What breed of cow is best?
Each breed has its strong points but it’s hard to beat the Jersey as a family cow. Her small size, attractive appearance, steady production and the superior nutrient value of her milk earn her my vote. The Jersey will also cost less than uncommon breeds, none of which can outdo the Jersey in anything except novelty.
How much should I pay?
In most parts of the country you can expect to pay $1200 for a Jersey and more for a Holstien
How much space do I need?
Not much if you are willing to muck out every day. Half of a two car garage will suffice. More space means less work for you. My cow has about 10 acres.
How do I know the cow I buy hasn’t got some disease?
Very few cows have any disease condition despite the impression spread by the media. Two diseases of the past, brucellosis and tuberculosis, have been virtually absent from American cattle for years. Groups opposed to dairying have recently asserted that Johnne’s disease (mycobacteruim paratuberculosis) is widespread in cows. I asked my vet and he said although over the years he had occasionally been asked to test for it, he had never found it and never heard of a case in Maine. BSE (Mad Cow Disease) is not found in American cattle to date. Salmonella and other gut organisms are not specific to cows. If found in milkthey are due to subsequent contamination with fecal material. Nonetheless, I am not an apologist for the safety of any commercially distributed food. Maintaining your personal supply of Nature’s most perfect food is the best reason to keep a cow.
What is the useful life of a cow?
Large dairies may only keep a cow for five years or less. Many Jerseys continue to produce a calf and be good milkers for 15 years.
How much hay does a cow eat?
A cow will eat 30 or 40 lbs a day if there is no grazing. I plan to have a bale a day on hand for the months without grass. Must a cow have a calf every year? A few cows are able to ” run through” and keep milking a second year with scrupulous management but production does tail off.
Can I use a milking machine for just one cow?
Yes, the milking machine doesn’t care how many units are connected to it. But the time you save from hand milking will be lost in cleaning the milking machine.
Why can’t a cow give milk without first producing a calf?
Believe it or not, this is a frequent question. Nobody expects a mother to give milk without having a baby but think it’s a cow’s job to give milk automatically just because she is a cow. Trust me, she has to have a calf first, and to give worthwhile amounts she has to have a calf every year with a nice rest period between lactations.
Do cows bite?
Like all ruminants, cows are unable to bite because they lack upper incisors. Cartoonists often depict them with upper incisors like a horse so I guess folks should be excused for wondering.
What do you say to people who think we aren’t meant to drink milk?
I say “If God had meant us to fly he would have given us wings.” It’s one of those statements made by people who are looking to bolster a position they have already taken. A varient of it asserts that because many people don’t (as adults) produce lactase, this proves we aren’t evolved to drink milk. The fact is we aren’t evolved (or as others say designed by God) to eat any specific food but all have their place. Humans have been eating wheat products for no more than 10,000 years but are known to have been herding animals and using their milk for at least 30,000 years. Those who state that people have only been using dairy products for 10,000 years because that marks the dawn of agriculture have not done their homework and don’t understand the distinction between arable farming and herding. Then they sit downtown quoting each other.