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    House Cows 
    #1
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    Hi all,

    We are soon to be FINALLY owners of our own property. We want to be as self sufficient as possible, growing veg, putting in an orchard and having our own cows etc for meat. I would also like to have a house cow to have milk, make butter and have cream. I really like the idea of a jersey for the butterfat content but we have also been looking into the smaller breeds as a dual purpose type cow, ie breed for meat and use the mother for milk.

    I have milked cows before but not owned one. Does anyone have any experiences they'd like to share with owning a house cow and what to look out for?
     
     

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    Re: House Cows 
    #2
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    g'day cowgirl,

    dunno if i can help? my first question is where abouts in the world are you? and how much acreage is involved?

    keep in mind milking cows need to be put to calf about every 2 years or less not sure exactly? so in that time you will not have milk from the cow and some time after birth, so you generally need 2 cows for supply of milk, then those 2 cows need to graze more than be hand fed (expensive not sustainable). jerseys are larger breed they produce heaps but they eat heaps.

    you say you have your land did you before purchase try to calculate roughly what the grazing rate of the land is then you need to take into consideration the value of the feed it grows in nutrients for the animals. grazing rates largely determined by rainfall nutrient largely determined by the qulaity of the soil. grazing rates go like this eg.,. 1 beast per 5 acres, in a lot of areas that would be close to the norm', very few in deed have land that will graze 1:1 or even 1:2 or 3.

    of course in its raw state when you first look at the block its grazing rate maybe low but then your sustainable actions may improve that a little say if it was 1:7acres you might bring it back to 1:5 acres.

    now generally we need up to 5 acres for our own uses you know fruit trees, gardens sheds, house, chooks. and if you do the norm' and add horses in then that is more pressure on grazing(i think with horses the rate of 1:5 goes out to 1:7) and on poor rainfall areas horses will eat out the best quality grass and go down the line untill only weeds will grow plus they do a lot of compaction damage.

    we had 70 acres of degraded riperian rain forest land, that had good water below that meaning the water meant many things would grow as it was fresh water needed bythe block, when we bought it the g/r was determined 1:7 or out to 1:10, over time because the land would respond to a gentle touch we bought that back to around 1:4 maybe out to 1:6 was going to take carefull management to ensure no overgrazing occured. we deducted 10 acres for our impacts that meant habitat planting as well as all of the above (no horses ever) and stalling/stabling for the animals, that 60 acres left for grazing meat and milk animals could only be divided in to 2X30 acres rotations paddocks. so hopefully the picture is forming? we reckoned we might at best graze 12 animals total at worst 6 or 8, rain seasons would be the determining factor.

    so using that if 5acres is involved and you chop self use down to 1 acre including a dam in that as well(cattle can't graze on a dam, they need water around 60k litres per head per year.), then you may ony be able to sustain 1 animal at best. we had a .5meg/l dam that was ground water fed (not spring fed that is a real estate term).

    hope some of this helps in some way?

    len
     
     

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    Re: House Cows 
    #3
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    We're also newbies and excitedly bought two Dexter cows and one Dexter steer. The seller was nice, knew we wanted milkers, and assured us they were 'docile', 'nice', and followed.

    Well, learning curve being fun as it is, turns out that doesn't mean "capable of being milked". These girls aren't exactly tame, and we've had a bit of adventure trying to figure out exactly how to work up to copping a feel, if you know what I mean.

    My wife read that you need to break them a bit like a horse. So we manoeuvred a halter on one (very proud of selves) then a rope (gee we're getting good). My wife also read that you shouldn't let go else they learn they can just struggle a little bit and get free. My wife either reads too much, or my life insurance policy is too generous. So, just like the city slicker I am, I got my still-new-from-Bunnings gloves on and prepared to hold on for dear life.

    The ready camera and knee-slapping laughter should've been a clue to me that I'd been set up.

    Dexters might be small but they're still 200kg+ animals, and they also like to try to kick you in the head. Where's the love? So you hold on with both hands, and be prepared to free one hand to push their butt back around (I might've been pushing myself away for all I could tell) as it swings back towards you and your precious noggin. Could be less malicious and she's just trying to run away, I dunno.

    You also pull towards the ground a bit.

    Eventually she settled down. Then next day was a bit easier. Next day after that I could hold on with one hand and no footwork. Almost milking! Next day after that she wouldn't let me anywhere near her, and next day after that she somehow got the halter off.

    Too bad that was the one that was lactating. Perhaps we should've 'practiced' on the other one.

    "It could be that the sole purpose of your life is to serve as a warning to others."
     
     

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    Re: House Cows 
    #4
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    omg

    that was the funniest thing I have read all day.

    I can just imagine what you were doing. Thanks for that.

    If you ever figure out the best way to get started, please let us know. We are planning on doing the same thing in a couple of months or so and would love to get the low down.
     
     

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    Re: House Cows 
    #5
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    A friend of mine once said that she wouldn't have a house cow that she didn't raise from a calf. She said if you buy a grown animal, you don't know what kind of attention it received (good, bad, none), if the kids teased it, if it was allowed to pick up bad habits, even if it had ever been milked, etc.

    She said the first cow she bought was an adult with a calf -- milk right away! She said she grew to HATE that cow. She was nearly impossible to halter, would drag you around on the rope, kick in all directions possible (they're not like horses, they can kick to the front, too). She hated to be washed, fussed at being milked, would kick over the milk bucket, etc. She said the best thing that this cow provided was lessons in what not to let the next one do. She bought the next one as a calf and said she raised her carefully and she was a real sweetheart, even her little girl could halter her and milk her with no problems. The first milk cow became a meat cow at a young age, and for that, she was EXCELLENT!

    She also said that if you don't have enough forage for the cow and have to buy feed, you might as well just buy your milk and cream in containers, and save yourself the aggravations, because you're not saving any money.

    And she said if you have men or boys in the family who are going to be doing ANY milking, stand over them and watch they do it right. She said milking is not a strength challenge, and needs a light hand. If the guy is hard on the teats, he can cause a mastitis problem. (I think she said mastitis, but it might have been something else.)
     
     

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    Re: House Cows 
    #6
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    sue rightly pointed out,
    She also said that if you don't have enough forage for the cow and have to buy feed, you might as well just buy your milk and cream in containers, and save yourself the aggravations, because you're not saving any money.
    well maybe not buy milk form the shop but find someone who has house cow(s) and buy their excess.

    so it still boils down the first task is can your land support the animal let alone animals, this is one for the criteria you must have before going into that see/tree change buy with the head not the heart. and cows that are trying to pick off over grazed pasture could end up with illnesses as they are grazing dirt more than grass, they certainly will never look well fed without huge imput from fodder hay not cheap stuff. your dream can easily trun into a nightmare.

    len
     
     

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    Re: House Cows 
    #7
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    I am 50yrs old we had cows through untill i was about 25 then a run with milking goats then from 28 to 35 house cows again while raising our own children and then about 5 yrs back on milking goats we havent bothered since the children have left home , we had and still have a farm so tons of room however there is always going to be real supplementary feeding no matter where you live as milkers obviously need a lot of input to maintain output .

    Plenty has been said about haveing sufficient land , first consideration though is typically outside the square for humans , it is the animals emotional needs they dont do well locked up in small yards with no companions so a solitary cow is just not ethical they will go dry early and be miserable and tempermental !!!!!!!!!!! and be ALWAYS looking to escape .

    The next major requirement is serious fencing , permies generally dont spray so the two meter strip outside the fence is going to need to be kept bare somehow or you will have to run electric fence (great while they are working) cows will really push on fences trying to reach that nice fresh feed just out of reach .

    Some love petting and attention and others will not accept it so dont force it on them , i can recall about 20 of our cows over the years and no two behaved the same mostly we went for mixed milking breeds we had a pure friesan and a couple of pure jerseys . Best to start with hand reared we have started semi wild first calving cows a few times they finished up alright but you have to have patience and time and of course experience helps , fresh milk for breakfast might not happen for a while and be advised that a cow can defend itself with horns and trampling as well as kicking .

    Best advice is get an older cow that knows the ropes to help you learn just the same as horse riding or spend some serious time helping someone with their cows , good cows are going to be hard to find and expensive for obvious reasons we bred ours . Im sure dairies would have young ones that dont make the grade or older ones they wish to replace , the people that run them get very attached to their cows so a good home is better than the meatworks however high production commercial cows can be a massive contract to milk twice every day which MUST happen no ifs or buts even if you break your arm the milking goes on.

    Realistically a bucket milking machine (small unit) is a must FOR TIME SAVEING while the cow is milking you can do the other jobs around the dairy shed organising feed cleaning the floor (constantly) ,milking two cows twice a day for most of the year is a big ask you will need a big family or extra calves to use the excess ,we raised extra calves pigs and chooks love milk , we seperated cream made butter done all that for years and years and i would do it again its fantastic .But i cant imagine jumping in with little knowledge my parents had done it all thier life before us kids turned up so we learned from them , there are so many variables look and learn lots before you leap into it .

    Now haveing said all that i dont intend to frighten people off cows but i think the smart way to get a start is to get goats i really enjoyed the time with goats they are playfull and freindly easy to handle some people turn thier nose up at goat milk saying it smells that only happens if they are eating plants they shouldnt , however they will ring bark trees .I wish you good luck
    Regards Rob .
    The Ladies used to check me out ---- Now they just keep an eye on me !!!
     
     

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    Re: House Cows 
    #8
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    HI Rob,

    That was an excellent and informative post, though I fear most people won't read it because its all in one big block. Would you mind hitting the "Edit" button right at the top of your post, and putting in a few blank lines with the Enter key?
     
     

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    Re: House Cows 
    #9
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    Thankyou very much for both the laughs and the very informative posts. I have considered both an older house cow and a calf to raise then milk. Let me say we will by no means be rushing into this when we are on our land. We have four horses which will be going with us so that will leave us a few acres dedicated to the cow/cows. We have plentiful water and will be improving the land and irrigating the pasture for them all. Ultimately I'd like to raise a calf then put her in calf and sell the bub, ideal yes I know, realistic though, I'm not sure. We are going into beef country so I think I will take a couple of trips to the local cattle sales and see what I can find out.

    Once again thankyou to those who have taken the time to impart some great knowledge and some very funny stories.
     
     

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    Re: House Cows 
    #10
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    g'day cowgirl,

    wow 4 horses already that could mean around 20 acres +, irrigation comes under the unsustainable practises. in beef country could also mean low grazing rate country. but not sure about other states in qld you need an abn to sell at the markets, and you will have to pay for testing to be done even to transport the animal as i understand it, you would have to sell privateley on the sly almost. you could find a friendly farmer and use his contacts to get your animal sold may need to sling him some cash?

    len
     
     

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