Family Cows

jerseys
One of my favourite pictures from the farm: Maude (retiree from a dairy farm) with grand-daughter Molly and great-granddaughter Margie. One big happy family.

Why Family Cows?

Once you have decided to take the plunge on having your own homestead and becoming self sufficient you will one day wake up with the realization that you are dreaming of milk, fresh cream, homemade butter…mmmmmm. You will find these thoughts start to consume your waking hours, and at night you will have visions of fawn coloured, doe-eyed beasts gazing at you from green pastures. There is something SO rewarding and SO fulfilling about having your own family cow and producing wholesome, fresh dairy for your family. Be forewarned that it will ruin you FOR-EV-ER from drinking storebought milk again. There is nothing quite as delicious as freshly squeezed dairy goodness. On top of the bountiful milk explosion you will find yourself in a very loving, symbiotic relationship. Milking your cow will bring a rythmn and a purpose to your days. She will eagerly look forward to your arrival in the milking barn and moo softly to you. There is nothing quite like being loved by a cow. There is also the added bonus that she will happily produce enough milk for a gigantic family, plus a calf or two to raise for beef, with extra for the pigs or chickens. She is a generous ole gal.

Why Jerseys?

There is no “right or wrong” breed for a family cow. A lot of it depends on your preferences and what your goals are. A quiet beef cow would even do the trick. Some homesteaders prefer a wee breed, like a Dexter, or you may find that a “retiree” Holstein from a dairy barn is the most readily available in your area.

We chose Jerseys because I am partial to them. There is something otherwordly about them. They are like the dreamy fairy godmothers of the bovine world. You can’t help but look at their faces and fall in love. Or maybe that’s just me 🙂

Jerseys were a great choice for us as they are a smaller framed dairy animal (Holsteins being quite large framed). A smaller frame means less feed as well as easier to handle and house. I was also keen on trying my hand at cheese and butter making. The high butterfat content of the Jersey is superior to that of other breeds. Plus the fact that milk volume is slightly less than Holsteins (who really needs a bathtub full of milk to swim in anyway?) was an advantage too.

maude
Foundation Cow – Maude (shown at age 12). She is still going strong at 15!
marla
Second Generation – Marla. She was successfully shown as a heifer.
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Third Generation – Molly. Probably the prettiest cow on the planet.
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Fourth Generation – Margie – It is so rewarding to see the fruits of your breeding decisions play out over the course of several generations.

Life got very hectic for me in the past few years and the decision was made to sell the herd of Jerseys. I was so thankful that my nearby friend and fellow animal lover, Jody from 4 Winds Farms, took them all. I am even more thankful that a year later life had settled down and I was able to purchase Margie back. I look forward to building up my herd again with the same genetics that I had before.

Please note – I have a very dear friend who has an Ayrshire dairy. I have owned a beautiful spotty Ayrshire girl and I can attest that they are a spectacular choice as well. Our girl was on the smaller side. She was also a hardier creature with better cold tolerance. She didn’t have the “diva” nature that some of my Jersey’s have. I would definitely consider an Ayrshire again. 🙂

vermin
Beautiful spotty Vermin and her bull calf, Skeeter.
 Family Cow Resources
My First Milking – Blog
Keeping the Family Cow Site
Local Farm – Family Cow
Condition Scoring of Cattle
Body Condition Scoring Cattle
Due Date Calculator
Ayrshire Canada
Jersey Canada
Building Plans
Merck Veterinary Medicine
Small Scale Dairy Farming Manual
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