Silly question...I know nothing about cows..

Discussion in 'Cattle' started by darbyfamily, Apr 20, 2005.

  1. darbyfamily

    darbyfamily Well-Known Member

    Mar 16, 2005
    But, we are looking at buying 30-50 Acres here in southern Kansas, and my husband told me I could get that milk cow I've always wanted.

    (currently live on one acre with 8 children, and 19 chickens)

    Anyway, I told him we'd have to have a calf before the cow would give milk, and he says there are breeds that give milk all the time, and dont have to have given birth recently to do it. Is this true?

    We are both city folk mind you...thus far, but dream of our place in the country, and are going to look at a few places this weekend my cow may not be THAT far off in the future :)

    How does this work with cows for milk?

  2. pygmywombat

    pygmywombat Well-Known Member

    Sep 7, 2002
    Northeastern Ohio
    After having a calf a cow is generally milked for 10-12 months. She is bred again around 3 months after having her calf and then dried off 2 months before the next calf is due.

    A dairy cow can milk for a good period of time as long as you milk her out well. My cow is going into her 22 month of milking- we had problems getting her to settle to a breeding, so the coming calf is due to be bonr about 2 years after the last one.

    You can buy a cow who has already had a calf and is milking. Best source is a dairy farm or another person with family cows.

    Two good books are The Family Cow by Dirk vanLoon and Keeping the Family Cow by Joann Grohman. You can order Joann's book from her website

    She also has an excellent message board devoted to family cows at
    We love questions over there.

  3. JeffNY

    JeffNY Seeking Type

    Dec 13, 2004
    New York
    Depends on the breed, Brown Swiss seem to milk longer than other breeds. For example, some milk 330 days, 350 days etc. A good example of this is at, they have the lacation periods listed, as far as each cow.

    353 16784 for example.

    That is 353 days in milk, and the other number is how many lbs. He doesn't push his, and that was her 2nd lactation, swiss mature later than other breeds (6 yrs vs 2-3). Look into Brown Swiss, Jerseys are fine, except those swiss are hardy animals. I wish I had bought two more swiss, vs having 4 Jerseys. Jerseys are good, except they aren't as hardy. For instance, as far as Jerseys willingness to give up. While trying to lead them, breaking them in etc. If a Jersey doesn't want to walk, they will either fall over, or lay down. Now not all Jerseys are bad, in fact they are a nice breed, dossile. But Brown Swiss have the following I like.

    Not as snotty, Jerseys can be snotty. I know someone will disagree, but they can have a snotty attitude at times, some don't.
    Brown swiss will give you protein and butterfat, but mature later. They will give you enough milk, and each year it will increase.

    Swiss are a rare breed, there aren't as many as Jerseys, and obviously Holsteins. They are nice animals, extremely gentle and have very pretty coats, faces etc. Heck you can even train them to be oxen, cows too. Either way, I would chase down either a hereford/holstein cross or a brown swiss for a cow.

    As far as breeding, give her a break. Time the breeding so she has 60 days or so between lactations. It gives her time to rest. Also keep in mind of this, while your are milking her, she also has to feed that growing calf inside. Imagine being milked, feeding yourself, and feeding a calf that is developing. It would be very taxing. Even the big farms give the animals a break, any records I see, show that. They milk for 305 days. We had one that milked for well over a year, when she was finally dried off. She looked like crap, she had been to two different farms, but it did tax her. So give her a break, and as I said, some breeds will milk longer, you could time it so if you milked for 330 days, she could calf 60 days afterwards. For example, say you breed Dec 1st, she calves out sept 1st. Now you could breed her again around Dec 1st, to keep a tight schedule (it wont be dec 1st, that date will change. Could be Nov 20th, could be dec 10th, things change). But you could also wait an extra month, and breed her Jan 1st, so she calves Oct 1st or so. It is up to you, depends what you want to do. This is if she milked 330 days, you could "assume" she will go that long, and wait an extra 30 days to re-breed her to give her that 60 days.

  4. Haggis

    Haggis MacCurmudgeon

    Mar 11, 2004
    Northeastern Minnesota
    My Jersey, Lucy, was giving 3 gallons per day 11 months into a lactation. She wasn't bred back right away, and was't due to freshen for another 6 months when I dried her off. We didn't need the milk as another Jersey, Dorsey, had just freshened. Dorsey was still giving nighon to 4 gallons a day when we dried her off, just 2 months before she freshened again.

    As for breed temperment here is how oxen expert Drew Conroy rates them, with a rating of 1 is being the easiest and 10 the most difficult:

    Ayrshire - 7
    Brown Swiss - 2
    Milking Devon - 10
    Dexter - 9
    Guernsey - 1
    Holstein - 3
    Jersey - 8
    Milking Shorthorn - 4

    Of course, I have Jerseys and Milking Devons.