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Starting a dairy cow on poor pasture?

Allison Rooney


Joined: Mar 24, 2010
Posts: 42
Location: Shields Valley Montana
I need to generate more on-farm manure,  for soil building and composting, and have been thinking of starting into four-footed livestock by getting a dairy cow/calf pair.  However, my existing pasture was overgrazed for decades, and so very poor in condition and probable nutritive value.  Mostly crested wheatgrass, a bit of cheatgrass here and there, some sagebrush.  I was thinking that I'd keep her moving very frequently, but would have to supplement her diet quite likely year round with bought-in hay for the first year, maybe two.  Does this sound like a recipe for disaster, or at the very least a sick cow to anyone here with dairy cow experience? 

Or should I wait a couple more years until I can reseed more pasture area into more palatable and diverse grasses/clovers, which is how long it will probably take to get established?  I also recently heard something about clovers causing bloat in cows.  Any thoughts on this, cow people?  Many thanks!


Farmer at Cloud Nine Farm, located at 5300' elevation, on Sagebrush Steppe, northeast of Bridger Mountains in the Shields Valley of Montana. We do market gardens, four season growing, build earthworks, plant food forests, raise livestock and poultry, grow and sell plants and seeds, host WWOOFers, and more. Find our farm on facebook!
Brice Moss


Joined: Jul 28, 2010
Posts: 700
Location: rainier OR
    
    2
don't know much about cows but how much pasture are we talking about here and in what climate?
Burra Maluca
Mother Tree

Joined: Apr 03, 2010
Posts: 5253
Location: Portugal Zone 9 Mediterranean Climate
    
208
One problem I see is that if you are removing the manure to build soil in another area, presumably your veg garden, then you are going to be stripping nutrients from your pasture instead of building it up.  If you're going to be buying in hay to feed her, which it sounds like you're going to have to do, it might be worth trying to get hold of as much cheap hay/straw as you can find to compost directly, maybe with the help of a bit of the manure to get it going.  That way the pasture *and* your veg garden gets a kick start. 

Our system, which is still very much based on soil building, involves grazing the donkey out on rough pasture during the day, stabling her at night, using the manure from the stable to add to the compost for the garden, and collecting in as much hay as we can from neighbours' unused fields.  We compost whatever we can, including humanure, for the veg garden.  But we also mulch the food forest as heavily as we can so that the soil builds slowly as the trees are growing.  The veg garden has to have the ready composted stuff as we need to grow stuff there to feed us now, but I can't compost enough for the whole forest area!  By mulching though,  I'm hopeful that by the time the trees in the forest are grown enough to give more shade, and fruit, the soil will be rich enough to support more species between the trees.  And I'm not robbing the pasture while it's all happening. 

Unless you actually want a cow now, it might be worth waiting a while while you get the pasture in better condition and concentrate on composting.  Hay composts faster when it's been through an animal first, but you do actually get more bulk from it if you compost direct.  Collect the pee from the family to add to it, if you can persuade them, and it soon starts to break down. 

I ended up with a row of six compost compounds, each five foot square, that I aim to keep 'fed' to keep the compost supply going.  Eventually I'm hoping that most of them will be redundant as the soil improves and we don't need so much.  Even the mulching in the forest should stop as the trees get big enough to 'auto-mulch' with their fallen leaves


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Joined: Jul 26, 2010
Posts: 21
Most dairy breeds have relatively high nutritional needs.
Perhaps, in the beginning,  consider bringing in a few animals who are better at utilizing poor forage -
some of the more primitive beef breeds, for instance.
Or if you have an aversion to raising animals for meat, you could pasture some laying hens, or wool sheep. 
Allison Rooney


Joined: Mar 24, 2010
Posts: 42
Location: Shields Valley Montana
Our property is 20 acres.  We have about 16 available for grazing.  We have already been pasturing layer hens and ducks getting progressively bigger flocks over the past three years, up to about 40 birds right now.  By next spring, we'll have about a 1/2 acre to 3/4 acre that will have seen a good layer of poultry manure/straw and the remains of their deep litter bedding.  We only had about 3200 sq. ft covered like this by this past spring, and the difference in one season using the rotational poultry is truly so amazing I just stare and giggle sometimes.  The wheatgrass in non-poultry areas is less than 12' tall, with poor soil coverage, the blades of grass are weak, light green and spindly.
In the pastured areas from last year, crested wheatgrass grew to over 24" tall, with thick leafy blades, bunches over a foot in diameter, and very fat heavy seed heads...!  So, by next summer, we'll have some decent grass, though not much.  What I had been thinking was using electric wire to move the cow/calf every day, while feeding in hay, so the cows could graze a bit and still get nutrition from the hay.  I've read somewhere that allowing the cow to eat hay, but also stomp on the uneaten portion, manure it, and move on, will create a fertilized mulch, similar to what we've got happening with chickens.  I also thought maybe I could simultaneously underseed with other grasses and clover. I suppose the main goal is to get the manure right down on the pasture/future garden areas, since we do compost a rather large amount of off farm manure, off farm food wastes, and our garden remains.  I suspected that dairy cows had more finicky dietary needs than say a beef cow, or goats, but I'm not a huge fan of goat milk.  I guess what my question might actually be is does a cow receive markedly less nutrition from quality hay than it does from a good spring/summer pasture?   Are Jerseys a versatile/hardy breed?

Maybe beef cows would be the way to start, probably less of a risk/investment up front.  We have some neighbors who raise low-line angus, and they do well on poor grass.   Though goats would be a better introduction into homescale dairying.

We are in SW Montana, at 5300' elevation, on rangeland.  We only see about 4-5 months of good grazing conditions, with tendency toward droughty conditions, though lots more rain in the last couple of years, so maybe we're on a water cycle now.  During the harshest of the winter months, November-February or March, we'd likely have to stable the cow/calf every night.  This stockpile of manure we could spread directly in the spring and supplement into our composting. 

Thank you all for your thoughtful replies!
          


Joined: Jul 26, 2010
Posts: 21
I guess the confusion I'm having is understanding if you are wanting 100% grassfed? 
The typical dairy animal will not thrive on hay alone - although if you are willing to sacrifice some quantity of milk, you can work towards that goal.
IF you know of a jersey breeder who has been breeding with grass management as a goal, that would be a help - but I've found jerseys are rare as it is - finding a herd that lines up with your permie nature, as well, would be a lottery-winning kind of lightening strike! 

I understand the hesitation with goats - I was the same. I did goats anyway just to see if I would enjoy dairying as much as I expected - and I did -
I was glad to move to cows.  I have a jersey and a mini jersey. I'm planning to cross them, though, in order to get animals that are hardier and better on grass, while retaining some of the dairy character.

If I were going to do it all again, I would have either gotten a grass managed beefer and milked her anyway, or better, look for a beef/dairy cross. I learned a lot from the goats, but looking back, the time lost while I "played" at that wasn't worth it.
Allison Rooney


Joined: Mar 24, 2010
Posts: 42
Location: Shields Valley Montana
SmyO, Thanks for the comment.  You've addressed a big part of my decision making dilemma- I'd rather not spend time/money on goats, while knowing I'd much prefer a dairy cow.  As much as I love goat cheese, goat milk and yogurt I just can't do, though I've tried.

I do know an area farmer who lives in the same region who raises Jersey/Devon crosses, I believe, though she's about 100 miles from me.  She has offered to assist me by hosting a visit to her farm to see her operations, and will have a cow/calf pair ready to sell next spring.  She'll be a good resource on the question of a mixed breed with part beef stock for better grass utilization.  I am also quite fine with supplementing the diet of the cow with grain, not intending for her to be solely grass-based, just well and properly fed! 

Where are you located, and how long have you been raising Jerseys?
Brice Moss


Joined: Jul 28, 2010
Posts: 700
Location: rainier OR
    
    2
Allison Rooney wrote:
SmyO, Thanks for the comment.  You've addressed a big part of my decision making dilemma- I'd rather not spend time/money on goats, while knowing I'd much prefer a dairy cow.  As much as I love goat cheese, goat milk and yogurt I just can't do, though I've tried.



not to offend but to maybe save you some stress, I haven't met too may folks who can tell the difference between fresh milk from a well kept dairy goat and fresh unpasteurized whole cows milk so I would advise that before commiting on a cow you ask the seller for a quart of milk "stright from the tap" on one of the critters they are breeding.
there are also a few caveats on what I am saying about goats milk
1) it will remain whole milk the cream doesn't seperate well so it will be creamier than cows milk after the cream settles out of the same
1a)getting the cream for butter or whipping can be a pain with goats milk
2)some goat keepers don't keep their bucks far enough away from the does, his scent glands will add a goaty flavor to the milk of any goat kept close to him
3)some plants impart a bit of flavor to milk, cows have this problem less because they don't browse around the way goats do
4)I have yet to buy goats milk from a store that didn't have a nasty flavor in it weather it was the canned junk that tastes like the can it comes in or the "fresh" stuff that was more than half cooked in the pasteurizer

one other consideration
a good goat will give 1-2 quarts of milk a day
a moderate cow will give over a gallon a day with 3 gallons a day falling well in the normal range
I could never use the output of a cow on a family level in fact having two large dairy goats in milk would necessitate buying a pig to feed the excess to

You may want to investigate some of the small dual purpose breeds like deters and highlands or even try milking a good grass fed beef critter like a low-line Angus unless you need that 2-3gallon a day productivity level
Emil Spoerri
pollinator

Joined: Oct 19, 2009
Posts: 415
    
    8
LOLOL, I have never been able to get enough milk from 4 goats to have any left over to make cheese or yogurt... Goats milk does taste about the same fresh you are right, but within two days in the fridge it does taste decidedly "goaty".

I have heard of people rotating goats through browse, but I haven't seen it. In my experience goats kind of destroy an area of their favorite food so the quality of their pasture keeps deteriorating for them, while it keeps getting better for cows, so it is a good 
way to start out I think!

One thing to be said about cows is that a good cow is a delight to work with and some goats are pretty nice too, but if you don't have a lock solid fence system for your goats, they are bound to get into some kind of trouble that will annoy you to no end. They seem to know that you don't want them in your garden and wait until you take a nap or go run around town before they make a break for it. They will also leap onto tables, cars, vertical walls, eat fiberglass insulation and anything else that is dry and carbon-like. They destroy things. One time one grabbed a box of tomatoes and booked it, flinging the tomatoes all over the yard, most of them squashing on impact. No, she was not at all interested in the tomatoes, it was her love of cardboard that got her in that mess! For some reason I have had good luck with them never ringing the bark of a single tree, except one 60 year old gigantic catalpa that I saved by wrapping with chicken wire.

I think the biggest advantage of goats is that they average 2 and a half kids a year and you don't have to keep a bull or hire a breeder to inseminate them. It's not as a big a deal for jerseys, but you have to wait over 2 years to breed a heifer brown swiss.
Len Ovens
pollinator

Joined: Aug 26, 2010
Posts: 1315
Location: Vancouver Island
    
  18
Look up polyface farm. for some comments on this. I have read some other sites regarding this but can't seem to find them any more. Anyway, I get two things from it all.

1) Cows are about the only animal weighty enough (besides riding animals) to fix poor pasture. Goats are not heavy enough to really plow the seeds in and get young grasses and other plants going. Cows should be kept in a small space and moved often to simulate their wild way of living where they stayed in small groups to ward off predators. This should improve the pasture better than replanting. (for me this is all theory)

2) If you are going to drink raw milk, do not feed them grain, cows are designed for pasture and leafy things. They will end up healthier on pasture (not just grass, but whatever wild plants want grow there). This seems to be what any of the farms growing a selling raw milk say. Also, leaving the pasture to whatever grows means something that is suited to your climate.

Basically, The theory is that N. America used to have great pastures from one ocean to the other, but is going the way of the Sahara... due to under and improper grazing. Pasture needs animals to be healthy and those animals need to be clustered close together, but move lots. Any of the experiments I have read seem to have used more than two cows (8 or more), but I think even two cows could work with small enough pasture bits. The idea is that the cows eat what they like first (and what is best for them) so they should be moved when most of what is left bad for them.

This guy explains it a bit:
http://www.earthcaretaker.com/farming/farmland.html

But the site I wanted had someone who had taken very bad pasture... clumps of old grass with lots of dry soil in between and lots of invasive weeds... and improved beyond anything local just by putting cows on it intensively (more cows per sqft than anyone else) but moving them frequently. They found goats or sheep do not work for this trick because their hooves did not penetrate the soil deep enough.

I've been doing searches as I type... here's another:

http://chelseagreen.com/blogs/jtellerelsberg/2010/02/25/following-up-with-allan-savory-on-using-cattle-to-revsere-desertification-and-global-warming/

If I can find more I will post it.
Emil Spoerri
pollinator

Joined: Oct 19, 2009
Posts: 415
    
    8
Len wrote:
Look up polyface farm. for some comments on this. I have read some other sites regarding this but can't seem to find them any more. Anyway, I get two things from it all.


According to Salatin, there is some sort of efficiency level in cows, or sort of curve of how good at utilizing and improving pasture, the cows become, he says as you approach 100 cows. He then said there is another step where it becomes even more efficient at 3-500 head. He said that he had been told there was another step of even greater efficiency at 2000.

It involves having good knowledge of how much food x number of cows will eat on x number of acres per day or less.

Moving your animals in the evening around 6 pm will benefit them as then their main meal of the day consisting of plant matter with higher brix test!

According to an article in Stockman Grass Farmer, this can account for half a pound of gain a day in beef cows.
Kathleen Sanderson


Joined: Feb 28, 2009
Posts: 977
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
    
    1
I would get the cow/calf pair and plan on buying some hay for them for a while.  Your pasture will improve a lot faster if you have the cattle on it, especially if they are getting some feed from off the farm.  It will improve even faster if you can add a small flock of sheep and a couple of goats, if your fence will hold them -- the three types of livestock all eat different things and will complement one another on the pasture.  You could do meat goats if you don't want to milk them. 

Definitely you want to do intensively managed grazing -- I've done it with a mixed flock of sheep and a few dairy goats, and it works very well.  I didn't care much for the electric net fencing we were using, but I believe it's been improved since then.

Kathleen
Wyatt Smith


Joined: Feb 19, 2010
Posts: 111
Location: Midwest zone 6

When picking out a milk cow you have to be really careful to pick the right one.  The safest way to do it is by buying directly from someone who does grass dairy.  like this http://www.growneb.com/news/article.php?id=350

>90% of the dairy cows in the United States will not cut it.  I would not consider anything other than a jersey or a hybrid jersey.  I'd watch carefully to see that the cows have no difficulty walking, and that several generations of her parents were raised on pasture.

Good hay is almost as good as pasture, except on the pocketbook.  Hay is the cheapest fertilizer you can buy and it has seeds in it. 
                        


Joined: Jul 07, 2010
Posts: 508
I'm not sure that a Jersey or Jersey cross is necessarilly the way to go.  I grew up on a dairy farm with registered Jerseys, my famiily was licensed to sell raw milk  in BC before the big commercial dairies lobbied through  mandatory pasteurization. I think the world of the breed BUT I am told that many Jerseys now are not the same as the Jerseys of years ago. I am told  many of them now are much taller, have difficult temperaments and much more but much poorer quality milk.

I would suggest that even before physical health you want to see what sort of attitude the cow has..if she cannot be handled with pleasure and ease then the rest doesn't matter. A good Jersey will give you enough milk to keep you very busy even on grass and hay...she could likely manage fine on just hay but some fresh green stuff will keep her a lot happier..everyone likes a little variety in their diet. I cant think of any reason why good hay should cause any problems...and the expression used to be, buying hay is buying fertility for your land. Cows CAN survive on poor musty hay but it's highly unfair to expect them to do so.

One thing you might want to be aware of, in case you are new to dairying, is that some plants will flavour the milk..we used to turn the cows out into a kale field for about an hour right after they were milked in the morning and then move them off it  onto grass for the rest of the day..they LOVED the kale but it would give you kale flavored milk if they were on it  close to milking time.

Angus are tough! IF you get the old style angus..they are smaller and tough as nails and will do well on half the feed that a larger beef cow will use. Many of them have been bred up to be half again as big so I don't know how tough that style angus is.  I worked for a time on a ranch in north central BC where it occassionally got to -50 and they were content with bush for shelter and good hay. However, the ones we had were VERY protective of their calves..but these were range cattle and not handled much. I had friends who had old fashioned red angus and most of them were fine to handle.

There are several strains of cattle which could be called dual purpose...some Shorthorns or Brown Swiss will give enough milk to keep a family and her calf happy, for example, and the calf will produce much more meat than a Jersey calf ever will, but of course will eat a lot more . You would need to be careful here though not all of them will produce enough for both you and the calf. Smaller  cattle such as the Kerry or Dexter are  might be worth looking at, but I would ask a vet's opinion and/or ask to see other calves the cow has produced.  This guy is using a strain of Devons http://www.stockmangrassfarmer.net/cgi-bin/page.cgi?id=675 . I personally wouldn't touch the Highland. they grow and mature very slowly  compared to other breeds, in my (limited to 5 of them) experience

I would suggest whatever you get you do NOT get a heifer, but rather a cow who has had at least one, possibly 2 calves with no problems. Cows not pushed to overproduce can easilly pay their way happilly for 10 or 12 years at LEAST,( ours did, and we milked twice a day AND they all got a  ration of "chop" -ground grain- when they came into their stalls to be milked. A small amount of grain wont hurt them , they are producing more milk than their wild ancestors ever did so a bit of extra nutrition is a good thing. It's when taken to extreme so as to push for max production it's harmful. ) A cow's natural life span is somewhere around 20 years ..I think the oldest cow we ever had was 14 before she stopped 'catching" when she was bred.)A heifer is much more likely to have problems giving birth or to reject her calf than an older cow, though you likely dont want an old cow either.(OTOH an old cow must have been a good one to have been kept around..a calculated gamble.)

Dairies must have changed even more than I thought since my time; the big commercial dairies used to keep the cows about 5 years before they were done..I have some question about the article quoted in a previous post saying that cows are kept for only 1or 2  lactations. CHICKENS are often kept for only one or two years but I would RUN not walk, away from any dairy whose cows lasted only through two lactation cycles. Also, I'm not sure how long a cow can go without drying up but we kept one Jersey/Ayrshire cross going for almost two years..we had had her A Id and I didnt think she had caught so I didn't dry her up..she was still flooding us with milk when I had to sell her because we were moving.

If you found one like her you would be in luck , she was perfectly amiable and  gave masses of milk without any grain and only  pasture or  sweet smelling green good grass hay..I couldn't keep up with the milk if she got any grain at all or even alfalfa hay. A last thought..I don't mind goats milk at all but I can guarrantee that I can for SURE tell the difference between fresh Jersey milk and fresh goats milk.
                        


Joined: Jul 07, 2010
Posts: 508
another thought...it is possible now to buy seeds for "low bloat" pasture legumes. Pickseed In Canada carries them, you would have to ask your farm supply store in your area who has them in the States. It isn't just the white and red clovers that can cause bloat, alfalfa can too.  Having at least 50% of your pasture in grass  is also thought to help. And don't feed your cow dry hay all winter and then turn her out to gorge for a full day in lush new spring pastures.
Emil Spoerri
pollinator

Joined: Oct 19, 2009
Posts: 415
    
    8
Any cow needs to be handled properly to be friendly however it is obvious working with the herd I am now, that some breeds are better tempered but also some cows are better tempered.

I dislike all of the holstien cows, they are spooky and they don't like me, though they never try to kick me, they wouldn't hesitate to crush me should I ever try to hold them by the collar!

Some of the jerseys are sweet and love getting scratched, some are nervous and while gentle, try their best to get away. A few of them will absolutely tear you apart if you every try to hold them by the collar!

The thing is, the bad tempered jerseys often happen to be some of the best producers! These ones are some of the stronger more vigorous cows. They don't usually kick either!

And then there are the ones who do kick. They are probably the worst, though the headstrong spooky ones who won't let you hold them by the collar... be careful how you contain and control them!
Allison Rooney


Joined: Mar 24, 2010
Posts: 42
Location: Shields Valley Montana
Thanks to all for the info!  The article below came across my desk last week.  Interesting in light of the clover/legumes causing bloat concern.  Apparently having lots of weeds (medicinals? digestives?) in your pasture species mix can reduce bloat or eliminate it.

http://www.acresusa.com/toolbox/reprints/Oct03_Forage.pdf

It's funny, because on the desertified land we have, we noticed so many "weeds" sprouting after we started breaking up the surface crust...even in areas where no compost or old hay was applied.  We saw dandelions, wild lettuce, lambsquarters, wild sunflowers, purslane, plantain, burnet, among others.   It is at once sad and amazing to imagine the plant species (and animal/bird/insect) that once existed here, in the face of the impoverished land we see everyday. Though very exciting to contemplate the power lying in long dormant seed banks.   

I like the gist of the last few posts.  I'm getting a sense that feeding hay in for awhile may be just good enough and workable.  The other day some cows tried to talk to me.  I liked it alot. 

I also appreciate all the expert advice!

Wyatt Smith


Joined: Feb 19, 2010
Posts: 111
Location: Midwest zone 6
Bloat is caused by too much nitrogen intake from amino acids and proteins.  Nitrogen in plants is the most concentrated in new growth close to the ground.  The tips of grass leaves contain the most sugar (a carbohydrate).  Plants like rye are really good in springtime, sucking on the stems you can taste the sugar.  Balancing nitrogen with carbon is the key.  A diverse pasture has enough to enable the cow to balance its own diet. 

If a cow has the scours it can mean too much nitrogen.  Feeding hay may be beneficial.
                        


Joined: Jul 07, 2010
Posts: 508
something else to consider is whether or not the cow has been tested/vaccinated for brucellosis. Although it has been said that this is no longer an issue, at least one herd was found to be infected (in Wyoming) this year. This is one of the diseases which gave rise to mandatory pasteurization as  the milk from infected cows can cause undulant fever in humans.

Another thought...Jerseys need shelter in winter..they dont have the muscle mass and fat to keep them warm that beef cattle do.

Re Emily Spore's comments above..that is EXACTLY what I was talking about when mentioning temperament. A good Jersey cow should NEVER be vicious or bad tempered..they might well be shy around people they don't know but NEVER even think about "trying to tear you apart"!! Jersey BULLS are a different story, any dairy bull can be extremely dangerous as their mood can change instantly and they are extremely quick, and Jerseys quicker than most as they are smaller. But the cows should always be sweet natured...some may flick you with her tail but that is usually a sign of either something is bothering her or she is showing a bovine sense of humor. Out of all the cows we had I remember only one who would kick and even then it was never at the milker..we thought she must have an especially tender udder and perhaps had been hurt somehow when she was first milked. 

Don't expect anything like the same production quantity from a Jersey as you would get from a Holstein, the milk is very different in many ways. Dairies used to keep one Jersey to raise the butterfat levels of the whole herd of Holsteins.  When a child,  I once described  Holstein milk as  looking like water with some white chalk mixed in, almost transparent as opposed to the dense creamy colour of our milk.

I started bringing the cows in from the field alone when I was about 5, and the only problem I ever had was when I was somewhat older and tried to ride a cow..she was startled and alarmed and bounced around in circles until I fell off..they are much too bony to be comfortable anyway
                        


Joined: Sep 13, 2010
Posts: 148
Location: South Central Idaho
Always dehorn a Jersey cow. With a calf .. she is a killer. I have read too many springtime  newspaper articles as a kid in Ft. Worth .. to listen to such statements. In the obits .. they would always tell the breed. It was Jersey every time .. short black horns.

Swiss Guernsey is my pick.


If you get too far from the stone age .. things go haywire.
                        


Joined: Jul 07, 2010
Posts: 508
Jersey BULLS   used to kill people  when everyone used to keep bulls and they were careless..but if a Jersey cow is vicious she is simply not a good cow...just like there are lots of wonderful cocker spaniels out there but the idiot breeders who had no concept of what the breed was supposed to be and were looking for a quick buck to cash in, turned the breed into one with a reputation for fear biting. The breed has not yet recovered from the damage irresponsible breeders did to it.  This is why I said check the temperament, the same thing apparently has been done with Jerseys in an attempt to boost production at all costs.

That said, there is something to be said for dehorning ANY cow..they will argue with each other and I have seen one get stuck in a page wire fence, no idea how she managed it.
                        


Joined: Jul 07, 2010
Posts: 508
Something to keep in mind is that although the beef cattle tend to be easier going than dairy cattle, when a cow has a calf  her hormones are running rampant and she may become a bit weird  irrespective of breed.  I  watched a Charolais trample her own calf trying to get between it and someone coming to check it; (she killed it..newborn calves aren't meant to have 1700 lb creatures walk on them..but she certainly didn't mean to) and  an Angus did her  best to go through a 5 bar gate made of 4x6 timbers to get at us when we were tending to her newborn. 
The same thing applies to any creature, as far as that goes; a little respect is generally a good thing.
                          


Joined: Nov 13, 2010
Posts: 43
Location: Ozarks
brice Moss wrote:
not to offend but to maybe save you some stress, I haven't met too may folks who can tell the difference between fresh milk from a well kept dairy goat and fresh unpasteurized whole cows milk so I would advise that before commiting on a cow you ask the seller for a quart of milk "stright from the tap" on one of the critters they are breeding.
there are also a few caveats on what I am saying about goats milk
1) it will remain whole milk the cream doesn't seperate well so it will be creamier than cows milk after the cream settles out of the same
1a)getting the cream for butter or whipping can be a pain with goats milk
2)some goat keepers don't keep their bucks far enough away from the does, his scent glands will add a goaty flavor to the milk of any goat kept close to him
3)some plants impart a bit of flavor to milk, cows have this problem less because they don't browse around the way goats do
4)I have yet to buy goats milk from a store that didn't have a nasty flavor in it weather it was the canned junk that tastes like the can it comes in or the "fresh" stuff that was more than half cooked in the pasteurizer

one other consideration
a good goat will give 1-2 quarts of milk a day
a moderate cow will give over a gallon a day with 3 gallons a day falling well in the normal range
I could never use the output of a cow on a family level in fact having two large dairy goats in milk would necessitate buying a pig to feed the excess to

You may want to investigate some of the small dual purpose breeds like deters and highlands or even try milking a good grass fed beef critter like a low-line Angus unless you need that 2-3gallon a day productivity level


I'm sorry, but I have to disagree with "a good goat will give 1-2 quarts of milk a day", because that is actually a bad goat. 1 quart per day is a freezer goat. 2 quarts per day is acceptable, although may get sold faster. 3-4 quarts per day is a good goat. (It will, however, depend on the period of lactation) Also, we keep our bucks right next to our does and it doesn't impart a bad flavor; however I suspect letting the buck run with the does would. Goat milk should last about 4 days in the fridge before going goaty.


Small farm in the Ozarks

Cream Separators
Kathleen Sanderson


Joined: Feb 28, 2009
Posts: 977
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
    
    1
HeritageFarm wrote:
I'm sorry, but I have to disagree with "a good goat will give 1-2 quarts of milk a day", because that is actually a bad goat. 1 quart per day is a freezer goat. 2 quarts per day is acceptable, although may get sold faster. 3-4 quarts per day is a good goat. (It will, however, depend on the period of lactation) Also, we keep our bucks right next to our does and it doesn't impart a bad flavor; however I suspect letting the buck run with the does would. Goat milk should last about 4 days in the fridge before going goaty.


Agreed, except for late in the lactation -- and even then, some goats (like the ones I have now) just keep going like Energizer bunnies!  I have a yearling who gave a gallon a day for a while this year -- she's down to about two quarts now on once a day milking.  We do manage to use all the milk, too.  I should have three does in milk next year, all good milkers (I expect the doe who will be three to peak close to two gallons a day), and if we have more milk than I can use as kefir or cheese, the chickens will get the surplus (and some goes to my dog, who has no problem digesting it, especially when I give him kefir).

Kathleen

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Joined: Dec 26, 2010
Posts: 23
I've been caring for a jersey cow during the winter for the last 4 years.  The first time she had a calf I gave her free choice hay and about 4 lbs. of grain per day.  She gave lots of milk, but when she went back to the museum where she works, she looked like a walking rack of bones.  Two years later she had another calf and I really upped the grain ration.  She gave the same amount of milk (lots) but looked great when she went back.  I think I was giving her a about 10lbs of grain.  Although I had her stalled with her calf, when she went back in the spring without the calf (I'm training him to work as an ox), she was giving five gallons of creamy milk per day.

From my research, jersey bulls aren't any more dangerous than any other bull.  What makes male animals dangerous is when they are raised by humans.  When they reach sexual maturity, if they are confused about their species identity they might attack the species that raised them  With llamas it is known as beserk llama syndrome, but can occur in deer, elk, bovines or sheep. 
Devon Olsen


Joined: Nov 28, 2011
Posts: 1003
Location: SE Wyoming -zone 4
    
    6
i am currently looking into getting a "Milking Devon" tri-purpose cow
they are supposed to produce very well on very poor pasture... still doing more research

edited to clarify that i was referring to a breed not my name


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Melba Corbett


Joined: Apr 23, 2011
Posts: 161
Location: North Carolina
First of all, I have to defend the dairy goat. I have purebred dairy stock, non registered Nubians, and won't keep one who doesn't give at least 4 quarts a day by her second freshening. Their milk is always sweet, delicious and creamy and keeps fresh in my fridge at 34 degrees for up to three weeks before it starts getting a little "gamey". By that time, I've made cheese or something out of it, or used in biscuits.

Ten years ago when I bought my current homestead the pastures were in horrible condition due to overgrazing by horses. The soil was compacted badly. Ended up mulching with old hay mixed with finished compost, and putting down diatomaceous earth, high calcium ag lime, a little soft rock phosphate and kelp. In no time at all it was in great shape. To keep it that way we cross fenced extensively and divided into several large paddocks so they get rotated. Pasture is a mix of ryegrass, Kentucky bluegrass, fescue which I inherited but don't like, vetch, white clover, and lots of nutritious weeds like yarrow, dandelion, and such. I have one pasture that is predominantly chicory and sericea lespedeza (goats love it and it helps control parasites). When they graze that area, they love it so much I almost have to go out at night with a flashlight to get them to come in. They can barely walk they are so full, and the next day their milk production is always up as much as 50 percent. Normally they instinctively head for the barn long before it gets dark. With chicory, it can't take overgrazing so I only put them on it about one or two days and then off for 3 weeks or more. Need to get more planted, it does reseed itself and the roots make the wonderful beverage too. Can't say enough good about it.

Yes, goats are a nuisance with their constant breaking out of fences and getting into everything, but I love them. However, I am downsizing the goat herd and plan on getting Dexter cows to graze in some of these pastures since goats are not particularly fond of grass. Do some research on Dexters, they are small, there have been many improvements in the breed as far as eliminating PHA and chondro, and they are a very docile and hardy breed, dual purpose meat and milk. Taste tests on the meat are quite good and it is very popular in the UK I've heard. Their milk is comparable to Jersey milk, with high butterfat but it is naturally homogenized much like goat milk is.

Melba


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Chris Stelzer
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Joined: Feb 17, 2011
Posts: 118
    
    1
Allison Rooney wrote:I need to generate more on-farm manure,  for soil building and composting, and have been thinking of starting into four-footed livestock by getting a dairy cow/calf pair.  However, my existing pasture was overgrazed for decades, and so very poor in condition and probable nutritive value.  Mostly crested wheatgrass, a bit of cheatgrass here and there, some sagebrush.  I was thinking that I'd keep her moving very frequently, but would have to supplement her diet quite likely year round with bought-in hay for the first year, maybe two.  Does this sound like a recipe for disaster, or at the very least a sick cow to anyone here with dairy cow experience? 

Or should I wait a couple more years until I can reseed more pasture area into more palatable and diverse grasses/clovers, which is how long it will probably take to get established?  I also recently heard something about clovers causing bloat in cows.  Any thoughts on this, cow people?  Many thanks!


You are correct. I would bring in hay, and feed it to the cattle. Try to "waste" some hay by having your pair trample the hay into contact with the soil. This is how you will build organic matter. Think of a herd of 1 million buffalo grazing across the plains. They didn't eat every single blade of grass. They trampled most of the grass. This grass was broken down by all the soil critters and turned into organic matter. Try and replicate this on a small scale. The more grass/organic matter you trample, the more grass you will grow in the future.

Chris


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Melba Corbett


Joined: Apr 23, 2011
Posts: 161
Location: North Carolina
Chris Stelzer wrote:
Allison Rooney wrote:
  I also recently heard something about clovers causing bloat in cows.  Any thoughts on this, cow people?  Many thanks!


Clover alone can and does cause bloat, as will anything too succulent in too great a quantity. A mixture of clover/grasses works best. Also, when it rains a lot or when pasture is young and very rich, feed hay at night or in the morning before turning them out. This helps prevent bloat. Also, wait until the heavy dew is dried on the grass if you can, especially for young stock, before you turn them out of the barn. Once they get used to it (their digestive enzymes catch up to the microbes in the forage), they are less likely to have problems. Then they can graze even in the rain as long as they also get some dry hay.

Melba
 
 
subject: Starting a dairy cow on poor pasture?
 
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