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Beginning lessons #25a: Basic dairy cows and cattle

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  • Beginning lessons #25a: Basic dairy cows and cattle


    This lesson is set up for you who have decided to start a small hobby farm about 10-40 acres and use it as your retreat. Not all your land can or should be used as pasture for your farm animals. You need other resources including crops land, gardens, timber, orchards, home site, and farm buildings on the property.

    If we possibly can, we should include livestock as well as plants in our food production program. Of course, many hobby farms do not have the opportunity to raise domestic livestock, either because of limitations of space, or restrictive zoning ordinances. However, before giving up on the idea of raising a few animals of your own, check out the possibilities. There are 4 major areas that need to be explained about homesteading with animals.

    1. The importance of pasture

    The larger our property size the fewer restrictions on livestock; of course, the more possibilities open for us. A couple of general principles apply to most species of livestock. Almost all livestock benefit greatly from access to pasture. We think of cows-as grazers, but actually most other common domestic species benefit greatly from pasture.

    Your local AG Center will have information as to how many cows you may maintain on your farm. They know how much feed each animal takes per year (About 2 tons of grass and grain). How much your pasture and it's native grasses can support. They also can tell you what breed(s) will survive the different seasons on your farm.

    2. Manure Management

    One of the biggest things you have to manage on your farm is what to do with all the manure. If you get the data as to how much a cow puts out it's back side you would be surprised. Local, state, and federal law comes into effect when you manage you manure. Many types of plans have been tried including pools, spreading on crops land, composing, commercial removal. I cannot do better than quote a guru of farming, Joel Salatin: "If you are around any livestock operation, regardless of species, and you smell manure-you are smelling mismanagement." That statement is surprising, because we've come to accept that livestock operations have to be "stinky." A study by the Ohio Extension Service in the 1920s found that dairy cows on a mature 12-inch litter will have no manure-smell nor fly problem. This approach-making sure that livestock manure is constantly incorporated in a high-carbon litter or manure pack-can be adapted for other species in the winter housing as well. A litter over an earth floor which has been well aerated during the decomposition process can be used directly in the garden. Other litter should be treated like raw manure and either composted or run through earthworm bins before use.

    3a. Cows

    If you prefer lots of good rich cream that's easier to get, you might prefer a family cow. If your space is limited or the thought of managing such a big animal intimidates you, consider miniature breeds of cattle. Some breeds of mini-cows are naturally small, such as Dexter, while some have been miniaturized through selective breeding, such as miniature Jerseys. If you don't need the full production of a cow, you can keep the cow and her calf over night in separate stalls, close enough for comfort but with no opportunity for the calf to nurse. In the morning, milk the cow for the family's milk, then let the calf run with its mother and nurse throughout the day.

    Whether you keep goats or cows, you may well find that you have more milk than your family can use. Remember that your milking animal can be the nurturer, the foster mother, of the entire homestead. Skimmed or soured milk is an excellent supplemental feed for chickens, and pigs thrive on it. So let's see, you got a cow for a plentiful supply of milk, now you've bought pigs to fatten on the excess milk-you're really feeling like a farmer! And seeing the logic of diversity on the traditional small farm.

    I will not get into how to get milk from a cow or how you keep your cows giving milk year and year. That is for another lesson. Just to say that for thousands of years farms have used cows for milk to support their families. The difference in breeds is also to be covered later on. This will include good and bad points about specific breeds.

    3b. Cattle

    The difference between the family milk cow and a herd of cattle is their purpose. Cattle are raised for their meat. From the moment they are born to the day they are killed and cut up for family dinner takes about 18-30 months. You can raise them in pasture with the addition of grain and hay in winter. Grass fed cattle give off the same great taste as you find in a good steak house. (You have to maintain their health (Depends on breed), other then moving them from one pasture to another they can be left alone for most of the time. Only in winter do you need to maintain a close watch on the herd for their protection from predators, and during the time they have offspring.

    4. Breeds

    There is major difference between breeds as to how much milk they produce, how easy they give birth to their offspring, how easy it is to handle them on the farm, or if they can be used for power (Pulling a plow).

    I will not pick and choose for you your future animals other then to point out if you have a small farm you can increase your herd size by using dwarf cows/cattle. These reduced size animals are 1/2 to 2/3 the size of a regular animal. You get the same results in milk, meat, or power just in a smaller size. Some breeds are best for the area/location you want your farm - again go to the county AG department to get good ideas about what animals do very well in your area. Next get with some of the local farmers and see what they have for stock. These local farms may be the ones you buy and trade with you to increase your herd in the future.

    More each week on dairy farming, pigs, chickens, sheep, goats, fish, and horses.
    Last edited by RICHFL; 09-28-2012, 11:49 AM.

  • #2
    BEGINNING LESSON #25 Will be about the basic of homesteading in most states. Alaska is the only state that allows you to stake a claim for either mining or for homestead. They use to allow you to get posted 160 acres just like they did in the old west while they were building up each territory to statehood. Now you need to buy the land from the current owner, get the county to approve any changes you want to use the property for; i.e. homesteading, mining, farming, etc. We will talk about other problems you may face such as counter claims on the property or leans against the land owner and how it can effect you.


    • #3
      Don't forget a space to grow hay. Also, feeding them grain and corn in the winter time helps them to keep warm during those sub freezing temps.
      G.I.H.S.O. Going In Hot, Safety Off.


      • #4
        A lot of folks won't be able to have cows as they don't have a homestead with the land. But for those wanting to start a homestead or has one with land to have cows, this is great info.