Starting a Home Dairy – Personal Experiences from Some of my Favorite Bloggers!

Starting a Home Dairy - Personal Experiences from some of my Favorite Bloggers!

 

Many homesteaders couldn’t see their homestead without their dairy animal.  It provides sustanence for their families and even other animals.  But what brought us to those animals differs greatly for each and every one of us.  I had the chance to hear from some of my favorite bloggers about their home dairy experiences – and are sharing them with you today, as well as OUR dairy story…

 

Mel from the Faulk Farmstead

 

Starting a Home Dairy - Personal Experiences from some of my Favorite Bloggers!

Tell us about your dairy animal!

Back at the beginning of this homesteading journey, dairy was somewhat of a must when I was planning it all out.    Initially, there wasn’t even a decision to be made regarding goat vs. cow – I was so inexperienced that, to be honest, the thought of a cow absolutely terrified me.  No joke.  What did I think a better decision was?  A goat.  The reasons?  Goat cheese.  Smaller stature.  Seriously.  🙂    Since we had known for awhile that a goat was our choice,  we were fortunate enough to have a friend that poked around for us and came up with the number of  a friend that had two twin doelings, 4 months of age – for free.  We couldn’t believe our good luck!   After having the girls for a couple months, my husband bought me a 4 month old Holstein heifer as well – our one-day-to-be milker.  I think I’ll be more prepared for milking a cow by the time her breeding comes along!

Was the experience all that you had envisioned it to be?

In reality, yes.  I expected early mornings, smaller outputs of milk, and personality challenges from our dominant goat, Totes – and all of those expectations followed through.   We get consistent milk every morning – and it is the BEST milk I have every tasted.  Hands down.   In honesty, however, I am very much looking forward to the time when it is my cow that I am milking instead (Nigerian Dwarfs have the SMALLEST teats!  Holy smokes!).

Any advice for first-time dairy homesteaders?

Make sure you have someone you can call on for advice.  The internet is a great resource, but it can be very overwhelming for the first-timer.  I was more than thankful to have a friend that I could call on for every little question – and trust me, there were a lot of them!  More than anything, though, I found that I just needed reassurance that I was doing the right thing – and most of the time, thankfully, I was!

Ashley from Whistle Pig Hollow

 

Starting a Home Dairy - Personal Experiences from some of my Favorite Bloggers!
Pic via whistlepighollow.com

Tell us about your dairy animal!

We have a Jersey cow named Elsie Marley, who we purchased from a local man. We chose a Jersey cow for our dairy animal because of the large amounts of glorious milk they can provide- dairy products for us, plus extra milk for chickens, pigs, or even an additional calf. We chose Elsie Marley specifically because (a) she was already bred with her third calf and (b) she was still in milk from her second calf who had been recently weaned.

Was the experience all that you had envisioned it to be?

From day one, nothing has been as I envisioned it with Elsie Marley! It turns out, she was never milked regularly (this should have been a huge red flag for first time dairy homesteaders, but we really wanted a cow!). Our original plan was to start milking her immediately, before her milk dried up after weaning her second calf. She had other plans… Plans that involved not coming anywhere near us, much less letting us touch her. So we decided to let her milk dry up, work with her for the next 8 months of her pregnancy, and cross our fingers that we’d be able to milk her by the time her third calf was born.
Well, I’m here to tell you, two weeks after calving, things have not played out like we hoped. We haven’t given up on her, but we have not been able to milk her yet. Prior to the calf being born, she would come twice a day to her milking stanchion to get her treats. Now she prefers to run in the opposite direction when we come around!
Any advice for first-time dairy homesteaders?

My advice for first time homesteaders is the same advice you will find all over the internet, should you be wise enough to seek it out- purchase an experienced milker! You can waste a lot of time and money bribing a cow for a year and feeding her over the winter, only to find out you might not be able to milk her after all. Now we’re in a position where we either have to build more infrastructure that would allow us to work with her more intensively, or sell her and try again with another cow. Right now I’m not sure how Elsie Marley’s story plays out- keep up with the saga at www.whistlepighollow.com.

Want to hear more from Ashley and her adventures at Whistle Pig Hollow? http://www.whistlepighollow.com/2014/01/21/milking-stanchion-update/ http://www.whistlepighollow.com/2014/03/23/signs-calving-imminent-pregnant-cow/ http://www.whistlepighollow.com/2014/04/21/jersey-angus-cross-calf/

Quinn from Reformation Acres

 

Starting a Home Dairy - Personal Experiences from some of my Favorite Bloggers!
Pic via reformationacres.com

Tell us about your dairy animal!

The dear gal who blesses our breakfast table with her wonderfully creamy goodness is a Jersey cow named Holly. She’s a cull cow from an organic Amish dairy a few miles up the road. She’s not our first dairy cow and how she came to live is a bit of a long story. (Sorry.) Our first cow a Dexter, was bought on a whim four years ago. We were shopping for a cow, but were having a hard time finding a Dexter, a breed well suited to small acreage (we lived on 2 1/2 then). But the opportunity to buy her popped up and we snagged her on up! Dexters can quite “beefy”, but she was definitely more “milky” than any other we had seen and didn’t want to let it go by. She was supposed to have been dry and bred, but instead was open and still lactating! We had a crash course in milking a cow, scrambling for supplies, and wondering how on earth were we going to get her bred. We decided to go au natural and ended up going back and buying the bull from Maybelle’s previous owner and once she was confirmed, he went into the freezer. She gave us three calves over the years and up to 4 gallons of milk a day (almost double the Dexter average!) over two lactations. After she was bred back with the third calf, we learned that we would be moving across the state. The moving date kept getting pushed farther and farther back until it was a week before she was due to freshen. She went down a couple days ahead of us, but my husband was making trips to haul our stuff to the new home and check on the cow. She seemed to be doing fine. The night we moved in, we went to check on her in the barn and she had calved a few days early! The calf was born that morning according to a neighbors report and both seemed to be doing well. It was dark and we thought we could get a better look in the morning. As soon as the sun was up, my husband went to check on mamma & baby and found Maybelle on her side and not breathing. We figure she had been dead for less than an hour. We have no idea why. It was heartbreaking and a rough start to our new life on this homestead. We quickly learned we didn’t want the new little heifer on milk replacer because of the cost and processed ingredients and asked around trying to find a nurse cow. Our new neighbor gave us a sweet deal on Holly and the little heifer took right too her as soon as we got her. Holly was already bred and just freshened about a month ago, a little bull calf.

Was the experience all that you had envisioned it to be?

Absolutely! Perhaps better than we had envisioned! I had no clue just how amazing having access to such and abundance of fresh raw milk would be! But having a dairy cow is a lot of work. And it’s best to recognize that in advance and accept it, but its totally worth it! We’re practicing pasture rotation, so the polyrope fencing needs moved daily in addition to feeding, watering, and milking, and figuring out what to do with all the surplus. (Might I suggest turning it into bacon ) Holly came from a herd and wasn’t halter broken so getting her to the barn can be quite a pain! It has been known to add nearly an hour to milking time between getting her to the barn and back. But again, totally worth it!

Any advice for first-time dairy homesteaders?

Two words: Grain Bucket. Even if you’re a grass-fed only purist, get some organic cow candy and bribe her every now and again. If she gets outside of her fencing, it makes the difference between a cow that looks up at you with complacent eyes and goes back to her grazing and one that runs to you when she hears the familiar shake, shake, shake. I just saved you hours of your life. Also, if you can, buy a halter-broken cow. It will make things so much easier. Halter-break your calves if you plan to keep them. Or if you plan to sell them. I’d pay more for a halter-broken one, that’s for sure! Be prepared before you get your cow. Learn all you can first, get your supplies together, and have a vet confirm any cow is bred before you seal the deal. If your cow is supposedly dried up, make sure she hasn’t been anywhere near young stock who might be taking advantage of her… or have your milk pails on hand. Stick to a routine. They like to know what to expect. Groom her, she’ll love you for it. Be patient, yet assertive. (I know this intuitively, but an animal that large still makes me nervous. Working on it though!) And finally, do a little networking and get a cow mentor whether in real life or online. It has been such a blessing to be able to reach out and find help when we have questions like, “How do you milk this thing?” Or “How do you care for a newborn calf whose mother just died?” Or “What do you do with a Jersey bull calf?”

Keep up with Quinn over at Reformation Acres!

 

 

Ashley from the Browning Homestead

 

Starting a Home Dairy - Personal Experiences from some of my Favorite Bloggers!
Pic via thebrowninghomestead.com

Tell us about your dairy animal!

We raise Jersey cows. We have 2 in milk, Tilly and Twyla, and 1 that will calve this month. We found our first cow, Tilly- 4 at the time, on Craigslist. Not having done much research, which I don’t recommend, we bought her and she wasn’t bred. But we liked her and her stubbornness! After several failed attempts we finally got her bred and she calved last September. A bull calf. We spent a lot of time one on one with Tilly and finally got her halter broke. But she will only let me milk her or near her. She is great with our children. We bought Twyla, then 18 months, in August on 2013. She was halter broke, bucket raised, and a very friendly cow, but with horns! She came from great genetics and we knew what we were looking for in a cow: a wide eustachian, tall, a straight back, a feminine look, and we knew her genetics (who her parents were).

Was the experience all that you had envisioned it to be?

Our first experience with Tilly was NOT what I had envisioned. She wasn’t bred- no problem! Cows get bred all the time. You find a bull or AI and voila! Not the case with Tilly. After a natural insemination and 4 AI attempts she was finally bred after we started a free choice mineral program after only one month on them. So I got an unexpected and very expensive lesson in a cow’s reproductive system. I was very skeptical of her coming down with milk fever when she calved. But since on the minerals, that hasn’t been an issue as she has been in extremely good health. But alas, she has not come back into heat and I fear we will have some issues again. She calved easily without assistance (her 4th calf) and she is a great cow to milk, for ME. She doesn’t kick and she waits patiently (as does her calf). She let me near her calf right away after birth and was never that protective unless someone she didn’t know was around.
Twyla’s calving experience, as a heifer, was a different story. Her hormones raged and she was a very protective mom for the first few days, with horns! Scary experience but one I’m glad I’ve gone through!

Any advice for first-time dairy homesteaders?

My advice would be to buy a cow who has calved before (if you don’t know what you are doing), has been milked before, and has been already BRED. Cows that have been through that process are very easy (usually) to train to your routine. They let their milk down easily for you and generally well behaved cows. Know who you are buying your cows from. And know who your cows dam and sire were. that will tell you a lot about milk production, butterfat quantity, and overall health and longevity. And by all means, let the cow know you are the BOSS. Or they will be the boss and you will never win. And then you’re in trouble! A gentle, but firm hand is always good to have.

Want to hear more about Ashley and her dairy cows at the Browning Homestead?

Twyla and Her Birth Story
http://www.thebrowninghomestead.com/2014/01/meet-twyla/
http://www.thebrowninghomestead.com/2014/04/from-heifer-to-cow-twylas-story/

 

 

Teri from Homestead Honey

 

Starting a Home Dairy - Personal Experiences from some of my Favorite Bloggers!
Pic via homestead-honey.com

Tell us about your dairy animal!

We raised a small herd of 6-9 Alpine dairy goats.  We loved the temperament and personality of goats, and had easy access to a number of local herds for breeding and buying. Our first goat was from a friend of a friend, and while she was not the best milk producer, she was a wonderful animal to learn with because she had already been trained to stand still in her stanchion and was a great mama to her kids!

Was the experience all that you had envisioned it to be?

It was more challenging at times, but even more rewarding.  We loved kidding season, adored making soft cheeses and aged cheddars, and loved the animals as individuals. But the learning curve for working with dairy animals is steep.  It was very challenging to diagnose and address ailments, which were rare, but did happen on occasion.  And of course it is never easy when you lose a member of your herd.
Our family loves to backpack, and we ended up bringing our goats out into the backcountry with us on numerous occasions. They were great trail companions, carried some of our gear, and gave us fresh milk for our granola!  This was probably my favorite time with the goats.
Any advice for first-time dairy homesteaders?
Find a mentor!  This is so important!  Even the best dairy animal book cannot prepare you for the experience of caring for an animal.  Having someone you trust to hold your hand during challenging times is so important.
Stay in touch with Teri over at her blog, Homestead Honey!

Leona from My Healthy Green Family

 

Starting a Home Dairy - Personal Experiences from some of my Favorite Bloggers!
Pic via myhealthygreenfamily.com

Tell us about your dairy animal! We live on just under 2 acres, and only homestead about 1 acre of it.  We don’t have enough space for a cow so we settled on dairy goats.  We chose Nigerian Dwarf goats, at first because we read that they have a very mild tasting milk, and this proved to be true.  Later, we discovered them to be a fantastic breed: small, with adequate milk supply for a single family, friendly, easy to contain and fun to have around.  They don’t require a lot of space and they clear brush and weeds like nothing else.  Nigerian Dwarf goats are also one of the few goat breeds that can breed year-round, which means milk year-round. We found our first goats on craigslist, and learned the hard way that you shouldn’t buy just any old goat.  The goats we found were from a semi-wild herd, and were not used to people.  This didn’t go over well and I never could milk them.  In the end, we lost these two to a bear attack (another lesson learned) and we started over again with purebred, registered stock from reliable breeders who focus on dairy qualities.  They cost more to start with, but we soon discovered there is always a market for purebred, registered animals, even if the market is smaller.

Was the experience all that you had envisioned it to be?

Yes!  We love our little goats!  They have been reliable dairy producers,  great company, and the baby goats have provided us with endless hours of entertainment.  We sell most of  the babies and have never had trouble finding homes  for them.  We have fresh, raw milk right on our property, we have learned how to make cheese, and the goats have helped us discover the joy and hard work involved in producing your own food.

Any advice for first-time dairy homesteaders?

Buy from reputable breeders who are breeding for quality, not quantity.  Not only are they less likely to carry STDs or other communicable diseases but they tend to be well handled and more friendly.  Don’t buy from an auction,.  You don’t know what you will get and you may contaminate your herd or your property.  Buy goats that are tame and friendly.  When first starting out, look for one who has been milked before and won’t fight you while you try to learn how to milk a goat.  Build your fence right THE FIRST TIME!  This is very important and can make the difference between enjoying having goats and hating the experience.  Height, barbed and electric make a good combination to not only keep your herd in, but keep predators out.   Meet the goat first before you buy it.  Don’t buy a shy goat.  Buy a friendly goat. Trust me… shy or timid goats aren’t fun to milk…   Two Nigerian Dwarf goats in milk are enough to supply milk for a small family.  Ideally we have 2 or 3 goats bred every 6 months in order to have a year-round milk supply.

Enjoy!!  Looking for more from Leona and My Healthy Green Family? http://myhealthygreenfamily.com/blog/wordpress/a-goat-is-born-homesteading-with-nigerian-dwarf-goats/

 

Now how amazing was that?!  Are you convinced yet that you need a dairy animal for your family?

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8 thoughts on “Starting a Home Dairy – Personal Experiences from Some of my Favorite Bloggers!

  1. Kickers are a chain that goes around the front of the cows back legs and has a u shaped piece that goes over their knee. They do not hurt the cow and will not allow her to kick you. PVC pipe on horns blunts them and is easy to put on. Jersey’s are stubborn little cows but are the perfect size. Always bred using angus sperm. Cheap from vet. You have a wonderful heifer for future milking or a great steer for meat. Never breed dairy over dairy. Even third generation Jersey is great milker. Angus are small calves so no birthing problems.

  2. I have two 7 month old jersey’s I have raised from 2 weeks old by hand. I have had their horns cut as I didnt think it was necessary considering they are so placid and we will only have the two of them with calves in the future. Am I missing some reason why they should be dehorned?

      1. I can only speak for us. Our cow wasn’t terribly young when we got her and it wasn’t something we wanted to put her through at an older age. Instead, we opted to let her grow hers naturally. However, she may end up with pads on them if she gets too feisty with them! Lol

    1. I thunk the biggest reason that people dehorn them is for safety. However, I know people that haven’t and all has been fine!

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