How Much acreage needed per cow...

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Elizabeth M, Jul 9, 2007.

  1. Elizabeth M

    Elizabeth M Well-Known Member

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    I was wondering if 1/2 acre would be enough to raise 1 dairy cow (perhaps a gurnsey). She would be our milk cow and hopefully a cherished member of the family.

    There is a creek going through the 1/2 acre and it is already fenced. I'd have to build a small barn for her but would 1/2 acre be enough space for her? I only want to do it if I can do it right.

    Thanks for your advice.

    Elizabeth
     
  2. wy_white_wolf

    wy_white_wolf Just howling at the moon

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    Space - Yes
    Food - probably not. Too many variables to know.
     

  3. Elizabeth M

    Elizabeth M Well-Known Member

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    The land was once a section of a pasture for dairy cows, but hasn't been used for 2 years. I could always supplement whatever else was needed, right?

    Eliz
     
  4. tinknal

    tinknal Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Picketing is a good option for a dairy cow. Do you have unfenced grass available? If so Get about 30' of light chain (NOT dog chain) and a good picket pin. I prefer to put a single leg hobble on the cow and attach the chain to that. I prefer chain because it is heavy enough that if the cow gets it wrapped around her foot it will drop of when she lifts her foot. You can picket during the day and put her in the pasture at night.
     
  5. mtman

    mtman Well-Known Member

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    she will have it bald in less then a week you will have to buy a lot of feed
     
  6. ksfarmer

    ksfarmer Retired farmer-rancher

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    With only 1/2 acre, I think in a year you would have basically a dry lot. Plenty of space but no grass. You would have to supply all the feed from another source. edit: mtman beat me to it and his week might be closer than my year.....
     
  7. tinknal

    tinknal Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Indiana raises some pretty good grass. I've had a Holstein cow on a half acre for the last month and there is still plenty to eat there.
     
  8. MountAiry

    MountAiry Well-Known Member

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    My granddaddy always said it was an acre per cow. He had a herd of about 60 most of the time.
     
  9. Jolly

    Jolly Well-Known Member

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    Even in good grass - 1 cow per acre.

    A milk goat, now....
     
  10. speshuled

    speshuled Well-Known Member

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    a good rule of thumb here in the midwest is 1 acre to #1000 of animal . prabably the only way to keep your pasture intact ,is to section the lot off into 2 or 3 smaller lots , keep her in a small feed lot during the night and rotate her into the "pastures" during the day . we ran 6 horses and 20 goats on 4 acres .it takes alot of work to keep things looking good . you will also feed at least a little hay 8-10 months out of the year
     
  11. travlnusa

    travlnusa Well-Known Member

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    You need to ask your local extention office. They know what is common in your county.

    After you get that answer, you need to factor in if you are setting up paddocks, what grass or alfalfa is there, in wet area or dry.

    Where I am, I can run 2 pair (cow with calf) per acre if I rotate paddocks.
     
  12. sammyd

    sammyd Well-Known Member

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    1/2 acre will be pretty close. If you keep her calf you'll probably want more.
    I have 1/2 sectioned into 3 pieces. One is where the shed and water is and 2 are gated off and rotated. I worked up the land last year and seeded clover, timothy, alfalfa and several other grasses in with oats. Harvested the oats and was able to graze it for a month. If you want the animal to do well you'll have to make sure your pasture is in good shape. They can't live on thistle and burdock.
    You have to keep the animals off it for a month or so before the first frost so the plants can store energy for next year or you will be wasting your money on seed.
    This year it's a little sparse because I am running a steer calf with the cow.
    I have been feeding them some hay because the stuff doesn't grow back with only 2 sections to play with. Better to have 4 and give the pasture about a month to grow back.
    I have another 1/3 acre seeded down this year and that will keep the cow in pretty good shape with the other 1/3.
     
  13. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

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    As the others are pointing out, the cow needs space to walk, lay, dig, play in mud, etc. She will use about 1/2 acre for that - the 'drylot'.

    Something like 1/2 acre to 1 acre of real pasture should keep your cow pretty happy on grass. From fall to late spring you will need to feed hay - close to a bale a day.

    If you want her to grow a calf & provide milk, she will need more. Either you have to add grains every day, or something high in protien - good alfalfa, or another acre or so to graze. She needs energy to give milk plus be growing another calf inside here.

    There are dry times when grass stops growing, and what is left is dry stems in the pasture. _Real_ good for the bulk she needs, but hardly any enegry left in it. Other times, your pasture will grow too fast for her to keep up with it.

    As well, what will you do with the calf? Will it be around for some time, also stomping, digging up, etc. a drylot, and needing a little bit of grass as it ages.

    A cow or horse will like tender new grass. They will let some grass grow old & stemmy, and keep eating the tender stuff over & over until it dies more or less.

    In this way, if you have cattle on a spot too small for them, they will end up killing off the good grass, & promoting the poorer stuff to grow.

    If you would have 3 different areas of 1/2 acre each, then you can place the cow in one, let her clean it up, place her in the next one, and so on. Each plot will have 2-3 weeks to regrow & become strong again. As well any worms or etc. tend to die out with the rest between grazings.

    This type of rotation is just a win win win for everyone. You get much more good grass, the cow is healthier & happier, you don't need to buy as much feed.....

    A 1/2 acre pasture would do pretty good for a cow, tho you would need to add some purchased feed most all of the year. If you have a lot for her to rest & poop & mud in the 1/2 acre will go a long ways.....

    A 1/2 acre drylot if this is all she has won't feed her very much at all as the grass slowly disappears & fills in with mud & weeds....

    --->Paul
     
  14. Elizabeth M

    Elizabeth M Well-Known Member

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    :cow: I am thinking maybe I should ask the guy who owns the property around me one more time if he'd be willing to sell me just 1 acre. I tried before and he wasn't interested. One of the old farmers here told me the #1 rule of owning land is NEVER, NEVER pass up buying ajoining land for sale.

    Also, I could always fence in part of the yard. We have a 1 acre yard of grass and that would be less grass to cut. :clap: it's off to the side so it wouldn't look weird.

    Also, is it worse that it's all hill?

    Thanks all for your help...

    Elizabeth
     
  15. darbyfamily

    darbyfamily Well-Known Member

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    maybe a dexter? a mini jersey? they dont take as much space and eat half to a third as much feed...but still give ya milk!
     
  16. GoddessKristie

    GoddessKristie Well-Known Member

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    I'm glad some people commented on using paddocks. I've been reading a lot about this, but I don't have any experience with it personally. I do know that if your 1/2 acre isn't producing enough of the right kind of grass you can over-seed it. Also, try to stay on top of topping off any weeds. Anything that is growing taller than the grass she's eating should be cut out before it goes to seed. If you don't do this those weeds will eventually take over the pasture. If you do it regularly your grass will improve over time.
    For more on grass and using paddocks check out Small Scale Livestock Farming: A Grass-Based Approach for Health, Sustainability, and Profit
    by Carol Ekarius
    I found it in my local library. You can also read protions of it on amazon.com.
    Good luck!
     
  17. Gailann Schrader

    Gailann Schrader Green Woman

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    um... unless you've got your heart set on a cow? Go goat. Get two and stagger the freshening so you have milk all year round. Eat or sell the babies. 1/2 acre will be enough for them...
     
  18. tinknal

    tinknal Well-Known Member Supporter

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    This is exactly what I would do. I would divide the 1.5 acres into at least 3 pastures for rotational grazing. The hill will be no problem as long as erosion doesn't become a problem.
     
  19. sammyd

    sammyd Well-Known Member

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    Or tether her. A little more work overall but cheaper than fence.
    If you get her young she will train up pretty easy.
     
  20. Gailann Schrader

    Gailann Schrader Green Woman

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    yard = pasture.

    Why mow when you can moo?

    :)