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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello!
I want a cow to milk in the near future. Where can I purchase one? Can you get one who already produces milk and then just keep milking her? I have to admit...I'm clueless on this one
: I just know that paying for raw dairy products (on a cow-share program) is killing us! Also, will one cow provide enough milk, cream, butter for one family? How much are cows? Thanks!

blessings,
jess
 

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First off, do some serious reading/researching before you get a cow. Cows are work, an everyday, twice a day, year round commitment, especially when milking. No days off if you are sick or its too cold or you want a break. A good book to start with is Keeping the Family Cow by Joann Grohman. You can order it from Amazon or her website www.real-food.com
She also has an amazing message board: familycow.proboards32.com

You can get a cow from other family cow owners, dairies, ask around at 4-H or FFA, auctions (really not the best place), etc.

One cow will definitely provide enough milk for a family. An average cow can produce 4 or more gallons of milk per day. If you are lucky you may be in a state where you can legally sell your milk. If not, you have to get creative to use it up (clabber for the chickens, skimmed for pigs, raise foster calves, etc.). A cow begins lactation after calving. She needs to be milked twice a day, everyday. I have worked out a once a day milking schedule where I share milk with the cow's calf, but generally you will be buying a cow without a calf at her side and will have to milk twice a day. You want to get her pregnant a few months after she calves. You milk until 2 months before her due day, then dry her off so her body can concentrate on growing the calf and preparing for another round of lactation.

A good cow (milking, bred back) can cost anywhere from $500-$3000 (or even more if you want a rare or miniature breed), depending on the breed and where you live. We bought ours as a pregnant and milking 3 year old for $1500 in 2001. Milk prices have been up, so cow prices are up, too. However, buying the cow is not the biggest expense in the long run. There is also the barn, fencing, water, hay (can range from $2-$8 a bale depending on the type and your are and a cow eats at least 1 bale per day), grain, milking equipment, AI expenses, vet bills, bedding, barn tools, minerals, salt, etc. Our biggest expense yearly is buying the hay. We get it for $2-$3 per bale and spend over $1000 a year on it. This year we rented a field and are growing and baling it ourselves, so that expense is gone, except we had to spend thousands on the equipment, getting the fields plowed, fertilizing, planting, etc. In another few years the fields should be producing enough that we can sell the excess and cover some of the production costs.
 

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If you have a calf that you leave with the mother, it's not such a commitment to milk all the time. When I was a kid, Mom and dad would milk once or twice a week depending on how much milk we needed. They left the calf with the momma cow, and whenever they planned to milk the next morning, they would put the cow and calf in seperate areas, but next to each other so that the momma wouldn't worry that her calf was ok. They would then milk in the morning, get 3-5 gallons, depending on how old the calf was, and then turn the two out together. I read the forums for "raising a family cow" and it's not an uncommon way to go.

Also, some people do this every night, so that they only have to milk once a day. The calf eats the rest. Other benifits of leaving the calf with the momma is that you don't have to worry about bottle-feeding the little ones, and if you eat meat, you can take the steers to the butcher, and sell the heifers for money for upkeep.

Cows are addictive though, you may think you can get just one, but they are so much fun you will be eyeing others before to long :p Good Luck!
 

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If you are not determined to get a cow, you might think about a goat instead. You won't have so much excess milk to contend with. A goat produces around a gallon a day. Because they are smaller, they are also easier to feed, house, handle and clean up after. A milk goat will be cheaper to acquire as well ($100-500). Like cows, they will have to be "freshened" but you can buy one already in milk or pregnant. We've had both cows and goats and have found goats to be generally more robust (easier time giving birth, fewer illnesses, etc).
If you do go for a goat, PM me for some ideas where to find one in the IL-IN area.
 

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RachelD, is it true some goats can milk more than one year without freshening again? That would be a big plus for someone just wanting milk.
 

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Goats and cows "can" be in milk for longer than a year. Wether they will or not is a gamble though, unless you happen to buy one that is already doing it.
IMHO part of what makes producing your own dairy products practical (financially) is the offspring.
 

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Yup, Crissei is right. Both goats and cows can be "milked through", but it depends on the individual animal. Some lines are being bred to do this, but you never know what you'll get.
It's true that keeping a buck or a bull can be a pain, but it's usually not hard to find another farmer who will loan you one. A lot of peope will even take something in trade (hay is popular) for this service.
 

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Never, ever ever try to keep a bull unless you have the experience and facilities to do it. They are probably the most dangerous male farm animal to keep. Find an artificial insemination technician and you can get your cow bred to any breed of bull or any pedigree you like.
 

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we bought our milk cow for $25 from a local farmer when she was a calf. if we wanted a bred heifer or milk cow it would have been over $1000. we saved money but then had two wait more than a year and a half to have milk.

we only milk once a day or as needed. our milk cow's calf is still on her (almost a year after his birth)... so we can go away for a weekend and have a friend feed/water them but not have to have someone milk her. we milked her until about two weeks ago and she will be having her second calf in about two weeks (a year after she had her first calf).

depending on where you live/how much land you have, you can cut down a lot of feed expense by grazing your animals. we have 3 acres of area to graze and have three full grown cows grazing (rotationally) from april until november. we also go to a local farm where they chop their corn and we pick up the corn ears that are left after the chopper goes through. we have easily gathered more than enough corn to supplement they hay during the winter by spending a few hours picking up corn.

just some thoughts.
 

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You did dry your cow off, didn't you? Because as a general practice a dairy cow needs a two month dry period before calving to concentrate her energy on growing her calf and building up a supply of colostrum for the new arrival.

I sharemilk with my cow (meaning the calf nurses during the day, is separated at night, and I milk once in the mornings). It works wonderfully, but with most cows you can't start it until the calf is 1-2 months old because the cow is producing way too much for the calf to handle, so you still need to milk twice a day. The downside is if you want to keep that calf as a future milk cow or grow it out into beef it is a huge pain in the butt to get the calf completely weaned. You can't have a grown calf nursing when the cow is supposed to be dry or competing with the cows new calf. I've had my cow's yearling heifer and her foster steer separated for nearly 3 months and they still can't be together.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by momto l&a
From my own experince. If a fence can hold in water it might be able to hold in a goat.

If your lucky!
Our pen is 5 ft stock panels and they STILL escape when they feel like it.
Thats why they have bells on their collars!
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by pygmywombat
. Our biggest expense yearly is buying the hay. We get it for $2-$3 per bale and spend over $1000 a year on it.
I just want to clarify that bales are different sizes in different regions of the country. Here in CA, bales of hay weigh an average of 125 lb. (16 to a ton), with a ton of most types of hay costing in the neighborhood of $200 in my specific area. So, saying a cow eats a bale a day only applies to certain size bales. It would have to be some cow to eat one of these CA bales in a day!
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
thanks everyone!!!! Great info!
 

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Okay, so, I really don't know squat about keeping a cow, and I also don't know where in IL Franklin Park is, but, I do know that if you do decide to get one, you may want to consider contacting the farm we get our milk from. www.grasswayorganics.com Wayne and Kay are very nice people and they are an Organic Valley farm. I don't know how much they sell for, but I do know that they are organically raised and that they have trouble, at times, finding "homes" for the calves in the area, since most farmers in this area still turn their noses up at Jerseys. As Kay said, they are "cow racists" here and only want "big black and white" ones.
Of course, I don't know what kind you are looking for either though.

If you don't want to contact them yourself, I can ask next time I get milk, which will probably be tomorrow or the day after at the latest.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by krismarie
we only milk once a day or as needed. our milk cow's calf is still on her (almost a year after his birth)... so we can go away for a weekend and have a friend feed/water them but not have to have someone milk her. we milked her until about two weeks ago and she will be having her second calf in about two weeks (a year after she had her first calf).

I did not know you could milk once a day and leave the calf with....now I am even more excited about cows!!!

QUESTION- how much milk do you get a day approx?
Jennifer
 

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When sharemilking with the calf I get 2 gallons a day. My cow produces probably 4-6 gallons a day, but by the time the calf hits 2 months old its drinking most of it! I actually start out from calving milking 2x a day and leaving cow and calf together 24/7. By the 2 month mark the calf is big enough to take most of the milk, so I milk in the mornings, leave cow and calf together all day, and put the calf in its own stall at night.
 

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Big $ investment... but don't forget the miniature dairy cow. The upside is their calves are worth WAY more then average cows and they won't give you as much milk.
Tricia
 

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Except that miniature cows cost a huge amount more and you are working with an extremely small gene pool, so all sorts of genetics problems are cropping up. And people are out there creating mini breeds out of animals that were never, ever meant to be miniature. If you do go for a mini get it from a good, responsible breeder who is working with a breed that was meant to be small. Old World Jerseys are the only dairy breed that is tiny like that. Or Dexters if you want a more dual purpose.
 
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