Opinion on different breeds for milking

Discussion in 'Cattle' started by Lannie, Oct 6, 2006.

  1. Lannie

    Lannie Well-Known Member

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    Hi, cow people! :)

    I haven't posted on this forum before, but I've been trying to read as much as I can lately. I have a "want" and very limited resources, and wonder if you all can give me some opinions on my problem.

    My husband and I live in The Middle of Nowhere, SD. The closest "village" is 30 miles and the closest town is over 100 miles away. We live on the west side of the state, which is all beef ranching. However, we'd like to get a milk cow. They all live over on the east side of the state.

    One of our neighbors has offered to sell us a Hereford heifer. I never thought of a Hereford as a milk cow, but a friend of mine said she had one once and she was a great little milk cow, nice and gentle, and good rich milk. So we thought maybe this would work.

    The problem is, I'd like to get a young animal that I can raise and gentle, so that we get used to each other and I can lead her, tie her, touch her all over, etc. The other problem is I've only milked a cow once or twice in my life, and I didn't do a very good job my first try. I know I'll get better, but right now I'm a novice at milking.

    Now I'm reading about all the problems from retired dairy cows, and I don't know a good one from a bad one. Plus we don't have the ability to travel 300 miles one way to pick one up sight unseen. The neighbor's heifer still seems like a good idea, but another neighbor just told me that if I wait until the calf is weaned I can kiss goodbye any chance of teaching her to lead and tie and so forth. He said I need to get one that's only 3 or 4 weeks old and bottle feed her. That would be great if I had a milk cow that I could get milk from to bottle feed a calf. But I don't, and the only place around here that does have a milk cow, I have to pay $2.00 a gallon for the milk, so that isn't going to work, either.

    I can go on like I have been, buying the milk from the neighbor, but I'd really like to have my own so I'd have enough to make cheese and butter and other homemade dairy products in addition to what we drink.

    Are we way off base here considering a Hereford? One person says they give good milk, another person says they don't, and I'm totally confused. :shrug:

    What say you all?

    ~Lannie
     
  2. DJ in WA

    DJ in WA Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Herefords would be good ways to learn cows. Generally they are known for being gentle. Haven’t milked them, but some do if they don’t need a lot of milk. I assume some lines of Herefords give more milk than others. But even without much milk, you probably can’t lose a lot by getting some heifers. Can always make beef and sell it, with any milk as a bonus. From them you can design your own kind of cow.

    So here’s what you can do. (May not interest you, but what the heck).

    Get two Hereford heifers. Cattle are herd animals – happier and more likely to stay inside fences with two. Breed to hereford and see how much milk they give (make sure they are letting down - let calf suck alittle before milking). If you're getting enough milk (gallon or so a day?), perhaps you'll be okay. If you get heifer calves, you could raise them as you hoped to and they could become your pet cow.

    If you want more milk, breed them to a Jersey bull. AI if anyone does it around there. Or you could travel and get a week old Jersey bull calf from a dairy and raise him to breeding age (yearling), then butcher. We once brought a couple baby bull calves home in the back seat of our old Honda (50 mile trip). Daughters held onto them while driving through the city - got some looks! Obviously, you will need a better setup if going across state. Or maybe the people you get milk from have a bull or bull calf?

    You’ll get half-Jersey calves, and from two Herefords, hopefully at least one will be a heifer. This will be your milk cow. She will have horns which most will remove as a baby.

    Breed this cow to angus each year to make very nice beef. And breeding to angus eliminates dealing with horns. Crossbreeding makes for vigor and health. I assume you have angus bulls around there.
     

  3. Christiaan

    Christiaan Dutch Highlands Farm

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    Give the Hereford a try, you'd only loose a little time and effort if it didn't work out. Almost any young animal can be tamed to what you need if treated gently and patiently, you don't have to start before it is weaned.
     
  4. Lannie

    Lannie Well-Known Member

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    Thanks, DJ, LOTS of good advice! We have two mares also; do you think maybe that would be enough company for a little heifer? I'd rather not get two, especially if I'm going to end up eating them eventually. I have a problem eating my "pets," so I try not to get attached to food.

    We have plenty of Angus around here. That's just about all there is, except for a few people that raise Herefords. One of our Angus-breeding neighbors has already offered free breeding services, so I'm all set there. :)

    If we got a gallon of milk a day, it would be enough. More would be better, but a gallon would be OK. I want to raise a couple of pigs next year also, and I could give them any extra milk. Plus my chickens absolutely mob me when I have leftover milk to give them. So between the other animals (dogs and cats, too), and making cheese and butter, I can probably use all that a Hereford would give.

    There's a guy over in Sioux Falls that I e-mailed about Jerseys and he has frozen semen available, and bull calves, but no girls right now. So if I get the Hereford, I guess I could see about AI with a Jersey. Of course, by the time we're ready for a cow (next spring), he might have a cow available, who knows? It's just so far to go...

    My Angus neighbors (bless their little hearts) told me yesterday that we'd be looking at $600 to $700 to buy a weaned calf from them - now I know why I can't afford to buy beef in the store anymore. They also said Angus give very little cream, if any, so if I wanted cream I should get a Jersey. duh... They said that Angus are very wild and irritable animals, which is the opposite of what I'd heard previously, so I don't know. I think they're talking from the ranching side of things, and they've not really tried to gentle and milk an Angus. That might not be the best choice for us anyway, except to breed the cow to later.

    And Christiaan, thanks for your comment. I was thinking the same thing, but like I said, I don't have experience with cattle yet. I have a knack with animals, though, so in my heart I think I could make a nice gentle cow out of a wild 6-month old. It just might take a little time, but if she's with the horses, and learns to come in for food and treats, I don't think there should be much of a problem.

    Hey, that's another thing. How long would I have to work with her before her first breeding season? I forgot to ask the neighbor when we were there yesterday what the best age is for breeding a heifer the first time. I assume they should be at least a couple years old, right? So I should have plenty of time to work with her.

    Thanks for letting me think out loud. I usually tend to overanalyze and/or overprepare for things (you should have seen me when I got my chicks! LOL!), so advice from someone who's had cattle for a while is very much appreciated. :)

    ~Lannie
     
  5. Up North

    Up North KS dairy farmers

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    Are there NO operating dairy farms in the Black Hills?
     
  6. Lannie

    Lannie Well-Known Member

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    None that I've been able to find. I've tried Googling, and find lots of references to dairy farms in the area back in the early 1900's, but nothing current. They seem to be all over in the Sioux Falls or Yankton areas.

    I should have thought of this before we moved here, but hey, it's a great little farm and we love the area, and the price was right. My biggest culture shock when we arrived was living in the middle of hundreds of miles of grassy pastures, and not being able to buy hay. All the ranchers here have thousands of acres (we only have 15), and they cut their own hay for their own animals. Trying to find horse hay was a real challenge, but we finally found a guy who had just bought some equipment and we were his first customer. He did an OK job the first year, and a much better job the second year. So at least we now have a source of winter hay.

    I guess my real problem is trying to have a self-sufficient little homestead in the middle of beef ranching country. We go shopping in Rapid City once a month, and every place we stop, I ask people if they know where we can get a (whatever). Sometimes it pays off, sometimes not. So far, nobody knows of any milk cows for sale, so that's why I'm considering getting the Hereford. I figured it's not going to be as good as having a Jersey, but it'll be better than nothing.

    (I've also tried getting my milk-cow neighbor to part with her Swiss/Angus cross heifer from last year, but she's not budging. Says she's keeping her as a replacement in case anything happens to her Brown Swiss.)

    ~Lannie
     
  7. Timberline

    Timberline Keeper of the Cow

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    I'd give it a try. I haven't milked a beef cow, but my neighbor milked an Angus and a Charolais. I have seen some Herefords with really nice udders. If you can get a weanling, you should have no problems taming her. I don't start training my Dexter and calves until they are being weaned. They want attention then, and don't care who it comes from. Just make sure the horses don't pick on her. With you as her best friend, she'll become gentle in no time.
    Good luck and keep us posted.
     
  8. DJ in WA

    DJ in WA Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Interesting that your neighbors would admit that their angus are “wild and irritable”. I would think they should be culling such animals to improve the overall disposition of the herd. Gentle cattle handle easier, gain better, and don’t get sick as easily from stress-related illnesses such as pneumonia.

    While Jerseys may give more cream than angus, I wouldn’t think angus give “very little”. I’m sure their percent butterfat is higher than Holsteins, simply because the volume of milk is lower, so less diluted. I have also discovered, and later read, that there is more cream in the last milk out of the cow. So you need to make sure you get it all if you want a lot of cream. Letdown is important if you want to get all the milk. So if someone milked a non-gentled angus, with a nursing calf, who didn’t let down and give all their milk, they might conclude they have little cream.

    As for letdown, I’ve read that bottle fed calves which become milk cows will let down better since they are more attached to humans. Otherwise, they see you as an outsider stealing the milk intended for their baby, and will try to hold it for them (if nursing). That is how my cow acts, so after I milk out the first milk, I let the calf in to suck for 30 seconds, then pull her away and hook her halter to a rope. The cow has by then released the rest of the milk so I can take it. Slightly more hassle, but works. Also depends on the individual cow’s disposition. More nervous types let down less, as adrenaline counteracts the oxytocin responsible for milk letdown.

    By the way, when I suggested a gallon a day, that is beyond what the calf gets. I assume a Hereford could give 2 to 3 gallons total daily if fed well. Normally after calving, a beef cow produces more than the calf can use, so production drops when the calf can’t take it all. But if you keep her milked out, production will stay up providing you the excess. As the calf gets older, it can take all the excess if you want to take a day off occasionally. A pure dairy cow is more dependent on you to keep her milked out. And you’d better have strong forearms.

    If you have two Herefords, you could milk both if you wanted – though alittle more work. Horses provide some comfort for a single cow, but another cow would be best. It also helps to have another for heat detection for breeding time, unless you will just take them to the bull for a month and let him figure it out. The sure sign it’s time to breed is when a cow stands still while another cow mounts it.

    If you do get a single untamed heifer, make sure you keep her in an area well fenced (corral?) for a week or two until she learns where home is. She won't want to stay there without other cows until she learns to like horses and your food.

    As for frozen semen, it won’t do you any good unless there is someone local with a liquid nitrogen tank to keep it in and the skill to do the breeding. AI is common with dairies, but not with beef, unless fancy purebred breeding. You could ask around to see if anyone does AI in your area if you want to breed to Jersey.

    When to breed heifers. Most beef producers want heifers to calve as 2 year olds to keep on the annual calving schedule with the rest of the herd. With a 9 month gestation, that means breeding at 15 months. Ideally you’d use a bull known for easy calving on first calf heifers, or wait a few more months. But I wouldn’t wait til 2 years old, or they might get fat, which is not good. Angus bulls in general are supposed to be good for easy calving, but you might ask the folks who will loan you their bull.

    Regarding horns, I was assuming you were talking of horned Herefords, but there are polled Herefords. Polled is dominant over horned, so if polled is bred to Jerseys, you’d have polled calves.

    Now, if you really want a cow with dairy in it, it might be quicker to get the heifer Ozark Jewels has for sale, or another one, and pay to have it shipped to you. There are people who travel around the country delivering cattle. Someone once posted with an angus/Jersey cow they said gave 4 gallons per day. If your arms can handle that, it would be a good cow. If you’re not ready, you might start with the Hereford and phase into higher production.

    Anyway, it’s fun kicking ideas around, and you can take whatever works for you.
     
  9. Up North

    Up North KS dairy farmers

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    Lannie - Hear that about western SD. Have a cousin who raises & trains purebred Horses east of Sturgis.
    One way you might locate nearest dairy farm to you is to locate AI companies, then find phone number of rep. who covers your "territory." If there's a dairy farm out there, the AI guys will know, LOL.
    Or, you could do a road trip to Eastern SD. Lots of dairy cows there, and a LOT more coming, LOL.
     
  10. Lannie

    Lannie Well-Known Member

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    I would LOVE to have Ozark Jewel's little heifer, but can't afford cow and shipping right now. We were planning on getting something in the spring, and I'm just putting out feelers now to see about what we're going to have to spend, and what would be a good breed. We still have to pay the property taxes and get the propane tank filled before winter. We live on hubby's disability and don't have a lot of extra each month, but we can save up when we need to.

    I spoke to a really nice Jersey guy last night on the phone. He's over near Sioux Falls, but he gave me the name of a guy in Philip, which is only about 70 miles from us, who's bought many Jerseys from him over the years. I don't think we can afford a purebred Jersey (he says to figure a minimum of $1500, and probably closer to $2000), but maybe he'll have a calf we can get in the spring, hopefully a weanling. I'm going to call him today and see what he sells the little ones for. If they're still too much, I think we're going to be getting the Hereford.

    The Jersey guy in Sioux Falls sells semen, but he said usually it's sold in lots of 10 starting at $5 to $10 each, plus shipping in the liquid nitrogen package, so if push came to shove, we'd have to figure another $200 for breeding to a Jersey, but hey, I can take her over and put her in with the neighbor's Angus for a while for free, so that's what we'll probably do.

    I don't think the neighbor's Angus are unmanageable, they seem to be like the rest of the cattle around here, but they don't milk them, and that was their concern, knowing I don't have experience milking yet. Their herd pretty much lives on their own out in the pasture until it's time to load them up and take them to market. Their Brown Swiss was the one I "practiced" on, so unfortunately, they've seen my limitations! LOL! I got the milk to come out okay, but I kept missing the bucket! There was milk going everywhere. I have to give the wife credit for standing there patiently while I acted like a goofball. The cow stepped sideways toward me at one point (she was probably getting tired of me messing about), and I managed to fall back off the stool and grab the bucket at the same time and not spill it. My husband was having a hernia laughing. I got a little poop on my rear end from landing in the only poop pile in the barn (of course), but I didn't spill the milk. The neighbor told me not to worry, though, when I had my own cow and I did it every day, I'd get good in a hurry.

    The other neighbor's Herefords are horned, but they de-horn them when they brand. We got to go help with the branding last spring, and it was quite an experience. I have to say I was NOT crazy about what happened after the bull calves were castrated. There was this weird little barbecue thing going on over the branding fire. Eh, count me out, boys!

    Anyway, the Jersey guy naturally convinced me that a Jersey is my best choice, so I'll have to see what the guy in Philip says about his prices, and go from there. You know, I really don't care what breed we end up with, as long as she's a nice cow and we get a little milk and cream from her. It would just be so nice to have my own, rather than depend on the neighbor. For instance, I just went and got 5 gallons on Friday, made cream cheese with one gallon, yogurt with one gallon, drank one, and now I only have two left. I think I'll have to make another trip over there before next Friday. I just feel like I'm bothering them too much.

    ~Lannie
     
  11. Oxankle

    Oxankle Well-Known Member

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    Lannie:

    There is a lot of misinformation out there.

    First, let's take the issue of taming a cow. Any cow can be milked. It will be easier if you own the cow and have her on the place for a few months before she drops her calf. Put a halter on her and stake her out in the grass, let her have no feed other than the grass she can reach from her chain and the feed you give her in a pan. Let her have no water other than that you carry to her in a bucket (or from the trough after she learns what a halter is and you can lead her to water.) If you are gentle and the cow is young this should take no more than a week or two. You can do this without the halter and chain if you have the facilities to pen her and put her in a chute daily. No chute, tie her close up to a wall or a tree. Just remember that until she feels comfortable with your touching her (and you are not nervous) she will try to dance around. Expect her to be nervous until she knows who you are and that you are not dangerous to her.

    It will be a lot easier if you have a chute or a pen where the cow can be confined so that you can touch her, rub her all over, feed her from your hands and pull on her teats. Stroke her with upward motions on her brisket; this is love talk to a cow. After she is gentle enough for you to touch, butt her in the flank with your head and pull on her teats as if you were milking, but do not try to express fluid from the teat. Give her some feed in her feed pan and while she eats grasp her udder and pull on it, bump it with your hands. When she is that gentle you will be able to milk her when she freshens. Remember that she will be very nervous and perhaps very protective of the calf for a few days when it comes.

    I have only registered angus. Some have small udders and do not give a lot of "extra" milk. Others are very "wet", give a lot of milk and their calves grow faster. I have several that I could milk, one of them I can milk in the pasture without feed. Herefords will be no different. Pick a heifer whose mother is a good milker.

    If you expect to "breed up" to a dairy animal you will be waiting about six years for results. Start with what you have. Just try to pick a docile animal. If you can buy a bred beef heifer at a decent price you will grow your money back on that first calf. Not so with a crossbred dairy animal.

    Ox
     
  12. Lannie

    Lannie Well-Known Member

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    Ox, thanks for the advice. I now feel less like a goofball, because your method of gentling was exactly what I was planning to do. Well except for the love talk part, I didn't know about that, but now I do. :)

    I'm trying to make this harder than it really is, huh? I always do that, and I don't know why. I guess I just try to plan for every contingency, and have a backup plan for my backup plan. A cow is an animal, and I'm very good with all kinds of animals.

    I think you're right about my Angus neighbors. I didn't ask how they knew Angus gave no cream, but I suppose the only time they would have tried would be if a calf wasn't nursing or something and maybe they tried to milk the cow to bottle feed the calf? I'm guessing here, so I'm not sure. These people are also warning me about letting my cow graze green stuff because it will make the milk taste "off." The whole POINT of me wanting my own animals is I don't want to eat any animal product from any animal that's eaten corn, so I WANT my cow to be grass fed (or hay fed in winter). Our beef calf will be grass (and milk) fed also. I mean, cows are supposed to be grazers, right? So they should eat grass. duh... I've got a dozen really nice chickens right now that have never eaten so much as a single corn kernel, and I get the nicest, hardest-shelled, tasty eggs from them. Because they eat bugs, grass, weeds, etc. They get a little seed grain, too, and will have more in the winter, but no corn. And everyone thinks I'm crazy. That's OK with me. At least I don't have arthritis anymore, and they still do. :rolleyes:

    Sorry, I kind of went off on a tangent there and started a minor rant.

    I think I'm just going to take the Hereford, since the guy's been nice enough to offer her to me, and do the best I can with her. I'm not trying to run a dairy, after all, so whatever milk I get is fine with me, and the calf (Hereford/Angus) will certainly be a tasty one.

    I don't have a chute, Ox, but when my hubby built the stalls in the barn, he put one in for a future possible calf pen. I can put the heifer in there for a time, as long as she's small enough. It's a big enough pen, but it's kind of narrow, and the stall door is on one end of the long side, so there's no room to turn around for a big animal like a horse or full grown cow. I was planning on putting the calf in that stall when I milk the cow, with the head stanchion being just outside one short end of the stall. That way, they could see each other and sniff noses through the slats, and I figured she'd more easily let her milk down if she was seeing and smelling the calf when I tried to milk. Anyway, I could put her in there while she's still small enough and get her used to being touched and handled. I plan on brushing her and handling her feet as well, so she'll be used to being touched everywhere.

    You guys are being so great! Thank you SO much for all this wonderful input! :)

    ~Lannie
     
  13. JulieLou42

    JulieLou42 Well-Known Member

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    My cow's 1/4 Angus and she's gentle, but rather aloof much of the time. She was easy to train. I got her at 10 months and she had been bottle-fed.

    Her milk is very good, not plentiful, but more than enough for us. She does hold back on her cream...hind milk...if I have the calf share milk with me. Her cream, otherwise is right up there with the 3/4 Guernsey that she is, too. Her milk products are very, very tasty, so much so that I'm the only one in the family who eats her butter, and cheese.

    I vote for the Hereford idea, in your circumstances.
     
  14. susieM

    susieM Well-Known Member

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    Ask your veterinarian. He or she might know of a family cow for sale, or a calf.
     
  15. susieM

    susieM Well-Known Member

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    Or ask the local inseminator.