Before getting a cow, think hard about it. A cow is the biggest tie in the farm, you will have to milk her twice a day, to feed the cow you need to grow fodder, to use up the manure from the cow you will have to dig or plough more land … unless you’re dedicated to spend more time in the farm, think loud and often before getting a cow. On the other hand, a cow will save you more money in the farm than anything else, milk, butter and cheese go up and up in price, you can also sell or trade calves if you want for something else you might need more in the farm.
How and what do I feed my cow?
A cow can be kept on an acre of grass. In winter a cow needs at least a ton of hay. You might get this off half an acre. If you can’t grow it, you can buy it (which is not a bad idea if you have to). If you have a weatherproof storage for the hay you can best buy it straight from the field, just after it has been bailed. That is when it will be cheapest.
A cow will live and give you plenty of milk in summer, on grass and grass alone. In winter though she will need supplementary feeding or she will not give you very much milk. A cow in milk needs food, and her milk yield will reflect very sensitively how much food she is getting.
If you want to be self-supporting and don’t wish to buy from the outside, the only thing you can do then is to grow plenty of fodder crops (roots and brassica), and corn and beans. A mixture of ground oats, barley and field beans, with possibly a sprinkling of some proprietary mineral mixture, or seaweed meal if you like (which has all the necessary minerals), fed at the rate of three and a half pounds per gallon (of milk), would not be far off.
Which cow breed should I get?
Each cow breed has advantages and disadvantages. The Welsh Black is a fine animal, and ideally suited for the self-supporter. Crossed with the Hereford she throws a fine beef calf, and she gives a fair amount of good milk.
Jerseys are beautiful and very docile, they give superb milk; the richest in the world, averaging five percent butter fat. However their bull calves are almost worthless if you try to trade them for something else. The meat of the Jersey is good (even though the fat is a little bit yellowish).
The Guernsey gives a little more milk than the Jersey, slightly less rich and the bull calves are less objectionable to the butcher.
The Friesian is the most widespread breed in the Western world today, because it gives an enormous amount of milk of low quality and crosses very well indeed with the Hereford bull to make an ox beloved to the butchers. The Friesian is big and eats a lot more than a Jersey but gives a lot more milk.
Of all the beef breeds (used for meat), the Hereford is supreme, and the butchers love him and his progeny. He is the gentlest of creatures. The Jersey bull is a little sod; many people have been killed by a Jersey bull.
How do I get my cow to breed?
To get your cows in calf, you either borrow a bull, have one of your own, or get the A.I man (artificial insemination). But before getting the A.I man, you should wait until the cow is bulling (or on heat). A cow shows that she is bulling by mounting other cows or standing while they mount her, by bellowing, and by discharging at the rear. She must be caught immediately and served next day by the A.I man.
The cow gestates for about 9 months. When she is in labor leave her alone, don’t interfere (unless labor lasts several hours). Generally what happens is that you go out to look at your cow in the morning and there she is standing up with a little calf sucking from her and she is licking its tail.
If you don’t want to milk your cow at that moment, rush to a neighbor and buy another new born calf, put him on your cow with your calf. Keep watch on them both for a few days, indoors, to make sure that she has accepted her foster child and is letting him suck, after a little vigilance, forget them. She will rear two fine calves for you, instead of one. This is a very profitable performance and doesn’t hurt the cow.
How to milk a cow?
As to the small matter of actually milking your cow, you do it like this. Pinch the top of a teat between thumb and forefinger so that the milk cannot escape from the teat back up into the udder. Then squeeze in a downwards direction with the rest of the hand. Easy!
Note: don’t pour into the bucket the first few squeezes of the cow’s tits; these are heavily infected with bacteria.
If you liked this page, you might also be interested in this page about Raising Goats.
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