Looking for the Ultimate Homestead Cow ???

Discussion in 'Cattle' started by paiger34, Jan 22, 2004.

  1. paiger34

    paiger34 Member

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  2. angelak

    angelak Well-Known Member

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    Paige,
    Your site didn't give any information about milk production. We have six growing children who love to drink milk. I need a cow that will produce steers to be finished off for beef and an adequate supply of milk. I have heard wonderful things about Dexters meat but I'm a little concerned about their milk production. Can I get enough milk from one cow for drinking and cheese and butter making?
    Thanks,

    Angela
     

  3. paiger34

    paiger34 Member

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    Dexters tend to be a very milky breed. They are an excellent dual-purpose animal that is idea for small acreages. We have milled one of our Dexters once a day and then let her calf nurse the rest of the time. This was an older cow “Wisp” and she still gave us about 2 gallons / day. She is quite milky though due to her breeding.

    Dexter milk is quite rich as well. Tends to be 3-4% in fat content. I do know from personal experience, in a one-gallon pickle jar, 1/3 was cream. Now bear in mind that it does take a while for the cream to separate. It is not like a Holstein or a Jersey where it separates out over night. This I am told is because the fat globules are so small.

    Hope this helps

    Chris
     
  4. spring77

    spring77 Well-Known Member

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    I'm also looking for a good family milk cow. I've looked at a few Dexter's but none of the herds I looked at milked any of their cows. Someone has told me that the amount of milk a Dexter gives can vary a lot from one bloodline to another. It seems like most people keep a few Dexters out on pasture and don't handle them much. The few heifers I looked at were all crazy wild and I couldn't see them standing to be milked. Do you know which lines are good for milk. How about breeders that would sell very young heifers that could be bottle raised to make them tame enough to milk?

    thanks
    Tim from Susquehanna
     
  5. Hollytree

    Hollytree Guest

    I have a milking shorthorn (dual purpose breed) which for our family of 8 is the ultimate homestead cow. She is a large cow (1200#) that easily produces large "beefy" calves. When she freshens we get 9+ gallons per day but that only lasts for the first few months when we make extra cheese or raise a calf or other livestock on it. She tapers down to 5+ gallons per day and we are still able to make all our dairy products and have a little extra milk to share with friends. Also, a deep layer of cream seperates in my jars overnight. This breed is known for its foraging abilities and that has proven to be a real bonus on our areas of uncleared pasture. Milking shorthorns are also known for being gentle, not flighty, hardy and less likely to have health problems than the straight dairy breeds. They are "easy keepers" being able to produce well without losing condition (ours on 5 acres) , and have the personality to be great pets that love attention from all the kids.

    Hollytree
     
  6. paiger34

    paiger34 Member

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    Milking Short Horns are great cows, but at 1200 lbs are twice that of one of my Dexters, and eat twice as much. The Shorthorns are at the State fair every year and the show their milking ability well. I joke with my wife that I can keep 2 Dexters on what I feed her horse !!!

    On good pasture dexters can be can be crowed at about 2-2 ½ / acre. They tend to be a little easier on the ground to due to the fact that they do not have the weight to pound it down.

    As for the “Milking lines” Lucifer of Knotting” was a bull that was imported to Canada that has outstanding milking background. His animals are on the Register of merit in England. This is an English Classification for milk yield. To qualify a cow must give not less than 4000 pounds of milk in her first lactation, 5500 pounds in her second lactation, and 6900 pounds in her third lactation, all yields not less than 4% butterfat (BF). A bull must sire not less than 4 daughters meeting these requirements to get their RM. Another good line is anything with Woodmagic in it. you won't go wrong there either.

    As for the “Skitish” thing, sorry I cannot speak to other breeders. I do know that when it comes time to wean the calves. I bring them into the barn and they are quite shy for a while but after about 3-4 days they are eating out of your hand. We can take them and lead them in a show ring after a couple of weeks working with them.
     
  7. Mullers Lane Farm

    Mullers Lane Farm Well-Known Member

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    Spring77,
    In your neck of the woods, you might want to look into milking devons. The steers are used a lot as oxen in the New England states.

    I've heard of many Dexter herds that aren't handled for milking. A pity. We have a FB Jersey that is bred to a dun Dexter. We'll be keeping the calf if she throws a heifer and train her for handmilking. (Not that we will need milk from two cows :eek: !!!!)
     
  8. Ken in Minn

    Ken in Minn Well-Known Member

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    Dexters make wonderful family milk cows.
    Go to http://dakodan.net/dexters/
    There they are talking, milking Dexters, some even for thier first time. Some first time people trying to milk. Some first time Dexters, being milked. Go there, look around, you will learn a lot about milking, breeding, feeding etc. Every thing you have ever wanted to know, well maybe not every thing. JUst have a look.
    Ken in Minn
     
  9. Juddles

    Juddles Guest

    Dexters ! !

    The meat is DELICIOUS. They are easy to keep. Gentle, with astonishing personalities. MILK is good. . .and good for you!
    And they will browse as good as any goat. . .and maybe better!
     
  10. I have one on the way, I hope. I bred one of my largest Dexters, a 3 gallon per day cow, to a mini Jersey bull. She is due to freshen 1st week in June. If it is a heifer she should be an excellent milker.
     
  11. Ken in Minn

    Ken in Minn Well-Known Member

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  12. riverbend

    riverbend New Member

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    This will be our 3rd year with dexters. When purchased they were pretty skittery (cow with two 4-month old heifer calves)of which one was her own. They had been part of a herd of 15 or so where there was little handling and intense feed competition. Within 2 weeks in peaceful, verdant surroundings all were friendly, haltered and tied, brushed twice/day. I milked the cow during most of last winter with growing heifer at side. Averaged 2 Qts./day for a couple of months. They are real sweethearts if handled with kindness and respect for their "cow-ness". We recently added a young bull to the group as permanent herd-sire. They are a fine group and quite manageable. We hope to have calves to sell Fall of this year. Bull is registered-others not. All are duns(color).
     
  13. Haggis

    Haggis MacCurmudgeon

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    I think that I was at first caught up in the existence “Ultimate Homestead Cow”, but after looking back at times when I was young and working on dairy farms: both mechanized and milk by hand operations, and reading what more informed persons on this forum have to say, I have come to believe that the “Ultimate Homestead Cow” is generally the breed with which one is currently enamored.

    Big production dairymen want the prefect cow, a Holstein, for maximum poundage of milk.
    Somewhat smaller dairymen want producers of maximum butterfat: Jerseys and Guernseys.

    The modern homesteader wants many things from their house cow: milk, beef, draft, ease of handling, light eaters, hardy foragers, easy calvers, and the list goes on.

    The arguments that many make, and I’ve made some of them, make no sense to the next homesteader.
    Example include:
    “Dexter’s eat half as much as a Milking Shorthorn.” While not entirely factual it is close, but then a good Dexter will only give about a third of the milk produced by a Milking Shorthorn.

    “Jerseys eat less pound for pound, and produce more milk pound for pound than other breeds.” In fact one can’t get out of a critter any more than one puts in. Jerseys do make great cows, but they are only one choice among the many, and every Jersey is different.

    Each homesteader must take a hard look at that they “need” from their bovine, and from there chose their own “Ultimate Homestead Cow.”

    I have been fascinated by Milking Devons for many years, but after spending year with them, I have found them to be a difficult and obstinate breed. Those that are milked produced indifferent results. As a beef animal they are again, nothing remarkable. When it comes to draft the Milking Devon is nigh perfect, but extremely difficult for the first time trainer.

    If one were to look at history rather than current homesteader dogma, the Milking Devon was the prefect breed to own before the late 1700’s and the coming of the Milking Shorthorn or Durham. As horses replaced oxen, cattle were bred toward milk and beef with draft merits being of little importance. A little more than 100 years ago the specialty breeds began to take dominance. Holsteins, Brown Swiss, and others that had been duel or even triple purpose began to be bred toward milk production only, while others breeds were bred toward the strict production of beef.

    In my humble opinion, if there were such a creature as the “Ultimate Homestead Cow”, it would be: of placid disposition, able to produce copious amounts of rich milk, slow to catch mastitis, easily bred back, able to throw an excellent beef calf: either heifer or steer, be easily trained to the yoke, and have a high sale value on the general market when its useful homestead days have ended.

    There is only one breed, again in my opinion, that fits the bill for my description of the “Ultimate Homestead Cow”, and with any luck, I’ll be picking up a few of them this summer.
     
  14. GoldenMom

    GoldenMom Well-Known Member

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    Oh come on Haggis don't keep us in such suspense!

    Personally I'm taking a hard look at Milking Shorthorns. One of my previous neighbors had some "beef" shorthorns and they were gorgeous cows. I like the idea of a cow that will have a beef sized calf to butcher and everything I've read about them sounds like they're pretty good mothers, all around nice cows, and somewhat more resistant to ailments than some other dairy breeds-but of course a Milking Shorthorn webpage probably is going to talk up their breed, not give it's disadvantages.

    I was curious-how many calves can a typical Milking Shorthorn take care of and still have a little milk left for the house? It's just dh and myself and we don't go through all that much milk. I don't have any big cheese plans or anything (yet!). I plan on leaving the calf (calves?) with her during the day, separate them at night and milk once a day in the morning. By the way, I'm only planning on one cow for now (she and my old horse can hang out together so she isn't lonely). Also, should I get an older cow or start with a young heifer (maybe bottle raise?) that I can train to lead easier and get her used to a lot of handling? I do realize if I go with a young heifer I'm looking at quite some time before I have either beef to butcher or milk to raise and that's OK.

    Thanks.
     
  15. spring77

    spring77 Well-Known Member

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    Haggis,

    I agree with you all the way. I still haven't gotten my own perfect homestead family cow yet. In a way it is probably a very good thing as I've had a much longer time to read up and research. Now that I am moving again I'm going to have to put off that cow a few more years. (sigh)

    One of the things I have noticed among people who are proponents of one breed or another is how they "Accentuate the Positive" like Perry said. There is no perfect breed or perfect cow, and I'm starting to think that for the homesteader a purebred cow may be a bad idea.

    I love Devons, if I had a lot of money and time I think I would buy a Devon heifer calf and raise her up to be my perfect homestead cow. But I feel that Devons have most of the problems of rare breeds. They are hard to find, expensive, and when you do find them it is very difficult to get just what you want. I want a very young calf, because I want to hand raise my cow and train her to the yoke. This would be true whatever breed I end up buying. Devons have the reputation of being the best breed for oxen because they are very active and smart. These are important traits when you are using them for draft all day long all year long, a smart active ox is going to last longer and get more work done. It also means they are harder to train and more apt to get into trouble. In a modern situation that is more often a liability rather than an asset.

    Dexters are neat if you want a small cow. I don't want a small cow. I want a cow big enough to pull a one horse plow, pull a cart full of firewood or barrels of water out to the pasture. I also want to be able to buy a newborn heifer to train, that is very difficult do do with Dexters cause they are almost never sold untill they are weaned. I want to do most of my training while I still weigh more than the calf. That is how you get the best trained oxen, or working cows, as the case may be.

    Jerseys are great but they are still not big enough. I need a cow with a little more bone and heft. Jerseys also tend towards the delicate side of hardiness, in my opinion. Add in the high susceptibility to milk fever and they end up being not my first or second choice. On the other hand they are really easy to come by and they give milk of the highest quality.

    Guernseys I like better than Jerseys but they are really hard to find. I can actually get a hold of a Devon around here easier than I can a Guernsey. Not that they aren't around, its just Guernsey breeders seem to be totally offline hermits so I cannot figure how to locate them. Guernseys get almost big enough to do what I want and they have really quality milk. They are also supposed to be about the sweetest most biddable trainable cattle you ever run across.

    Shorthorns are ideal but nobody's got them around here. At least not to sell heifers, I do know one farm that shows them and they were going to sell me some bull calves back when I still wanted oxen, but they keep every heifer (or sell them for more money than I'm willing to pay) for 4-H show heifers. They are just too rare in this area for me to afford them. Otherwise they are close to perfect for my goals.

    Brown Swiss have only one thing against them. I have heard from a few places that they are incredibly hard to service with AI, espeicially as heifers. This is a generality but it seems to be a pretty commonly accepted one. I'm going to need to AI my cow unless I can find a beef bull in a herd close to me, I can't count on that. Other than that a Swiss would be a very good cow, the only problem otherwise would be too much milk, but I'm planning on feeding excess milk to stock so I think I can overcome that one.

    Holstiens... I just think black and white is boring.

    Aryshires, I've tentatively settled on Aryshires. They have great fertility, good milk quality, get to be a good sized cow, and are really common in my area. I have like 10 farms inside of a 2.5 hr radius that milk them. I feel confident I can find a heifer calf when I need one.

    But I've also given a lot of thought to a beef/dairy cross. A holstein/hereford or holstien/Angus heifer calf would make a great family milk cow. I'm not so sure I won't go this route. I can still get her as a bottle calf cause she's coming from a dairy, she won't cost to much cause she won't be a replacement heifer, and she'll grow up to be a very sturdy heavy boned cow that can pull a good load and milk a nice amount for a homestead.

    I think people get to hung up on purebred animals. Devon's are starting to have a lot of problems with their feet, the genetic diversity isn't there anymore. If it was up to me they'd outcross a few animals to shorthorns or Dexters or Danish Reds. The concept of a closed registry with no additional outside bloodlines coming in is a recipe for extinction. IMO

    I don't know what my original point was but I'm snowed in and sitting at the computer. Hope this interests someone.
     
  16. dosthouhavemilk

    dosthouhavemilk Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Ever considered a Jersey/Norwegian Red cross? ;) :D The Norwegian Red has some of the larger breeds like Red and White Holstein and some beef and whatnot in its breeding. One of our first calf heifer has taped in at around 1100 lbs. as a two and a half year old and is giving 60 pounds of milk a day.

    We are going to be having some 3/4 Jersey, 1/4 Norwegian Red calves coming in that we cannot register or even quickly breed back to Jersey this coming Fall. Their sire is our breeding bull out of Jace and one of our half and half, and their dams will be 3/4 Jersey, 1/4 N. R.
    I figure we will keep the heifers but originally dad had figured he would sell some of the crosses as family cows, since their offpsring tend to be beefier than our purebreds and he may consider it for the animals that will take five more generations of breeding back to Jersey to be registered as purebreeds in AJCA. Depends on what we have born this coming year. We had seven replacement heifers born in 2004. Only one so far this year.

    We like the crossbred vigor we are seeing in our heifers. The calves are strong and up and going quicker than our purebreds are. Which is also why we have bought some Danish semen that doesn't trace back as quickly to American Jersey bulls. After we get a calf into our barn they tend to be pretty hardy. They have to be to make it on our farm.
    I can't help but stand up for Jerseys. :haha: I wouldn't be a good Jersey farmer if I didn't, though I am willing to point out faults with them as well.
    You mentioned crosses and sicne I have spent some time putting up milking information and photos and things on our website with our crosses thought you might be interested in them. :)
     
  17. JeffNY

    JeffNY Seeking Type

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    Some herefords are milked, and one of ours has an udder the size of a Jersey when she calves. She is pure, not sure what type she is, dunno. But that is another breed, find one that does have the potential in their udder, most of ours have small udders but im amazed at the quantity they can produce. We had one loose her calf, well more or less died while on its way out. So we bought two Jerseys, stuck them on her and she produced enough for both of them, her udder got bigger etc due to the quantity that was pulled from her. Herefords are gentle, they aren't small like dexters of course, but are very very very gentle. Just another option.


    Jeff
     
  18. farmerdan

    farmerdan Well-Known Member

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    Spring,

    Have you considered the Red Poll? They are a dual purpose breed and could be trained to pull. I'd take a Red Poll any day over a frail Guernsey. IMO that's the reason for the Guernsey cow become rare . . . they are too frail.

    Dan
     
  19. myersfarm

    myersfarm Dariy Calf Raiser

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    red poll is a good one if you wanted them to do it all first dairy farm i worked on was a red poll herd....looked like red angus ,,,,milked like jerseys,,,were gentle bred back fast...i would love to have some milking red poll don't know were a man might buy some do you....none in my area south east missouri so i have jerseys and milking short horn calf
     
  20. farmerdan

    farmerdan Well-Known Member

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    I have some myself. The steers fatten nicely. I have a couple of heifer calves - one is 1/4 hereford 3/4 red poll and the other 1/2 hereford and 1/2 red poll. Should have some more next fall. I'm hoping for heifers out of my pure bred cows. So far they've only given me bulls! There are 2 or 3 other farms in this area with red polls too. Nice udders. I'd like a milking shorthorn heifer or two. Always liked the coloring on them.