What do I need to know about owning a milk cow?

My family is going through 3 gallons of milk in a weekend! Not to mention cream which we use for coffee, ice cream and cooking. As well as probably a pound of butter a week. I make everything we eat from scratch so these fresh items run out faster than in the average American household.

We have a small ranch on 3 acres with a fenced pasture with good grass and a barn. My neighbors buy steers from a local dairy farm, so I'm sure I could talk to them about buying a heifer. I also know that I will have to breed her before she will give milk. After that I'm totally lost!

What kind of care do cows need besides daily feeding? What's best to feed a milk cow? What kind of vet care do they need? Who much does it cost to breed? Do I need a vet in for delivery? I have been active in the birth of cats, dogs and goats but I'm not sure about this one. Does she need to be breed every year to continue to give good milk? How many years will she give milk? Any other info?

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  • 1 decade ago
    Best Answer

    you would like to milk cows. well come on down to my farm and you will learn all you need to know.(lol)

    first, depending on where you live a 2 day old heifer calf will cost you $600. with an average $1 per day after that to feed and house the eloquent animal for 2 yrs. before she has a calf. (witch you can sell or raise for beef)

    its cheaper to buy $10.00 a gallon milk than own 1 milk goat, let alone a milk cow. (with time involved, equiptment, vet costs, housing, bedding, etc.)

    dont get me wrong. i love the dairy and wouldnt trade it for a thing. it is very rewarding, but can be extremly exasperating.

    the best option for you is to go to a local dairy farm, check ALL of your preconceptions at the barn door and ask the owner for a deal. check that the product is decent. with dairy farms, appearance isnt everything, but its 99%. if the farm looks like it makes good milk, it usally does. the opposite is often true.

    maybe offer to work on weekends. (maybe the kids) the owner not only will give you a check, but also fringe benifits. (milk, beef, use of a tractor/bush hog, or plow your part time garden, etc.)

    some times its cheaper to just pay the bill than run the resturant .

    good luck!

  • 1 decade ago

    All the answers have been really good. I'm just getting started so I'm just a little further along than you are. My one suggestion to counter the feeding problem would be to pick up a Dexter or a Kerry. These are small breeds that take half the pasture. We bought two Dexter heifers and did not have to feed much hay at all the first winter. Mostly only when there was snow on the ground (which isn't often here) They eat just about anything, not just grass. They love things like salmon berry bushes too.

    They also don't produce as much milk as the dairy cows so you are supposed to get away with only milking once a day. I'll find this out this year as our (now) cows are due to calve in April.

    If you get a Dexter it is considered an all purpose breed, so it can be used for milk and meat. The average cost is about $800 for a heifer. We also purchased a couple of steers (one a year old and one about 4 months old) so we have had to feed more this winter. The four of them go through about 2/3 of a bail a day.

    Hope this helped. Good luck.

  • 1 decade ago

    You will not save money on a milk cow, but you will learn a lot and have a higher quality of milk if you take good care of it. Unfortunatly unless you have more acres, you will be buying most of your feed for the thing and then there is the work of milking twice per day. This starts by sterilizaiton of everything that the milk will touch. The udder, teats, your hands, the bucket, the strainer, the jars. This will take some time on a small scale. Then if you have strong hands, you can milk her in 20 minutes without damaging the udder. Most rookies take closer to an hour and end up damageing the udder because their hands get tired and they try to make it easier. Also if you don't get all the milk out, the production will decrease every day.

    My sugestion would be to find a friend with a small dairy and buy the milk directly out of their bulk tank.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Poohbear, When I read your question, I was going to advise against it, because it can cost a lot. After I read your additional information, I'd say go for it. For home use like yours where you use a lot of cream and butter the best cow would be a Jersey or Guernsey. Both will give all the milk that you need and have a higher milk fat which you will want for the cream and butter. I'm going to guess that the local dairy you are talking about is using Holstein cows. They give more milk than even your family can use and is lower in milk fat, so less cream and butter. They are also bigger and require a lot more feed to maintain them. For a dairy farm, male calves are almost a throw away, they don't want to raise them and readily sell them very cheap. A heifer calf, on the other hand, is very important to the farm. They may not even sell you one and if they do it will be very expensive. If you want to buy from them, ask for a lower producing cow that will likely wind up a cull and hamburger. She will be cheaper than a dairy heifer and you will be in business right away.

    On to the rest of your questions. They have to be bred every year. Find a neighbor with a beef bull and you cab probably breed her for nothing. Take him a pound of your good butter every now and then. You will have a better calf to feed out or sell to your neighbors than a purebred dairy calf. When your cow starting to get older, have her bred artificially to good Dairy bull to raise yourself a replacement heifer. As for feeding, leave her on the pasture all day, when you bring her in to milk keep her in the barn all night with all of the good quality hay that she can eat. While you are milking her give her a small feeding of ground corn with a little soybean meal for protein. This will help her produce more milk and keep her still while you milk her. She must be milked every morning and every night. If you don't start with a heifer, delivery of the calf should cause you no problem. Just keep a close eye on her when she is due. You should have a vet check her out every year to make sure she is healthy, also get your vet to have her milk checked as well. With good care she should keep you in mild for years, until she is to old to have a calf. Enjoy your cow and dairy products.

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  • 3 years ago

    Owning A Cow

  • 4 years ago

    This Site Might Help You.

    RE:

    What do I need to know about owning a milk cow?

    My family is going through 3 gallons of milk in a weekend! Not to mention cream which we use for coffee, ice cream and cooking. As well as probably a pound of butter a week. I make everything we eat from scratch so these fresh items run out faster than in the average American household.

    We...

    Source(s): owning milk cow: https://tr.im/EnJNB
  • 1 decade ago

    Believe it or not, you'll probably spend more money feeding a cow on 3 acres then you will spend on a quadruple milk and butter budget. The average dairy in this part of the country is 750 head, and growing. A single cow will a)not produce milk year round and b) be a money loosing project. A cow should consume 3-4% of her body weight per day. Consequently, a 1200 holstein cow (yes, you can use a 900 lb jersey, but stay with me) will consume about 25-50 pounds of feed (concentrate and hay) every day. With three acres, you will lack sufficient area to produce enough grazing (year round) not to feed. You can reduce the cost with grazing, etc. etc. but it will still cost you more than just purchasing the products from the store, and with considerably more labor.

    If you want the fresh home produced milk, this is different from using a cow to save money. In that case, I would look at a milking goat project. You can afford to have multiple nannies, which may (or may not) allow year round milk production, produce a lower volume of milk and require less feed per animal to maintain the critter.

    If you still demand cow's milk, then be realistic about your needs, the time you need milk (how much milk does your family consume in August vs. December) and the quality of your milk. Our current dairy farms have a rolling herd average target of 23000 pounds of milk per year (which means the individual animal produces roughly 10 tons of milk per year). Can you use that much milk? If not, what do you do with the excess?

    She will need to be bred annually, you will have to dispose of her calf annually (and the kids may make this a tough proposition). She will require a lot of attention. There is no firm lifespan, but commercial milkers last 5-8 years now. A home milker would last longer (not pushed as hard). Feed intake (and to some extent milk volume produced) is primarily a function of animal size, so think small cow!

  • 4 years ago

    Maybe he means that a cow cannot survive if all it did was drink it's own milk. Obviously, the cow consumes more calories and nutrients than the milk gives. While the milk provides enough calories and nutrition for a calf, it is not enough to sustain the cow. Besides, if the cow was meant to drink it's own milk, the nipples would be closer to its mouth.

  • The cow is not going to supply you with milk for less than you are paying at the grocery store.

    Besides that, think about getting 3-5 gallons of milk a DAY from the cow....what are you going to do with all that milk?

    As a little experiment, I sugest doing this. Buy yourself some books on home dairy cows, and buy yourself a little stuffed cow. Do this for one month strait.

    Go out every morning at 5AM, and get your stuffed cow out of the pasture. Lead your stuffed cow to where you are going to milk her. Now sit on a stool for 30 minutes with your stuffed cow, and read your books. This is the minimum amount of time a beginer would spend milking. It does not matter the weather, or if you are sick, or have an important meeting. NOTHING else happens before the cow is milked!

    Now put your stuffed cow back in the pasture. Take your buckets of invisible milk (you didn't forget the buckets did you?) inside, and get them properly cooling. Just putting them into the fridge is not good enough. Your books will tell you all about how to properly handle the raw milk.

    Now you can change clothes, shower, and get on with your day. Be sure you are home at 5pm sharp! Go out and get your stuffed cow again, and repete the entire process.

    I'm sure you think I'm being a smart a$$, but I'm not. Honestly doing this is going to give you some idea what an impact on your life a cow is going to have. She needs to be milked twice a day, 12 hours appart, NO MATTER WHAT. You can be sick as death with the flu....cow still needs to be milked. Doing this exersize with your stuffed cow, is only going to give you a tiny fraction of the work a real cow will involve....but it will be a reality check, when you find out you cannot go on vacation, to a school function with your children, or work overtime....because the cow need to be milked.

    I'm going to answer a coupld of the questions you asked.

    Vet care....you need to learn how to give shots, and worm the cow yourself, as well as trimming her hooves.

    If you need a Vet present for the cows delivery, send her off to market to be butchered. No I'm not kidding, and no I'm not a cruel person. She is going to cost you WAY more time, money and trouble in the long run than she is worth, if she cannot deliver a calf all on her own.

    A lot of family milking cows are only breed every two years. Milk production drops offf some in the second year, but you probably do not need 3-5 gallons of milk a day anyway.

    A good family milk cow, who's well cared for will live 20-25 years. A commercial dairy cow is lucky to see her 5th birthday.

    In all honesty, if you want milking animals, serriously concider looking into dairy goats. They will give a much more reasonible amount of milk. Another plus with dairy goats is they cannot kick your face off (yes, I mean the skin of your face clean off and laying on the ground).

    I've seen (in person) a farriers face kicked clean off, and laying on the ground (by a horse). I've seen a woman who's lower jaw and cheek bone on one side were nearly gone (totally caved in) from a cow kick.

    My Great Grandmother spent 12 hours in a manger, holding the horns of a formerly friendly cow, who very suddenly decided she wanted to kill her. It was 12 hours before some got home. Are you physically strong enough to do that?

    By the way, you do not have to pasturize your milk like another poster stated. Raw milk is delicious, and very healthy for you. It must just be handled correctly, so bacteria does not grow in it.

    ~Garnet

    Homesteading/Farming over 20 years

  • 1 decade ago

    FIRST YOU WILL NEED TO PURCHASE A PASTEURIZER SEE THIS LINK;http://realmilk.com/rawvpasteur.html THEN ON TO THE OTHER QUESTIONS. YOU SHOULD PLAN ON SOMEONE MILKING HER BY HAND TWICE DAILY. SHE SHOULD BE A GOOD DAIRY BREED(JERSEY AND GUERNSEY HAVE THE RICHEST BUTTERFAT IN THEIR MILK) THIS IS IMPORTANT IN MAKING BUTTER. YOU SAY YOU USE 3 GALLONS ON A WEEKEND, BUT YOU CAN EXPECT AT LEAST 3 GALLONS DAILY SO EITHER ARRANGE TO SELL THE EXCESS OR BUY CALVES OR PIGS TO FEED THE EXCESS TO. SHE SHOULD NOT BE BRED BEFORE 9 MONTHS OF AGE AND BETTER 12 MONTHS. 9 MONTHS GESTATION PERIOD AND YOU GIVE THE CALF HALF THE MILK OR PUT IT ON A BOTTLE. SHE WILL NEED TO BE BRED EVERY TWO YEARS AT LEAST TO MAINTAIN GOOD MILK FLOW. UNDER NORMAL CONDITIONS SHE SHOULD GIVE BIRTH WITH NO DIFFICULTY. JUST KEEP AN EYE OUT IN CASE. SHE NEEDS TO BE CALF HOOD VACCINATED FOR BANGS DISEASE AND A FEW OTHER THINGS SEE YOUR VET FOR THAT. A SWEET FEED ABOUT A HALF GALLON TWICE A DAY DURING MILKING AND PLENTY OF GOOD GRAZE OR HAY IN THE WINTER. AS TO DAILY CARE JUST WASH HER UDDER BEFORE MILKING AND USE A CURRY COMB WHEN SHE SHEDS IN THE SPRING OR WHEN SHE NEEDS A GOOD CLEANING. OH AND SHE WILL NEED PLENTY OF GOOD CLEAN FRESH WATER. SO SOMEONE NEEDS TO LEARN TO MILK RIGHT AWAY IT TAKES A WHILE FOR THE HANDS AND ARMS TO GAIN THE SUFFICIENT STRENGTH.

    Source(s): I WAS THE ONE IN MY FAMILY WHO CARED FOR THE MILK COWS AND MILKED THEM TWICE A DAY.
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