Keeping a cow is a big responsibility that shouldn’t be entered into lightly. Before you buy your cow, consider borrowing one for a week to see if you can fit the care and maintenance of the cow into your daily routine.
There are many benefits to keeping your own cow. The main one is that you will have a daily supply of fresh, unpasturised milk and cream, which you can put to many uses in the kitchen and use to make into your own butter and cheese. You could also generate income from the cow’s produce or from her calves (she will need to give birth once a year to maintain a steady supply of milk).
Equipment Needed to Keep a Cow
If you are serious about keeping a cow, you will need to buy some basic equipment. The first item to consider is a barn in which to house your cow. It should be comfortable and draft-free and have a window to let in plenty of sunlight and fresh air. You should also have room to store your bales of hay to feed your cow (if you buy hay by the bale you won’t need a lot of room, however if you intend to produce your own hay you will need a large room in which to store it).
You should also have at least one acre of pastureland, divided into three separate pastures, where the cow can graze in rotation and where you can grow and harvest your own hay.
General milking equipment is also useful, including: a milk pail, water pail, milking stool, manure shovel, and fork, halter and rope, comb and brush, barn thermometer, udder wash cloths, milk scale, hay forks and a wheelbarrow. You may also want to invest in a butter churn.
It is imperative that you have a running water supply in your barn to clean it and provide your cow with something to drink. A three-bin compost system is also worthwhile having near the barn so you have a steady supply of well-rotted manure to use in your vegetable patch.
What Breed Of Cow Should You Go For?
Jersey cows are often the first choice for families because they are small and produce rich milk. They are also said to make good pets. It’s a good idea to get the same breed of cow as local farmers, so when it comes to mating you cow with a bull, there will be one available locally.
Buying Your Cow
When buying your cow you should choose the healthiest one possible. Make sure she has been tested for tuberculosis and check her udders for signs of mastitis. Check milking records to ensure she produces a good yield.
Responsibilities of Keeping a Cow
You will need to feed and milk your cow every morning and night, at 12-hour intervals. You will need to mate your cow with a bull once a year to make her pregnant so she keeps producing milk. You will then need to raise the young calf and either keep it or sell it at market (be prepared for the fact that it will go to a veal crate if it is male).
Other responsibilities that take a fair amount of time include: churning butter, making cheese, growing and harvesting hay and sugar beet to feed your cow with, cleaning and mucking out the barn, and grooming the cow.
Cost of Keeping a Cow
Once you have parted with the initial costs of buying the cow and equipment to care for her, you will have very few outgoings. If you grow and harvest your own hay and sugar beet, there will be no need to feed her with grain, so the only cost will be for any vetinary bills and additional bedding in winter months.
Keeping a cow is a huge responsibility but is very rewarding. After the initial costs of buying the cow, you will have few outgoings. You will be rewarded with fresh, creamy milk twice a day, which you can make into your own butter or cheese.