantly. Just as many people get hurt by younger or smaller cattle as big ones. Also don't fall into the trap of buying a cull from a dairy. If you can be patient get a heifer that you can be build a relationship with, and also one that has been fed properly. By that, I mean one who has nursed it's mother and not been shorted by being bottle fed. Even better, one whose mom has only been grazed. I guess I better do my family cow economics post - don't give up you'll will find the right cow.

shannon said...

Even Jerseys are quite managable, size wise. Heck, when you go to a state fair they look positively "mini" next to the commercial Holsteins, lol. Definitely go for a bred girl - save the stud search for a year! Our local living history farm keeps a small Jersey herd and is one source we've found for calves, though they aren't de-horned. We simply don't USE 3-5 gallons a day and live in a very dairy-sales unfriendly state. For now our Togg dairy goats give us the gallon or two of milk we can use easily, and we will add on a Jersey once we have enough kiddos around here to use the milk. :)