We are new to cows and wondering what is the best way to get started. I thought I would put this out there to get advice from all of you pros!
We aren't quite ready to take on milking yet for a few reasons - maybe in 6 months to a year. But we do have the space here to keep a cow in the mean time. So my husband and I are trying to decide if we should get a bottle baby now and raise it or do we wait until we are ready and get a cow already in milk. Jerseys are hard to find in our area, but I found someone with a one month old heifer. I don't want to just go look at her because I know we will come home with her! We want to make a wise decision.
I thought it would be nice to raise our cow ourselves - then we will know what we have, she will be comfortable with us, etc. But is this a good idea for us as beginners? (we have do have goats that we have bottle fed) Also, I know we would be looking at almost two years before we could get milk if we start with a calf.
So I welcome your input! What else should we be considering? What should we look for if we do go see this calf?
Thank you! Jamie
Last Edit: Oct 23, 2010 16:19:54 GMT -5 by barnydhppy
Post by specialndskids on Mar 24, 2010 15:52:41 GMT -5
We are new to the cow world ourselves...if you don't need the milk right now I would say go for the calf!!!! You could ALWAYS purchase another cow that was in milk if you needed the milk any sooner!!! LOL I can't offer you any help on what to look for as we are new....BUT I would say if she is cute, looks healthy, in a clean environment, and the price is good...I would go ahead with getting a calf!
Jersey - Esther and her calves Ruth and Harry Porter Black Angus Heifers - Pearl her calf Farley and her adopted calf Jenna Jewel (our open heifer...going to freezer camp soon) Black Angus Bull - Prime Doberman - Athena Australian Shepard - Luna Belle (1-30-10) a flock of laying chickens Sons - Daniel and Manny Daughters - Tiffany, Natalia and Nadine 1 AMAZING husband of 17 yrs - Arnie
I, personally, would wait and buy a cow already in milk when you are ready. Its a lot easier to start with a cow who is already trained to milk when you are just learning yourself. With a heifer you are basically waiting until she's 2 years old (average age for breeding is 15 months, pregnancy is 9 months) and then you have to train her to milk, which can be anything from smooth and easy to an all-out rodeo.
The one month old heifer will need to be bottle or bucket fed for at least another month and I would suggest for a future milk cow that you'd want her on the bottle until she is 4-6 months to give her the best possible start. Its not as bit a commitment as milking, but you are still looking at feeding her 2-3x a day for weeks and the risks associated with a bottle baby (scours, etc.).
Missing my Isabelle, cow of my heart
28 January 1998 to 4 May 2015
Post by Rhein-O-Ranch on Mar 24, 2010 16:45:40 GMT -5
Claire makes a good point.....Calves are extremely easy to loose....Just read the 911 section and other posts. If you want to raise a heifer I would try and get one at least 6 months old. By that time they are that old they are fairly healthy and not as prone to things such as the scours(by the way scours is the bovine equivalent of diarrhea). And another consideration is how are you gonna breed her?? Will you use artificial insemination or do you have access to a bull. And keeping a bull for a newbie is highly unadvisable....AI generally involves a vet or an AI tech. Plus there is the issue of how your semen is going to be stored. Storing semen requires a fair investment on your part. And there is the expense of keeping the tank filled with liquid nitrogen. When a calf gets the scours they can dehydrate and die within 12 hours of a severe case. And many things cause the scours from bacterial, viral to as simple as too much milk. So when you are ready a good place to start would to be get a bred cow in milk. One that is a couple of months bred. That way you can get used to milking and go through the dryup and calving process. A cow that has just calved can get a bit testy when all of her hormones are all out of whack. Typically for 2 weeks give or take a few days. Hope this didn't overload your thought process.
We have nurse cows, calves, show calves, llamas, pygmy goats, turkeys, chickens, pigs, dogs and cats on our little piece of Heaven.
We are now selling fresh whole milk and mozzarella and Velveeta style cheeses along with fresh eggs.
Post by rainyclayday on Mar 24, 2010 16:58:26 GMT -5
I think it would be okay to get the calf if you want to wait that long for milk. But remember that it would be quite a long wait plus having to find a bull to breed her to or AI.
Or you could buy a gentle docile heifer (because you are new) that has been bred if you want to buy something now and don't want to wait till later to buy a cow.
Best for you would probably be to wait until you are ready to milk and buy an experienced (gentle docile) milker. Please do research other breeds too besides Jersey as they are not the only good milk cow!
All three of those scenarios would work, just have to think carefully over each one to decide. Good luck!
Ayrshire cow - Mooly American Milking Devon/Dexter heifer - Cranberry Sugar Jersey/Red Angus heifer calf - Georgia Ayrshire/Hereford heifer calf - Brown Sugar Candy Quarter Horse - Chip Dogs - English Setter Rollo, English Pointer Wally, English Pointer Gilligan African Greys - Winston and Seymour Chickens, pigeons, goose
I started off with a 3 week old heifer, before I found this website. I was scared of the big dairy cows that I saw at the dairy near us and thought raising a heifer would give me time to get used to her before she got so big. I have really enjoyed raising here, and she does follow me around like a puppy. I'm still waiting for milk though! We started breeding her so she would give birth around age two, but my inexperience and the difficulty of ai breeding heifers meant that it didn't take until she was almost 2 1/2 years old. Now she is just turning 3, and will hopefully be giving birth in a months time, but I'm expecting it may be difficult milking her for the first month or two as both of us adjust, and there are other ways that she is still an unknown quanity as far as milking goes. I don't know what her udder will look like, among other things, if she will be the type to milk out slowly or quickly. I do know that I'm going to start having her practice standing tied up for at least an hour so she learns to be patient before I'm trying to milk her! It has worked well for us so far, but there are advantages to buying a gentle cow in milk! Have fun deciding! Stephanie
I went with the bottle calf last year. Now...I wish I had just bought a full-grown cow. I love my heifer, but have put a lot of money into her and we have a year yet to go with not a drop of milk in sight. If you are thinking of saving money to have a heifer - you might want to add it all up to see what it really comes out to be. If you just want the experience and to have a cow you raised - go for the heifer.
You can always sell the heifer if you decide you want a cow already in milk.
Post by pipergrey93 on Mar 25, 2010 6:21:22 GMT -5
I'd say it depends on your abilities/skill level in training animals. If you are good at shaping animal behavior and enjoy it and are not in ANY hurry for milk, I'd get the heifer. WARNING: when in doubt, I always say, "get the cow/pig/horse"! Which is why I have a pig running around here that I have NO idea what to do with.
Anyway, Rheinoranch's suggestion to read the 911 post on sick calfs is a good idea and if you decide to get the heifer, you will be better prepared to quickly recognize and deal with any problems. After reading these posts, I know I would never get a calf from an auction. At least if you buy from an individual, you can take your time and check out the place. The sellers may even prove to be a good source of info and mentoring.
I would also suggest talking to the seller extensively BEFORE you go "look" at the heifer. That way you can get to know how they operate and get a feel for whether or not you would want to buy an animal from them.
Where are you located by the way? Nice dairy cows pop up for sale all the time and are usually posted in the 'auction' barn on this site whether the cows are from a craigslist ad a member ran across, or whether the cow is a member's.
Good luck in whatever you decide and keep us posted (always with pics if possible, we LOVE pics! ;D) ....Sandy
Home to - Eunice and Daisy, two great danes, one goat, one ferret, 25 hens, and Penelope the ever popular pig. Plus 16 year old twins who could care less about my little zoo. farmwackywack.blogspot.com/
Post by homesteadtwo on Mar 25, 2010 12:14:34 GMT -5
What Claire said
Lynn Mom to five Grandma to seven Proud mom of five homeschooled graduates! Was a full time dairy farmer for 25 years then sold out to daughter and son-in-law Now . . . one sweet jersey milk cow, Sophia Three heifers calves Two black lab dogs Fifteen chickens A dozen barn cats
"I always feel better after I hug the cow"--MaryEllen Walton in The Homecoming
Our initial plan had been to get a bottle baby and raise it, but we couldn't find any in our area. After stumbling on this website, I am SO thankful we couldn't - if we had lost the first calves we tried to raise, I'm not sure we would have kept on with getting milk cows at all. It would have been so discouraging. Now, if you're really good with keeping young animals alive, then you could certainly give it a shot. But it was good for us to find out ahead of time the difficulties involved, otherwise I think we would have convinced ourselves we couldn't keep bovines alive! ;D
Anyway, we got our girls young enough to be smaller and less intimidating than full grown cows (one was 7 months old, the other 14 months), and went through the whole process of getting used to them, teaching them to respect us (and teaching ourselves not to be afraid of them!), getting Scarlette bred and waiting through the whole pregnancy until our first calf a month ago. It really worked well for us, we got to know the cows well and to be comfortable with them. Learning to milk on a cow who's never been milked before was...interesting....but we'd developed a good enough rapport with Scarlette that we all just learned together and got it down to a good system remarkably fast.
I can sure see the advantages to buying a gentle, experienced cow as well. You're less likely to become discouraged up front by the complexities of raising and learning to work with a cow who's never had to be anything but a playful calf before. You may have more trouble with things like milk fever or mastitis on an older cow, but that depends a lot on the cow, her care prior to you and your care of her after buying her.
So it really is up to you. We went the heifer route, and it worked well for us. It took a LOT of patience (waiting 13 months for milk was not easy), but it gave us time to develop confidence in ourselves and our cow. I think I'd lean towards advising you to buy an experienced cow if you can, but not to be put off from buying the right heifer if you find one. You'll want a calf that's curious and friendly, but not pushy. Also, I would be a bit wary of a shy cow who moves away whenever you get too close - that flight zone can be hard to deal with when you're new to cows, it can be really frustrating to have your cow always "running away from you." We have two cows of opposite temperment - Scarlette is not at all shy, and can be pretty pushy when she wants to be. We had to do some work with her to teach her who's boss. Sugar, on the other hand, is not at all pushy - but that flight zone made catching and handling her difficult. In the end, we had an easier time with Scarlette than Sugar, which is funny because Scarlette intimidated every one of us at first. ;D
Good luck with your cows! I also highly recommend Temple Grandin's information on cow behavior - it really helped me a lot to understand how cows think and how to approach them to get the best interaction with them you can. Made dealing with my two very different cows so much easier!
WV Homesteader 4 dogs - 2 cats - BUNCHA Chickens 6 Rabbits, including purebred Champagne d'Argents Montie, the Spotted Guard Donkey Scarlette, the Coolest Cow Ever Dottie, Coolest Looking Cow Ever And Minnie, Dottie's new heifer calf!! Oh, and Red Bull, Scarlette's bull calf. We're gonna eat him. Eventually. Princess, Ponce, and their brood of piglets
Oh my goodness! Thank you all for the helpful information! I think after considering all of this, we will wait a little longer and try to find a heifer closer to calving age or a cow already in milk. As cute as calves are, we don't want to wait too long for milk. We are in southern California. We have been looking to see what comes up for sale in our area, and there isn't much out there. It might take a while to find something that will meet our needs, but when the time is right, we will find her!
OK, so here we go! We had the best of intentions - wait a little longer, get an older heifer or a cow in milk, blah, blah, blah. That was the plan ... but then I see this face and I'm helpless! So I am the proud owner of a 3 month old Jersey named June (or Junie as we have been calling her!)
We really did think about this though and tried to put the cuteness factor aside at least a little. We will have about 2 years to wait for a calf and milk, but this might be a good thing for us, We have two dairy goats that we will breed and then be milking next spring. This will give us time to get the hang of milking and using the milk on a smaller scale before we have gallons to contend with. We have lots of time to handle her and get to know her. I have never had cows before but I do have experience working with other large animals so I think we will be OK. June was bottle raised so she is sweet as can be!
She just got here today and I have lots of questions! She is recenlty weaned and was being fed alfalfa and a four way grain by the people we got her from. What do you all reccomend? Does this sound OK or should we be making some adjustments. We have alfalfa and bermuda here for our other animals. I was thinking the bermuda might be good for her too. Do calves need the grain? I am posting a pic of her so you can see what kind of condition she's in.
The man we got her from said we should not have her around our chickens because calves are vulnerable to salmonella. True or false? We have her in with our goats. Should that be OK?
Horns - at three months I can just feel little nubs under her skin, nothing is showing yet. When do they usually start to erupt? What does a polled calf feel like? I am a little scared of the paste. What's the most pain free way to take care of them?
Thanks Claire! He said he has not dehorned her so maybe she's polled?! He said he gave her something to help prevent respiratory problems when she was a newborn but that she is ready for a 7-way. Does this sound right? And would bermuda be a good addition to her diet along with alfalfa or should we just stick with alfalfa and grain?
Jamie, she is very cute! Congratulations. Does she have white spots or flecks on her belly or is that just winter hair coat coming out? I can't tell.
Grass hay would be fantastic for her as well as the other things you are giving her, since she is designed to eat grass. Too much grain will, as the research supports, change the ph in her gut and increase the risk of certain health issues. Dr. Detloff's book, Alternative Treatments for Ruminant Animals, explains the grain link pretty well. If you have grass for her that would be fabulous as well.
I think you made a great decision. She will be easy and fun to halter break and teach to tie and lead and stake out when she is still little and somewhat manageable (:
Personally, I wouldn't overwhelm her immune system with a multi-valent vaccine and would opt to break it into separate doses, but this is my personal decision and I would recommend doing lots of research on the vaccines before deciding which ones and when.
Best wishes and I hope you continue to post photos since that is my favorite part of this site!
Nutritionist and Massage Therapist Two Morgan Horses Ginny - Jersey Kit - Guernsey Peanut - Ginny's bull calf One good husband, two cute kids (: email@example.com
Post by jerseylovinliz on Jun 1, 2010 14:45:32 GMT -5
I haven't heard that about chickens & calves... I would say use common sense. If they're in a teeny tiny area w/lots of manure than yea, I'd clean it out. But if they're in a reasonable area that's not... gross (for lack of a better word) I think it'd be fine. My chickens (& chicks) roam around w/my calves & I haven't had any problems. Maybe I'm lucky? Mine have a ridiculously large pen to run helter skelter in though. Do you guys have any other cattle? I've heard they can get lonely w/o other bovine friends to 'hang out' with. I'm sure somebody w/more knowledge could explain that for you. I've just always heard to keep them in at least a pair. (But maybe I'm wrong lol, wouldn't be the first time!)
She's precious! I'm glad you guys found one you like!
Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear or a fool from any direction.
Your goats will be good companions for Junie, so she won't need a bovine companion as well. Bermuda grass/hay is considered excellent for beef cattle in VA, so it ought to be just as good for your little heifer. Best of luck.
I'm glad to hear you haven't had problems with your chickens and calves together. The area they are in is very large and pretty clean. The chickens just roam around during the day and go into a separate coop at night. We don't have any other cattle, but we have two goats that June has made friends with. She wanders around with them and lays down near them to nap. They all seem to be content with the arrangement!
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