What is the best milk cow?

Discussion in 'Cattle' started by largentdepoche, Sep 29, 2006.

  1. largentdepoche

    largentdepoche Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,750
    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2005
    I'd love to get a cow whenever I can get a homestead set up.

    I was wondering what is the best milk cow?

    I would just need milk for my family (4-6 people varying).

    Sorry if this is a weird question.

    Thanks!

    Kat
     
  2. kesoaps

    kesoaps Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    4,108
    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2004
    Location:
    Washington State

  3. jnap31

    jnap31 garden guy

    Messages:
    3,516
    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2005
    Location:
    AR (ozarks)
    Jerseys they have the most butter fat
    really it depends on what you are looking for someone with just 2 acres like me may be better off with dexter as I was buying a lot of hay for my jersey. I raised a guensey bull from 3 days old to butcher and he was really tame and nice it was hard to butcher him.
     
  4. caseyweiss

    caseyweiss Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    47
    Joined:
    May 26, 2005
    Location:
    ohio
    Milking Shorthorn!!
     
  5. MullersLaneFarm

    MullersLaneFarm Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    10,220
    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2004
    Location:
    NW-IL Fiber Enabler
    all good breeds, but we prefer the Jersey. Actually, our final four breeds were the Jersey, Guernsey, Dexter & milking shorthorn.

    We went with the Jersey since she's a little smaller than the Guernsey & shorthorn. We couldn't find a milking line of Dexters (and the price was higher).

    What we're finding with our Jersey is she's very, very docile. Her calves are wonderful with the heifer calves selling very well and the bull calves to be kept for the freezer (steered of course!)
     
  6. ozark_jewels

    ozark_jewels Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    9,246
    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2005
    Location:
    Missouri
    Really it depends on what you want/need and the type of land you have. If you have a few acres, a Jersey cow will give you plenty of milk for a family of 4-6. Jerseys are smaller cows so are easier to handle, and they give the best milk *in my opinion*. Their milk is very creamy, you can get plenty of cream to make butter with. They are usually not *too* hard to find and are very hardy. Their beef is very good so if you decide to raise and butcher a steer calf, no problems there.
    Holstiens are much bigger and their milk is less creamy. They give a lot more of it too. In my opinion they are not nearly as intelligent as a Jersey...which can be bad or good, depending on your point of view. :) They don't seem to be as hardy as Jerseys, and aren't quite such easy-keepers.
    Brown Swiss give good milk, but are *huge* cows. They are very gentle and beautiful, but unless you have plenty of pasture, I would reccomend a smaller breed.
    Milking Shorthorns are also a beautiful, gentle, intelligent, large breed. Again, they can be *very* large......
    Guenseys......well, lets just say that my experience with them has not been good. I daresay there are some good ones out there. They are not as common as most breeds.
    Dexters....I have absolutely 0 experience with breeding and milking them.

    My absolute favorite cow for home milking is a Jersey or a Jersey cross. We have bred and milked Jerseys for 18 years and have loved every minute of it. My vote is for Jerseys......everyone has a different opinion and you just have to choose what will work best for you. We even had a Jersey/Angus who was a *great* milk cow. She now produces Angus calves for a friend, at 13 years old she still raises the best calf in the herd every year. Oh, we have a very tame dairy/beef heifer for sale if anyone is interested.... :)
     
  7. commomsense

    commomsense Beef,Its whats for dinner

    Messages:
    411
    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2005
    Location:
    Southern WV
    Can't beat a Jersey for milk.Their Smaller that others,Give plenty of milk,But the bulls Are mean and will fight anything from another jersey to an #1800 Lb Angus.They got good nerve,but their judgment is bad.
     
  8. ozark_jewels

    ozark_jewels Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    9,246
    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2005
    Location:
    Missouri
    This is not true for all Jersey bulls but is a pretty good generalization. This is why we raise our bulls up from calves, keep them for one years breedings and maybe for the next year....then eat him before he gets mean or tough. Keeps the problem with meaness down and the freezer full. :)
    Or do AI if that is a direction you want to go.
     
  9. dezeeuwgoats

    dezeeuwgoats Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,370
    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2006
    Location:
    Arizona
    I'm surprised no one has answered this with other than breed specific info....for a new milker - temperament and ease of milking would be at the top of my list. Decent sized teats for hand milking, nice orifices so you aren't trying to squeeze milk out of pin holes, and a calm, quiet disposition on a cow that has some experience, not a first freshener. That would be my 'perfect' milk cow.

    Amount of milk is more of a personal question, everyone's needs are different. Definately try to determine that before you buy - no need to be milking out five + gallons a day if you can't find uses for it. Not to mention, if you need less production, such a cow may cost less than a high producer.

    Would definately want to milk the cow before buying, and maybe you could even talk the previous, experienced owner into helping out with that first milking once the cow was moved to your home. As the purchaser, you wouldn't want to be co-dependent or anything, but it would be great to have a posative, informative seller to refer back to for questions.

    niki
     
  10. ozark_jewels

    ozark_jewels Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    9,246
    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2005
    Location:
    Missouri
    Yes, all this is very important. There are different personalities and traits even among the same breed....pick the breed you like and look for the traits you want within that breed. But keep an open mind because while your searching for a Jersey with the traits you want....you may run across a Milking Shorthorn that will meet all your standards too! :)
     
  11. DJ in WA

    DJ in WA Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    2,875
    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2005
    I’ve shared my limited experience before, but I still see the common recommendation to get Jerseys, and wonder if my problems were rare.

    How available is a good, mature Jersey cow? I don’t see them advertised around here. I see people around the internet who struggle to find one. That’s why I got one at a dairy. They said she didn’t produce enough.

    Which leads to the next question, how many mature Jersey cows being sold have problems? I later learned my Jersey cow didn’t produce enough, and was sold, because of chronic incurable mastitis (dairy admitted it). Not real fun finding lumps in your milk from that. From my reading, chronic contagious (Staph) mastitis is a common reason for culling. Since it’s contagious, you risk spreading to other quarters if not careful.

    Who are these people who want to sell a great Jersey cow and will help you out? What kind of place is that? Seems a dairy would want to keep all the good ones.

    How much milk do your Jerseys give? When my cow freshened, and before the mastitis recurred, she was giving over 5 gallons a day. A lot of squeezing. Way too much for our family of five at the time. I didn’t feed her lots of grain like the dairy, and she got really skinny because of her will to milk. If you’re looking for a lower producing Jersey, how can you be sure it’s not because of a problem vs genetics? Should you culture for mastitis?

    She also had udder edema badly. Made it harder to milk the first few weeks of freshening. I read of other problems Jerseys have, like milk fever. How common is that? From other threads, sounds like one should have preventive and emergency treatment on hand, and you have to be careful how you feed them before calving.

    I have been preaching Angus/Jersey cross to avoid many of these problems. As I continue to see purebred Jerseys recommended for a family cow, I wonder if my problems are rare and people shouldn’t worry about them.
     
  12. tyusclan

    tyusclan Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    4,484
    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2005
    Location:
    Florida
    A dairy may cull a cow for any number of reasons. Chronic mastitis being one as DJ pointed out. I have found that a dairy can be a good source for a family milk cow. The key in deciding on a dairy cull is to ask a lot of questions. Why are they culling her? Is it a chronic or recurring health problem, or its it strictly low production?

    We have some good friends who own a Jersey dairy, and we had mentioned that we would be interested in a cow if they had one with a good udder, but low production for them. They called us one day about a cow they were going to sell. She was 10 years old and had always had borderline production, but high enough for them to keep her in the herd. But on this lactation she had dropped her production, so they decided to sell her. She had never been hand milked, so it took about a week to get her used to that. But after that she was a perfect cow. She had a great udder, great teats, and gave about 2 gallons a day, which was perfect for our family.

    I also agree with ozark_jewels. Keep an open mind as you search. You may run across the perfect cow in a different breed than you had in mind.
     
  13. crowinghen

    crowinghen Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    185
    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2004
    Location:
    WA
    DJ,
    I have never owned a Jersey, but I've heard and seen so many bad things about them...I'm not sure I would have one. Milk fever so bad my friends are terrified to re-breed their cow-- to Jersey cow's credit I thnk this cow is doing a 2 or three year lactation by now!
    OT my family's choice of milk cow is a Nubian- 1 gallon a day from a first freshener, milked once a day, the perfect amount of milk for our family.

    Susie
     
  14. john in la

    john in la Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    219
    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2005
    Location:
    louisiana
    To me the best milk cow is.....................

    A cow that produces enough milk with sufficient butterfat % to make all the ice cream; butter; and drinking milk you want.
    Never has any medical problems; breeds back on the first try; and has a body frame to support her weight.
    Produces a sellable calf every 365 days.
    Is a easy let down milker.
    One that does not kick; bite; jump; or swat you with the tail while being milked.
    Stays in the yard even when the fence is down or the gate is left open.
    And does all of this on a grass and hay budget.

    So does anyone have a cow like this for sale?????????????????
     
  15. ozark_jewels

    ozark_jewels Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    9,246
    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2005
    Location:
    Missouri
    Jerseys and health problems. Rule number one: Start off with a HEALTHY cow. If you are buying from a dairy, make sure that you know the reason they are selling her is due to lower milk production, age, shorter lactation, etc.....anything that IS NOT health related. Be sure she does not have recurring mastitis or hard time calving or breeds back slow or has milk fever every time she freshens. If you buy a cow with these problems(any breed)....you can expect a battle.
    Jerseys *can* be more subjective to milk fever than other breeds.....really heavy milkers are the worst so big dairies that push for production see more milk fever problems than homesteaders do. In 18 years of breeding Jerseys(between 2-5 milking cows at a time), we have had three cases of milk fever. Pumpkin had milk fever twice so we knew she was subject to it. We watched her closely and gave calcium when she calved. No more problems. Blossom(Pumpkins daughter) had it once when she was 11 years old(older cows are more subject to it). She has not had a problem since but we watch her close at calving time. Milk fever is easy to cure, but you have to catch it. But in 18 years, only three cases of milk fever......none fatal......not so bad, huh??
    Other health problems.....None really. No bad calvings, no sickly calves, no recurring mastitis. We have lost cows, but all in their dotage to age related problems. I expect to lose our 16 year old Blossom within the next few years, but she is still producing a calf a year for us and looks good.
    Start out with a healthy cow!!!!!! I can't stress that enough. And if you are worried about milk fever.....keep supplies on hand at calving time and know your vet so you can call him if needed. You can supplement calcium as the cow goes into labour and after she calves and a tube a day for the next couple days if you don't want to have to worry about the possibility. Don't fear milk fever.....do something about it.
     
  16. ozark_jewels

    ozark_jewels Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    9,246
    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2005
    Location:
    Missouri
    Many dairies sell cows that are lower producing(genetically, not because of mastitis), three-quartered cows, or cows that are older so they can make room for young cows coming up the line. These are all good cows for the home milker. If I am buying from a dairy, I want to go there at milking time at least once, observe the cow in her natural habitat and milk her myself. Machine milking at the dairy, but I want to see how she handles being hand milked and if she milks easy, the texture of her udder and how she lets her milk down. If the owner doesn't mind, you might be able to take milk from her and have it cultured to ease your mind of that concern. Especially if your new to cows.
    Our cows tend to produce about 3-5 gallons a day by their second freshening. Our best milker was giving 8 gallon a day at her peak, but that was *exceptional* and more than I actually want in a homemilker!! They average at about 3-4 gallons a day though on a bit of grain and grass pasture. We very rarely ever feed alfalfa. Between us, our milk customers, goat kids, calves, dogs, cats and chickens.....we don't have much extra.
     
  17. DJ in WA

    DJ in WA Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    2,875
    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2005
    I appreciate these responses. My concern is that many people asking about which kind of cow to get, have none or little experience with cows. They may not even know how to milk a cow, let alone be able to do the health evaluations suggested when buying a cow, or how to tube a cow for milk fever, etc. Sure, when buying you can ask a dairy if the cow has any problems, and hopefully they are honest. I see it like asking a used car salesman if there is anything wrong with the car.

    I grew up with family cows, but we didn’t have the problems I experienced, (lower producing brown swiss, and Hereford/swiss crosses) so I didn’t really know what to look for. With single cows, the contagious mastitis wasn’t an issue.

    John, I am not demanding the perfect cow. But seems to me we ought to recommend for newbies a more forgiving ‘starter’ cow which is lower risk for problems, and with lower production. Many problems are associated with the high production. To get lower production, get a crossbreed with beef breed rather than seek a lower producing dairy cow, where the production drop could be part of a problem. The part beefer will produce more beef. If you want to go to more milk after some experience, breed to a dairy bull. Create your own cow, which has a history you know.

    Susie, I tried the goat route for years, but couldn’t find a way to get rid of the goaty flavor. Otherwise, nice idea.

    “Many dairies sell cows that are lower producing(genetically, not because of mastitis), three-quartered cows, or cows that are older so they can make room for young cows coming up the line.” Quote

    The cow I got was supposedly a 3 quartered cow. They said she had a “light teat”. They never mentioned mastitis and I didn’t know to ask, but that’s what it turned out to be. That quarter produced when she freshened, so I thought it worked okay til the mastitis recurred. When I then asked the dairy, they said, “Oh, yeah, you weren’t supposed to milk that quarter. We couldn’t clear up the mastitis with treatment.” Anyway, when you get a three-quartered cow, are there causes other than mastitis for the bad quarter?

    “Between us, our milk customers, goat kids, calves, dogs, cats and chickens.....we don't have much extra.” Quote

    For newbies, just be aware that selling raw milk is often illegal, and puts you at risk should someone get sick. I did it some with the extra milk, but decided it wasn’t worth my time or worry.
     
  18. ozark_jewels

    ozark_jewels Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    9,246
    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2005
    Location:
    Missouri
    Well, its always a good idea to learn all you can first and then take along a cow knowledgeable person or at least someone who has some experience with cows when you go cow shopping. If you know of no one like that, then you go with your feelings on it. If you feel that the dairyman contradicts themselves, won't look you in the eye...or if they simply make you uncomfortable...don't buy from them. Simple as that, only buy what you are comfortable with. Everyone started somewhere. We didn't know anything about cows when we bought our first Jersey either. If the cow is clear-eyed, no scours(should have plops, not the runs), milk has no lumps in it, milks out easy and is in good flesh with good muscle tone, its probably a good bet. Its *mainly* common sense if you know anything about animals at all(even dogs and cats).
    As for tubing for milk fever?? Its a tube of calcium that you use to prevent, its not literally tubing the cow. You stick the tube in her mouth(unless you are *very* strong, you will need two people for this operation), use a piece of pipe or a stick to empty the tube into the back of her throat, and hold her head tilted up till she swallows it. Its not complicated like tubing can be. I have never had to tube a milk cow before....its not something a newbie is likely to have to do. As for giving shots....anyone buying any animal *needs* to learn how to give shots if they are needed. Don't wait till you have an emergency to learn how. Giving shots is actually extremely simple...it just seems scary till you do it. :)
    Reasons for three-teated cows: Bruising which caused scar tissue, a genetic tendency toward lightness in one quarter, an injury which closed off the milk canal, mastitis caused by injury resulting in massive scar tissue(this is not a recurring type of mastitis), and the ocaissional cow that simply freshens with no way for the milk to escape the teat. Many reasons for a three-quartered cow. The cow you bought was technically *not* a three-quartered cow, since she produced milk in all four quarters. They should not have sold that cow without telling you about her mastitis!! If they were going to sell her without first curing the mastitis, they should have at least sold her through auction where everyone knows its "buyers beware". Thats a seller problem which became the buyers problem. Bad ethics!
    And yes, everyone should check the milk laws where they live. Some places milk cannot be sold at all, some places it can be sold off the farm if its under so much per month, and some places you can sell as much as you have. And then there are the places where it must be understood that its being sold as "pet" milk<wink, wink>.
     
  19. largentdepoche

    largentdepoche Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,750
    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2005
    Thanks for all this information, it's incredibly helpful! :)

    Thanks a ton!

    Kat