I used to dream about having cows on the homestead. Milking them and making cheese from their delicious raw milk. Brushing and grooming them. Loving on them. I craved the self sufficiency that a family cow brought to a farm. Today I have 5 dairy cows. A bull for breeding, a silly stunted steer for entertainment (long story there) , 3 Jersey cows for fresh milk and sweet lil Elsa, a Jersey heifer that I claimed mine the second she was born. (I have zero self-control) All three ladies are expecting fuzzy little calves this spring, actually, any day. Now that I have owned cows for several years, I can’t possibly imagine the homestead life without them.
1.) Delicious Milk, Butter & Cheese
Having a constant supply of fresh milk on the farm has served our family exceptionally well. Not only do we save money by not having to purchase any dairy but I can also control whats going into the my cows milk supply, which controls whats going into my families body also. My cows are grass-fed only while their dry. We do not use any artificial hormones or antibiotics on the farm, which is a key factor I look for when buying dairy. Between my family of five, soon to be six, we drink almost 3/4 to 1 gallon of milk per day. If I buy farm fresh milk from a fellow cattle friend, thats $6.00 per day in just milk. That doesn’t even include cheese, sour cream, cream cheese, yogurt ect. When my cows milk supply is plentiful, I have enough milk to make all the homemade cheeses and butters needed to feed my family and extra to sell, which in return, pays for my cow habit.
2.) They’re Beautiful.
I’m sorry but if you don’t think cows are beautiful creatures, then we can’t be friends anymore, just kidding, kinda. With their long furry winter coat and lovable demeanor, cows are a wonderful addition to the homestead. In my biased opinion, there’s no other animal that gives off the humble feeling of a cow in the back pasture.
Its whats for dinner, literally! Little do most people know, dairy cows actually make for good eating. If you plan on keeping a cow in milk, then you need to have calves yearly or every two years in order to do so. If momma cow throws a bull calf, steer him and fatten him for butcher. A good grass-fed steer can supply your family with enough beef for the entire year. Don’t forget about the nutrient rich organs and homemade tallow to boot.
4.) Always Good For Kisses
You really don’t know how scratchy a cows tongue is, until its planted right on your face and as much as this giant wet sandpaper-like tongue, almost hurts, its a really awesome way your cows say I Love You. Come on, who doesn’t want to be told how much they’re loved. And seriously, how could one resist planting a big ole smooch on a cow? Kissing cows is as American as, well, making butter.
Have you ever heard the phase “making milk from the woods”? For generations, dairymen have ran their cows in the woods, allowing them to forage on the grasses and underbrush. The shaded trees give the cows a much needed relief from the hot sun, while also controlling the overgrowth of vegetation. This is an excellent way to graze cattle while rotating cows back to the pasture. (*Be cautious of Ponderosa Pine needles, as they have the potential to abort calves.) While many ranchers run cows in the back 40, many prefer a grassy pasture in the backyard. With one cow on two acres, your grass will be plentiful, your cows will be well fed and your pasture will be nicely mowed. The only cost associated with having cattle graze a pasture is maintaining the fences.
Last year for my daughters seventh birthday, she asked if she could have a milk cow. She wanted to learn all about their body and how they made milk. She wanted the to show the cow at the fair with the other 4H kids. She already spent everyday out in the barn and she loves milking side by side with me, shes a darn good milker too! We granted her wish and bought her a small Jersey heifer, whom she brushes, sings to and checks under her tail for imminent signs of calving. Having her own cow has really blossomed her into a responsible young lady.
7.) Manure/ fertilizer
Every spring we scoop out the manure in the pasture and spread it in the garden. This replenishes the soil with vital nutrients my large garden requires after being depleted from the previous harvest. No synthetic chemicals to worry about, just good ole fashioned manure and mulch.
There’s a reason animals are used in rehabilitation. I swear it doesn’t matter how bad of mood I’m in, if I go outside and spend even 10 minutes scratching one of the cows, my mood is instantly improved. There are even some days my husband will just flat out say “why don’t you go check on the cows!” When cows see their faithful companion walking down to them, their ears perk up and they gallop over to the fence looking for a cookie and good scratching. Whether its the peaceful great outdoors or positive emotions displayed by these amazing bovine, my day just wouldn’t be the same without them.
I run three cows in milk at a time. This provides a ample supply of milk for my family as well as enough for me to sell. I sell my raw jersey milk, with cream on top for $8.00 per gallon. Cream is sold by the quart at $4.00 and butter is sold by the pound at $6.00. Cheeses and yogurt prices vary. Being able to sell off what our family (and pigs) can’t consume, allows me to completely fund my dairy herd. Jersey cows produce less milk then that of a Holstein, however, you don’t get the creamy milk with the large supply. While my jerseys typically produce 3-5 gallons per day, a Holstein can produce around 8 gallons. Lets do some math… By keeping three Holstein cows at 8 gallons per day (24 gallons) and sell it for, say an” average” of $5.00 a gallon, a family dairy can make $120.00 per day or $3,600.0 per 30 days. Not a bad haul for scratches and slobbery cow kisses.
I Know, sounds corny right? But in all seriousness the relationships I have made while buying, selling and trading cows have become more then a business deal and have turned into lasting friendships and family barbecues. Being able to have friends and acquaintances is a necessity on the small dairy. There has been many times that I have called upon my cow friends for their knowledge and lifelong cattle wisdom and vice versa. These relationships are priceless.
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