Speak to me of the family cow...

Discussion in 'Cattle' started by fourwinds, Dec 4, 2004.

  1. fourwinds

    fourwinds Member

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    In the next 6 months, we will be moving to our new home (only 10 miles away from our current) on 72 acres of wooded land in North Waterboro, Maine. We'll be carving our own little farm out of the overgrown farmland that was burned over in the Great Fire of 1947 and where no one has lived in at least 100 years.

    Anyway....

    I'm looking forward to getting back into food production for our family. In the past, I have raised rabbits, pigs and turkeys for meat and have laying hens now. I'm not going to do the rabbits again, but look forward to pigs and turkeys and would like to try meat chickens as well. The laying hens are a MUST.

    We like to raise our own meat because we like to take responsibility for being meat-eaters and like to know where our food came from.

    A friend of mine is enthralled with the idea of a family cow and she thinks we should share one. Share the cost, the labor, the milk, the risk. We each have 4 children (ages 5-14) and have livestock experience, though not with cows.

    Words of advice? Warnings? Reality checks? Really good book recommendations? Breed recommendations? Psychologist recommendations?
     
  2. JanO

    JanO Well-Known Member Supporter

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    With everything your describing, a family cow is a must. But, depending on how much milk your family requires and how many by-products you utilize (such as butter, cheese, yogert) you may decide that you need more then one if your going into this with a friend.

    I recommend that you get "Keeping a Family Cow" by Joann S. Grohman. Joann has put together a wonderful resource book that I found invaluable. Here is the link to her site http://www.real-food.com/ She also moderates a forum that is quite helpful and the people in there are wonderful. They really enjoy helping others.

    Good luck with your new farm and I hope it all works out for you

    Jan
     

  3. uncle Will in In.

    uncle Will in In. Well-Known Member Supporter

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    If you share ownership of the cow plus equal division of the feed costs and all care, I will promise that you will loose your friends within the first year. Work out a way to sell them milk or trade work for milk. Any way you can come up with, but don't share ownership of the cow. In the way you suggest, one or both of you will feel like you are being taken advantage of.
     
  4. cloverfarm

    cloverfarm Well-Known Member

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    I would get a cow from a smaller breed that doesn't give as much milk as an industrial strength Holstein.

    Making cheese uses a lot of milk.

    Good luck! We have a pretty nice Holstein/Angus/Simmental heifer here in our small group to freshen this summer and I would like to try milking her. But ... then we get right back into SOMEONE has to milk no matter what.

    Ann
     
  5. farmy

    farmy Well-Known Member

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    I'm with the other posters in that I'd advise making her a one-family cow. If you were thinking you and the other family could share milking chores, keep in mind that hand-milked cows are happier and healthier when milked by the same person every time, or at the most, the same two people. The cow is definitely the anchor of the homestead!

    The Family Cow, by Dirk van Loon (sp?) is a classic, and my favorite.
     
  6. Oxankle

    Oxankle Well-Known Member

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    Think this thru;

    Are you prepared to do all that a cow requires? A properly tended cow is a seven-days-a-week chore, 365 days a year.

    If you are prepared for this, get two little cows, perhaps small jerseys, dexters or some other small breed. Each of you take care of your own cow and trade labor when one of you is sick or wants to go on a trip, visit Grandma, etc.

    Having two cows also means that it would be unlikely that both would be dry at once, so that you can supply both families with milk without interruption. Two cows also means that each of you has a calf to sell or butcher.
    Ox
     
  7. fourwinds

    fourwinds Member

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    Hi Ox,
    I am trying to think this through, trying to get a good idea of what the work entails and if I'll enjoy working with a cow.

    I am a mom of four boys and have two horses and two dogs. I do know what it means to make a committment to taking care of living creatures every day. ;)

    I agree the two small cows and trading work may be the best way to go. Then we can support each other and each enjoy our own cows.

    I will look for the books mentioned - thanks!

    Jaye
     
  8. sheeplady

    sheeplady Well-Known Member

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    Back when the kids were home, we kept two Jersey cows, which my husband and I handmilked, me in the morning and him in the evening. We dried them off if I remember correctly, about 2 months before the next calving.You can stagger two cows to have milk year round or have both coincide with a dry period to allow you time off. Not that we ever went anywhere, nor do we now with all the other animals here. :)
     
  9. cloverfarm

    cloverfarm Well-Known Member

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    Would you be milking twice a day or once a day. Reason I ask is we were reading about cheese-making herds that only milked once a day. But ... I can't remember any of the details.

    Ann
     
  10. AR Transplant

    AR Transplant Well-Known Member

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    my husband shares cows with our neighbor. They split everything down the middle and split the cost of everything. When a calf dies, we each only lose half of a calf. I am not sure why this works, perhaps it is because this neighbor is so generous. he has more land than we do, and he uses the shared tractor more than we do ( but he only uses it to help other people out that can't afford a tractor.) In fact, it is very hard to "bless" this neighbor. The only advantage this neighbor really gets is the fact that he is gone with his job three to four days at a time. If my husband didn't take care of the cattle when he was gone than he wouldn't be able to have cattle. This is not usually a burden on my husband as he is home everynight anyway.

    This is just me sharing, I suppose that if you had to share a cow, then be prepared to be very generous and forgiving.

    I have a milk cow that stays on his property, we don't pay rent for her and they won't drink the milk so it is no advantage to them at all for me to have her. But, they really don't mind that she is there.( I pay for her feed of course.)

    my .02

    Arkansas Transplant