What to look for in a milk cow

Discussion in 'Cattle' started by AmyLou, May 12, 2005.

  1. AmyLou

    AmyLou New Member

    Messages:
    2
    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2004
    Location:
    Western Wa
    Hello all! I have been lurking here for several months now and I have to say that I have learned a whole lot from you folks and I'm hoping to learn even more!

    Right now, DH and I are looking for land to start our little farm. I want to find a Jersey to use as our family milk cow. I have a few leads, but my question is, what do I look for when I go to look at a cow? What testing should be done, if any, and who should do that, the seller or the buyer? The leads that I have are some distance from me so I need as much information going into this as possible. I appreciate any information/advice you can give to this newbie.

    Thanks,

    Amy
     
  2. Alvary

    Alvary dOn't gEt mAd, gEt EvIl.

    Messages:
    32
    Joined:
    May 7, 2005
    Location:
    Western vic, Australia
    hello

    Firstly, body condition. A good milker will be thin (not skinny) with a good shiny coat. If she has too much fat on her, she isn't putting enough into the milk, and is usually a poor milker. A shiny coat and clear eyes will indicate a healthy animal.

    Second is the udder. A good milker will have an even, larg udder. The teats should be medium length, even thickness (not triangular) and not hard. All theats and 'quarters' (each part of the udder) should be even in comparison to its neighbour. A god milker will also look quite 'full' in the udder before milking and very empty after.

    And third is its parents. If she's a heifer and hasn't yet calved, look at her parents. Was her father know for easy calving? Does her mother produce good quality milk? does she calve easily? Is she quiet (an important factor when hand milking)

    Hope this helps
    Jessica
     

  3. JanO

    JanO Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    854
    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2003
    Location:
    Western Washington
    Welcome AmyLou. Where in W. Wa. are you? We are in escrow on 10 acres with a house right now in W. Wa. Should be moving in about 3 weeks. :p

    When buying cows you have to look at two aspects of doing so separately. You've got to trust your own judgement of the person selling the cow and the cow!

    These are what I look at when buying;

    Always ask why they're selling her.

    Condition and Age; If she's a bit on the thin side and you feel the reason is from being underfed or stress, can you afford to get her back into shape and maintain her condition. Older cows can appear really bony and thin but as long as they've got a good covering over the short ribs and shoulders they're OK.

    Another thing to consider if she's a young cow and thin; is she 'parrot mouthed'? also known as 'over shot' i.e. the lower jaw is shorter than the upper jaw, or 'monkey mouthed,' also known as 'undershot' the upper jaw shorter than the lower jaw. I've often come across this fault when selecting bobby calves. This fault can be the cause for an undernourished cow.

    Backside; How dirty is she in that area? Keep in mind that not everyone grooms their cows daily like most of us with a family cow. Check out the inside of her legs as well? She's bound to oblige you by dropping a cow pat at your feet to inspect. This cow pat will give you an idea of how well her digestive system is working. If she has diarrhoea, you'll soon smell it! Don't be afraid to ask questions about what she's being fed.

    Udder; Does it look in good condition and is it well supported? Of course if you're looking at an older cow that has just been milked it may not look too flash at first glance! You may think that the ligaments that support the udder are worn out but this isn't always so. (Some pics would be good here to show these differences, wouldn't they! Will look for some when I have time.)
    Look for evenly sized quarters and any obvious lumps and bumps.
    Do the teats all hang down nicely? None sticking out at odd angles are there!
    Look for cuts and abrasions. If you see any, judge how serious they are.
    Are the teats a good length? Small teats on the back quarters can be a real hindrance, espcially if you ever are interested in fostering calves on.

    Lameness; Have a look at her hooves, are they in good condition? No big splits on them? Ask the seller to get cow moving so you can look for lameness. Whilst she's walking try to get a look at the area between her udder and her inner leg. Is there any nasty chaffing happening in that area?

    Coat; is it sleek and shiny or is it rough and dull with a rust coloured tinge to it? The latter usually means worms or a mineral deficiency, both fixable.

    Eyes; are they bright and alert? Is she taking an interest in you looking at her. If she's an ex-dairy cow they often appear depressed and they usually are but once again with the right care this can be rectified. Dairy cows, just like horses go 'sour' with doing the same thing everyday of their life.

    Ears; Are her ears swivelling around, a good indicator of whether she's perky and taking an interest what's going on around her. If they're droopy and unmoving it would indicate depression.

    Muzzle; A healthy cows muzzle will have little dots of moisture on it. A purebred Jersey always has a white muzzle.

    Nature; It can be very difficult to judge this aspect of a cow on a quick visit as cows can be quite standoffish and take a few days to warm to a new handler. Pay attention to how the cow reacts to her usual handler, is she relaxed and obliging when being touched and when asked to move? An ex-dairy cow will normally only have been handled at the rear end so will naturally be head shy. This can be overcome when she becomes familiar with you. Does she chew cud whilst you're standing back chatting? This is a very good sign of a relaxed cow.

    OK, now that you've made your assessment of her physical being it's time to ask questions about her production and health.

    What volume of milk is she giving?

    Mastitis? What type? how severe? any lasting problems like a blind quarter or two?

    Milk Fever? Don't buy her if she has a history, the older they are the more prone they are to it.

    Number of calvings?

    Any difficult births or is she an easy calver?

    'Calving Paralysis'? This isn't always bad news, it can be the result of a very large calf or a difficult delivery. A large calf isn't always the result of genetics. It's vital to learn about the nutritional needs of a pregnant cow. The calf doubles in weight in the last three weeks of pregnancy so she must be on limited lush pasture at this time.

    It's not always possible but sometimes if you've stood around for a few minutes looking and chatting, the cow will have relaxed and may allow you to feel her udder.

    Think this about covers it but if anything else comes to mind I'll add to this post. Just ask away if you have any questions.

    I'll be looking for a new cow too, as soon as I get up there and settled. Good luck.
     
  4. AmyLou

    AmyLou New Member

    Messages:
    2
    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2004
    Location:
    Western Wa
    Thank you both for your answers, they give me somewhere to start. Right now, we live in Pierce Co, but we have sold our house and are looking for AFFORDABLE land, which is almost impossible to find around here. We have our eye on a 5 acre piece up in King Co, it is expensive, but it seems to be in a good area surrounded by other agriculturally minded folks.

    Thanks again!
     
  5. JanO

    JanO Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    854
    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2003
    Location:
    Western Washington
    Oh, I know what you mean AmyLou. We spent a lot of time looking before we picked our place in Lewis Co. Thurston Co. seems to still be reasonable though. We were torn between the two when we picked our place. We also have 9 acres over in Grays Harbor. Land hasn't gotten quite as high over there yet, but I'm sure it will before too much longer. Hope it all works out as planned for you.
    :)