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  #1  
Old 04/05/12, 12:10 PM
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Mini milkers

Hi, I am new here and I am hoping that you guys could could help me out. I am really interested in setting up our 20 acres as a self sufficient mini farm. We already have horses and I want to expand our chicken flock, but my biggest interest right now is mini cattle.

I have been doing some research and I really like Mini Jerseys, but they are so expensive compared to the Dexters. I want milk and milk products for my family and I want to slaughter out the extra calves for meat. I have three pastures that I plan to rotate through and they total about 10 acres. The other 10 acres are wooded river bottom. I was thinking that I could support between 5-7 mini cattle with minimal supplement.

I was looking for my own family, but my brother's family and several close friends are interested in co-oping with me. They would provide the capital and I would provide the land and labor. This sounds good to me, but I wanted some opinions from people who are actually doing this already.

So my questions are:

Would I get more meat per animal with Dexters and is the difference significant enough to matter?

I want to leave the calves on the cows through the day and just milk in the morning. Do the Mini Jersey's make too much milk for this method to work? I do not want to end up with scours.

Is there a meat or milk quality difference between the two or just milk quantity? (I want 4-6 cows so per animal milk quantity is not a huge issue.)

Is the main difference in the price due to the "newness" of the Mini Jersey breed or is there something I missed?

Is there anyone on here that is or has done a raw milk co op and what was their experience?

Are there any other breeds that I should be considering? (I am semi familiar with and not interested in full size breeds)

Lastly, If I am looking for strictly farm use and not selling breeding stock, is there a good argument for getting a pedigreed animal vs just a good quality animal?

Thank you so much for your info.

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  #2  
Old 04/07/12, 12:08 AM
 
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A thought for you - how much milk can your family use? If you had one or 2 milking minis (Dairy dexters or mini jersey) and the others a small beef breed (mini herefords or Lowline Angus) wouldn't that be better to produce the beef you want? You could keep your dairy girls bred to either of those bulls and have good beefers from them, as well. We raise Lowline Angus, have one mini hereford in the mix, and after losing my small Jersey last year to a snake bite, I have added 2 Jersey heifers I've bred to a registered mini jersey in hopes of at least one mini heifer. The Lowlines produce wonderful beef and the jersey/lowline cross calves are good, too. Just something for you to consider.

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  #3  
Old 04/07/12, 07:47 AM
 
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Jersey and Dexter meat are both wonderful. Jersey meat has yellow fat but that's only a visual thing, it doesn't taste weird or anything. You'll get more meat from the dexters, and they will do a much better job of producing on just pasture if you want to go that route.

One thing to consider is what kind of bull you will need. Dexter bulls are docile and no worry to have around as long as you have a basic knowledge of handling bulls. Jersey bulls otoh... are the devil on four legs. They are the most dangerous bull out there as far as temperament goes. You could have someone artificially inseminate mini jerseys, or you could think about a dexter bull to cover mini jerseys - the result is called a belmont or something similar and they used to sell for a lot. You'd have to look into that because last time I payed attn pretty much one guy was controlling what cows got registered as belmont.

How much milk do you need? Jersey calves will not scour from too much milk if you leave them on the mom. As long as they are on her from the beginning. They stop eating when they are full. The once a day milking thing works well. After a few weeks you will have to separate the calf at night so he doesn't drink all your milk Jersey milk has yellow fat. Dexter milk is more whitish. The fat separates out a little slower on dexter milk. They are both good. There will probably be a little more attn needed to a mini jersey's udder when she first freshens to make sure she doesn't get mastitis as they are bred to produce so much more.

There are people on here who know more about dexters and milking dexters than I do, they will chime in. We have dexters but are breeding them out of the herd atm in favor of bigger cows for marketing reasons. We only ever milked 2 of them. Ate a lot of them though

My opinion as far as strict dual purpose utility goes - you'll be happier long term with dexters. The jersey's are way prettier - especially those cute lil minis, but dexters are hardier, tend to live and produce longer and need less intensive management.

Registration only affects the value of the calves you might want to sell. Or the value of your stock if you need to sell out. If they aren't registered you would probably just run them thru the sale barn. If registered you can market them and get a little more. If registered belmont or mini jersey you would get a lot more by marketing... but you have to like to do that sort of thing, I don't.

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Old 04/07/12, 08:32 AM
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FReesyle posted

I was looking for my own family, but my brother's family and several close friends are interested in co-oping with me. They would provide the capital and I would provide the land and labor. This sounds good to me, but I wanted some opinions from people who are actually doing this already.


With 20 acres I see problems you can only have so many animals as you know.....so the family invest $3000 and get free MILK and MEAT for 30 years while you work for 30 years for a $3000...that looks like it will start a BIG FAMILY PROBLEM

I would take out a loan and keep MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS....sell them your milk and meat to pay the loan then it is yours

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Old 04/07/12, 04:36 PM
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I agree with the comment about not co-oping with family or friends. I did it once and my partner did not hold up his end of the deal so I finally told him he needed to pick up his animal and find a new home for it or have it processed. I lost a friend but learned a lot. We did however work out a similar arrangement with my parents with clear expectations that worked well for both parties.

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  #6  
Old 04/08/12, 11:55 PM
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FF,
What is it that is attracting you to mini bovines?

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  #7  
Old 04/09/12, 07:52 AM
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I have full size Jersey`s and love them, I hate crawling on the floor trying to reach a small udder, but I`m a tall man. I also don`t know what the big hype is about mini`s, I would rather have one cow than a whole herd of little ones. But thats just me, good luck in your co-op. Thanks and Blessings > Marc

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Old 04/09/12, 08:26 AM
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with your animals eating up your 10 acres all summer what will they get over the winter?
I'd get 1 or 2 full sized animals and keep them on 5 acres. The rest would be hay ground.
Or I'd get a few goats and run the same way. 4 meat and 4 dairy goats would probably fit nicely.
I really never understood why anyone would want a mini cow.

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  #9  
Old 04/09/12, 10:18 AM
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You would if you only owned 3 acres and your house sat on 1 of them and you also had a horse and a pig and some chickens and you wanted some fresh raw milk.

There are so many kinds of cattle out there. There is a type to suit the needs of every one of us. There isn't one type that can suit the needs of ALL of us, though.

Dexters fill a very real need. They eat less, produce enough milk for a small family and raise some of the best beef you can get.

People with 100 acres and 50 big beef cattle have a hard time understanding the smallholder's dilemma.

So do the family farmers that require many gallons a day of milk to fill their needs.

But for those of us who are trying to make a go of it on limited land, our dual purpose Dexters fill the bill. It's sort of like fitting 10 pounds of cow into a 5 pound bag.

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Old 04/09/12, 11:59 AM
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I went back and read your OP.
Wanting a self sufficient place probably wouldn't include horses unless they could be put in draught. Two saddle horses would eat up chance of self suffiency on 20 acres.
? Have you thought about substituting 2 or 3 Brown Swiss cows for the 4 to 6 mini cows that you thinking of.
They will milk 9 to 11 gal. per day, per cow, with a very high butterfat content. Higher amounts if fed for more production. The milk is coveted by those who make cheeses. A very docile breed. They are considered a dual breed. They have a very high feed conversion rate and do well on pasture alone. No calving problems. If bred to a beef bull the calves will perform more like a beef animal. I'm sure that a brown swiiss steer can yield twice, on less feed per pound of gain, that of a mini animal would. (presonal opinion)
Theres a factor of loss per animal when feeding. A larger, longer animal that scores in the medium frame structure range will out yield others based on a per pound of feed input. That includes both heavy and light structured animals.
Milking Shorthorns may have some similar results. Probably a little less milk and better gain on the beef end.
Just some thoughts to support what you were trying to accomplish on your place.

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Old 04/09/12, 12:44 PM
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Everybody has an opinion, including me. But there are documented facts here. Dexters are very efficient at converting grass to milk and beef. Plus the beef has been entered in a lot of contests for quality and always scores high. In the ALBC's blind taste test a few years ago, Dexter beef scored third, behind Randall lineback and Galloway, and ahead of Angus and Hereford. Neither Angus nor Hereford got a single first place vote. Only the top three did.

In a "Top Chef's" competition on BBC-TV in England, Dexter beef won, with Angus and Kobe beef 2nd and 3rd.

My little Dexter steer weighed 509# live weight at slaughter and yielded 202# of freezer beef. All good cuts. No suet, organ meats or dog bones. 39.6%.

Milk ain't free, either. Do you know how much feed it takes to produce 9 gallons of milk? What if you only want a gallon a day? What do you do with the rest of the milk you paid for?

Don't forget temperament! Dairy bulls are not safe to be around. Yet Dexter bulls are gentle enough that some people keep them as pets. They are a favorite with zoos and petting zoos.

There are two extremes to having a milk cow. Commercial dairies favor Holsteins for their high volume production. On the other end of the scale is the Dexter. Lower milk production while using far fewer resources and far fewer milk-related problems. With a bonus of beef that blows the dairy breeds away. And a butterfat content comparable to the high priced cows.

I think that even big farmers should keep a Dexter steer for their own table beef. Why not treat yourself to the best?

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Old 04/09/12, 03:44 PM
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we had 2 acres and the house sat on one so we got goats. Paying super premium prices for a super small cow held no fascination for me.

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Old 04/09/12, 11:13 PM
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Thanks for all the input guys. I will try to answer all your questions since you all replied to mine.

I am interested in mini's because I have little children and I want them to eventually be a part of the animal care. I am thinking about 4-H projects in the future as well. Thanks for the info on the Jersey bull's bad temperament, that definitely takes them out of consideration. My in-laws raise angus and we have a freezer full of it now, but I am looking for something easier to handle and more efficient for our smaller space. I am leaning more towards a Dexter bull than anything else, but I had not even considered a Lowline bull.

The horses are not part of the food production plan, they are for fun. =) I have had goats in the past and we do not get along. Nothing against goats, they are just not what I am looking for.

We feed 6 horses 8 months of the year on the feed we produce here on the river bottom and still mulch enough to stock a green house. Even if we triple our hay bill, it would still be cheaper than our grocer bill.

I fell in love with the Mini Jersey cows, but I am wondering if they are worth the premium price when considering what I am looking for. I am thinking that Jersey's are going to produce too much milk for what I need. I am wanting 5-6 calves a year for meat, but I am not sure what I would do with 15-20 gallons of milk a day.

What does a Jersey with a calf on her produce a day in general? I was reading that a Dexter with a calf on her does 1gal or so and a Jersey does 3gal a day?

I plan on using the calves for meat, but would it worth it to have a few more valuable calves to sell? I am not seeing a huge market in my area, but I am not sure where I should be looking.

As for the Co-op, we have three adjacent properties in my family and the farm would span all three. I was planning on getting a few head for my family and then was asked to consider getting a few extra to supply the other households too. The plan would be that they would buy their first year's supply of meat and milk up front to get things started. Then the following years, they would pay a monthly boarding fee for milk and a year end fee for beef and then pay the butcher for their work.

I would pay for my initial share in labor, not cash. Colorado only allows raw milk if you own the cow, so anyone involved would have to buy a share and pay board to get their milk. The beef would be a one time calf purchase and then the butcher's bill. It works for me because I would be caring for the animals like I want and they would pay me to do it . We would work out a contract ahead of time, but my family has run several companies, including a private school together, so I am not worried about any insurmountable issues.

Thanks for the responses and I hope I addressed all the questions that you had for me.

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Old 04/10/12, 07:58 AM
 
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Originally Posted by sammyd View Post
we had 2 acres and the house sat on one so we got goats. Paying super premium prices for a super small cow held no fascination for me.
Well, what if you already owned several dozen of the super small cows and they calved every year? I bet you'd like them then.

We have some acreage and I can run 75% more mini's than a larger breed on it using rotational grazing. I can sell them at the same price or even more than a full size angus, and at a younger age. I have repeat business, and mostly word of mouth new customers. As Genebo said, there will always be small landowners who want a couple of cows (that are herd animals and do better with a companion) but don't want one who's back comes up to their chin.
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Old 04/10/12, 09:12 AM
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If you are wanting a toy or lawn ornament then the minis would be the best choice for you.
If you want an animal that will produce you should go with a full sized animal.

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Old 04/10/12, 10:26 AM
 
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Btw everyone, Dexters are not considered "minis."

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Old 04/10/12, 11:04 AM
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Springvalley makes great point - getting a machine under a mini is a challenge. I've seen dexters that you can't get a machine under. Handmilking would probably work. I'd have to have some place to milk them that was raised though, it just too low to bend to on a cold morning. 1 regular sized milk cow will produce the same as 2-3 minis and eat the same. My neighbor got away from dexters because he said they ate as much as his other cows. I'd rather only have one cow to breed, one cow to do the vet work on and 1 calf to worry about. But that's me. One jersey cow costs about 1/3 the price of a mini, so financially, unless you're going to produce mini heifers, it doesn't really pay to have minis. I love the dexters, but one calf wouldn't give us enough meat for year. I like short horns lso.

I'd be drawing up very plainly worded/precise exectation contracts on the co-op business with friends and family.

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Old 04/10/12, 01:20 PM
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I also would have goats(and did) if I didn`t have a large acreage. They eat less and are very easy to milk, and CHEAPER. Before we had our cow herd we milked a goat, she was great and gave us a gallon a day, which was more than enough for my wife and I. Now that we have Jersey cows, I really like them, but I am not color blind when it comes to animals. I never though paying twice as much for half the cow was an economical thing to do, plus around here they would not sell as well. I`m not saying the mini`s are not a good thing, but the op said they were going to have a co-op and a whole herd of mini`s isn`t the way to go. Just my opinion, you got what you paid for, hehe. > Thanks Marc

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Old 04/10/12, 01:38 PM
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I also would have goats(and did) if I didn`t have a large acreage. They eat less and are very easy to milk, and CHEAPER. Before we had our cow herd we milked a goat, she was great and gave us a gallon a day, which was more than enough for my wife and I. Now that we have Jersey cows, I really like them, but I am not color blind when it comes to animals. I never though paying twice as much for half the cow was an economical thing to do, plus around here they would not sell as well. I`m not saying the mini`s are not a good thing, but the op said they were going to have a co-op and a whole herd of mini`s isn`t the way to go. Just my opinion, you got what you paid for, hehe. > Thanks Marc
I dunno, having just aquired my first mini (and honestly she is a micro mini and does not count the way the smaller cows raised for meat and milk do) I can clearly see the appeal, particularily if you have small property - Norman who granted is a pet steer is quite docile but at his massive size and strength handling him is much more "on your toes" then dealing with Mini Cooper or even Annabelle. Full size dairy bulls are downright deadly I understand. I am constantly making repairs as the big duffus removes fences from the hinges and knocks down fence rubbing his back or head but then again his is not a typical semi ferel herd cow so I imagine they are much less destructive to property in their natural habitat. As available land area shrinks more and more, as a marketing specialist I can see how the smaller breeds are going to become more and more popular, in my opinion. Do the Dexters cost more if they are being raised for beef by the pound than say an Angus? I don't mean as pets, I mean as farm animals? Do they cost the same to process?
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Old 04/10/12, 01:40 PM
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I also would have goats(and did) if I didn`t have a large acreage. They eat less and are very easy to milk, and CHEAPER. Before we had our cow herd we milked a goat, she was great and gave us a gallon a day, which was more than enough for my wife and I. Now that we have Jersey cows, I really like them, but I am not color blind when it comes to animals. I never though paying twice as much for half the cow was an economical thing to do, plus around here they would not sell as well. I`m not saying the mini`s are not a good thing, but the op said they were going to have a co-op and a whole herd of mini`s isn`t the way to go. Just my opinion, you got what you paid for, hehe. > Thanks Marc
Gosh, my goats have been so destructive! They eat and chew on everything, and it seems to be a struggle to find a fence to keep them in I love em, but they have given me some gray hairs!
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