Own a Family Dairy Cow
Owning any animal is a serious commitment. It is a responsible relationship that should not to be entered into lightly. When deciding to own a family dairy cow, learn the true benefits and the responsibilities inherent in raising a dairy cow for fresh milk for your family.
Home dairying is one of the most satisfying and gratifying experience you can have as a farmer.
Although cows are an extremely large animal, a family cow can be a wonderfully gentle pet. Cows are not generally dangerous, although they have been known to attack when in groups. A single, family dairy cow is unlikely to show any aggression unless they are protecting a newborn calf. A baby calf is absolutely adorable, but you don’t want to have to deal with a mama cow who feels threatened, protective and angry! When a cow becomes a mother, all bets are off. Proceed with caution! Dogs will need to be well supervised, as they can be a nuisance to farm animals and instill fear in a new mother of a calf.
You have to breed a cow in order for a cow to produce milk. The dairy cow needs to have a calf first. Most cow owners breed their cow every year so they have a fresh lactation cycle. However, as long as you continue to milk, a cow can produce milk for several years on one lactation cycle. But they must have a calf initially to get the lactation going.
It will take approximately 10 quarts of milk to produce one quart of cream. One quart of cream can produce one pound of butter. Every one quart of cream you are able to produce, you will have nine quarts of skim milk.
Skimmed milk just happens to be the ideal food for other members of your farm family. Pigs, chickens and turkeys thrive on fresh skim milk.
It is very hard to say how much milk your cow will produce. That is largely dependent on the type of cow and how much it is eating. After you wean the calf in the fall and are milking twice daily, you can usually expect to get 3-4 gallons per day.
A farmer wishing to be self-sufficient will provide a pasture for their family cow and produce the hay needed to feed it. Some farmers will buy grain to supplement the cow’s diet, but it is really only necessary to provide your cow with good hay, lush pasture and winter beets. This diet will actually produce more milk than feeding your cow grain.
Generally, you will need 2-5 acres of pasture per family dairy cow to provide sufficient food and grazing land. Dormant grass in the winter will allow you to supply the hay needed for feeding.
The average family dairy cow will consume anywhere from 30 to 40 pounds of hay per day. Believers in the benefits of grass-fed milk, will have their cow graze all summer and fall and feast on hay and a grass/alfalfa mix during the winter.
When choosing a cow to purchase, it is more about quality of milk than quantity. The Brown Swiss is one of the oldest dairy breeds, and they are known for being kind and gentle. The smaller Jersey, which produces an impressive quantity of rich milk for its smaller size, is also very popular with homesteaders. Other good family dairy cow options would be Guernseys or Dexters– also a smaller breed.
Having a fresh supply of cream and milk will allow you to make butter, sour cream, Greek yogurt, different types of cheese, and ice-cream for your family.
There is nothing better than fresh, homemade dairy products.
Owning a family dairy cow is a lot of work, but totally worth all the effort!