Will a Dairy Farm Cow make a good family milk cow?

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I have an opportunity to buy a Jersey cow for $400. She had a severed tit accident, but otherwise is healthy. About 4-5 years old, bred two weeks ago. I saw her late last night, and it was out in the pasture with about a hundred other cows around (talk about scary, having that many curious cows converging on you simultaneously) so getting a chance to try to hand milk her was rather out of the question. I'm wondering if I should hold out for a cow that has already been handled as a family handmilker. I have several small children, and am a bit concerned about temperament etc. Any experienced dairy cow people, please give input!


-- Mumsie (Shezdremn@aol.com), September 30, 1999


Mumsie...your choice of breed is excellent for a family cow. Jerseys give less milk with higher butter fat. This milk is great for sour cream, fresh cream, butter, cheese, cottage cheese, etc. Most cows that go through a dairy line up get hand milked often and usually are hand stripped after each milking. Stripped meaning the last drops of milk are taken out by hand. So teaching the cow to hand milk is not a real big problem to my way of thinking. But I am concerned with the teat injury. I don't know if you meant to say severe injury or severed teat. You need to know if the teat is functional, if she has had mastitis in that quadrant of the udder, etc. It may be perfectly alright but due to scar tissue she can't tolerate the milking machine. Now...if you don't know how to milk, you need to get someone to teach you that does. First place, its not easy. I used to milk 12 goats every morning and evening but I couldn't just step up to a cow and milk it. Its different and requires more strength. Also, if you don't know what you are doing, you can ruin her udder. So find out about the injury, any mastitis and get a promise that they will teach you to milk. If its not far away, ask them if you could come at milking time and have them teach you on those cows that are not putting milk into the tank. There are always a few cows, for one reason or another, that go through the line but have to either be milked with a separate milking machine/tank or hand milked. Usually the reason is that the cow has been given an antibiotic, thus her milk cannot go into the tank with the herd's milk. Hope I have helped. I would jump at the chance to have a Jersey were I younger and had enuff people at the table to eat all the butter, cheese, etc.


-- Taz (Taz@aol.com), September 30, 1999.


Know nothing much about cows (other than that I prefer goats!) :-) But I am curious as to why he is culling her from the herd...did he say? Is this a recent or older injury? Is the effected teat barren from mastitus? As Taz said, that teat just might not be able to stand up to machine milking, but hand milking is much easier on an injury? Are you familiar with the man's veterenarian? Perhaps he or another would take a look at her for you? Dairy folks, shouldn't he have records on her as an individual for medications and such...of course whether he would share them?

In goats, if one of the teats has had mastitus, it will usually be out of proportion with the rest of the udder, i.e. much bigger and deformed, and/or you will be able to feel "lumps" within the udder on that side. Lumps in udder, what ever the cause, are areas that no longer produce milk.

Again all my experiences are from goats, but once an animal has mastitus, even if successfully treated, isn't it more prone to reoccur with other freshenings? I have had two goats over the years that where afflicted prior to my getting them. Sisters. One I milked successfully for years, till she passed on, she gave well over a gallon a day for most of her lactation; the other one flared up when she kidded the first time. She went on to a successfull career of brush clearing for someone else.

Temperment about cows, I know nothing. Jersey's are a beautiful animal, and I think as a rule very gentle by nature.

(J...a cow!!! LOL) :-)

-- Lilly (homesteader145@yahoo.com), September 30, 1999.

A quick response...thanks! Off to look at (Eureka!) a Guernsey with a HEIFER calf at side. Then will be better able to make decision. Your advice was great as usual Taz and Lilly!

(Yes, and don't forget our two Newfie puppies, up to six dogs, one cat, a canary, two conures, four keets, six finches, four ducks, and sixty-one chickens. Yee haw!) (That makes our family size of seven kids seem down right puny, ha ha)

-- Mumsie (Shezdremn@aol.com), September 30, 1999.

Several friends are/have been dairymen, and the Jerseys and Guernseys are both excellent for temperament, as well as butterfat content. Jerseys are the highest, but you can get plenty fat drinking Guernsey milk.

From what I have picked up around the dairy, an injured udder can be the source of a lot of problems. I think you should go with the animal least likely to have expensive medical problems in the future.

If you have a heifer calf in the deal, you are on your way to your own dairy operation.

BTW, goats are gaining popularity as a source of dairy products, and they would surely be lower in maintenance. Just a thought.

good luck.


-- gene (ekbaker@essex1.com), September 30, 1999.

We have recently acquired an "elderly" jersey cow named Harriet. She is supposed to be at least 4 mos pregnant. (hopefully with a heifer-Harriet was supposed to be bred to a jersey bull). We gradually dried her up...she is a sweetie; very nice personality. Also have an 19 mo old holstein heifer that will calve in the spring. Her mom raised 9 calves in 3 years - and we milked for extras for the chickens,etc. Unfortunately, her mom died this summer-apparently of heat stroke. NOTE to owners of holsteins: you MUST keep them up close to the house/barn in the 100 degree plus weather and keep them cooled off with water mist, or just hose them down. Unfortunately, we went to New Mexico mountains during the worst part of this summer's heat - and she died while we were gone. Her current calves were weaned of necessity at 5 months: a half Murray Gray/half Holstein(her own heifer calf) and a half holstein, half Limosine heifer calf that we bought from a dairy. They should make dandy cows with lots of milk for their calves. Also we bought a Brown Swiss cow last March...she was supposed to be bred to an Angus bull...we are going to see if she can also raise 2 or 3 calves at a time like the Holsteins. She is due to calve in October(Heidi). So now we have three different dairy breeds to try out....I'm pretty sure we will end up milking the Jersey and putting extra calves on the other two. I'm looking forward to the milk rich in butterfat for butter/cream. I tried to buy a Normande heifer, but the only breeder within range wasn't interested in selling anything. Harriet the Jersey has one leakey teat....I sent off(from NASCO catalogue) for a liquid thingy that you apply to constrict the teat opening- and its supposed to cure the leaky teat problem---time will tell. Harriet will be due in about late February. Our deceased Holstein could easily feed two calves and supply all the milk that we needed for ourselves and the chickens---at her peak, she would produce 6 to 8 gallons per day. It was almost skim milk though. I feel awful about losing her...and it won't happen again. We are not dairy people and did not know how Holsteins suffered in the heat so much more than other breeds. Good luck with your dairy cow!!!!

-- jeanne (jeanne@hurry.now), September 30, 1999.

I don't like to disagree with Taz, but I have found that most modern dariy farmers never hand milk their cows (at least not in the parts of Wisconsin that I have lived in), and that some cows would never let you hand milk them. I'd make sure that I could milk the cow before buying it- don't just let them tell you that it's okay, but make them demonstrate and then make sure that YOU can do it too. Jerseys can be nice homestead family cows, but they also can be tempermental. Good luck.

-- Jim (jiminwis@yahoo.com), October 01, 1999.

One final thought. Milk every morning and evening. No time out. No vacation. No one else to take your place. Still, with Y2K coming,where are we going?

-- Tommy Rogers (Been there@Just a Thought.com), October 04, 1999.

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