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Friday, November 6, 2009

Our House Cow Journey Part 2

Posted by Bel
From Spiral Garden

Continued from Our House Cow Journey Part One

We've learned so much in the almost two months we've had a house cow! Some of the main lessons are:

* it's not easy
* it's not cheap
* nothing ever stays the same

If I knew what a challenge a house cow would be, would I do it again? YES! The milk is fantastic, the manure is abundant, and the cows are really a joy to work with, especially Honey the calf.

We're still milking out once a day, but we take our share first in the afternoon as we were barely getting 1.5L for awhile. Honey is eating a variety of other foods (mainly grass and lucerne hay tops) and growing amazingly fast and well, so we thought it was time to take the first step to weaning. Hopefully each further step toward weaning will go as smoothly.

We are using diluted Neem oil for buffalo fly at the moment, which appeared once the rain came back. I'm playing with dilutions so I don't have to re-apply all the time, but it certainly seems to make a difference. I check both cows daily for ticks, and remove them manually. Luckily, both animals are quite used to me touching them now.

We're spending less on feed now that there's more pasture for the cows - for awhile there their food budget rivaled ours! Lucy is happy to eat more homegrown foods, especially pigeon pea, and she is hand-fed snacks of these most days. Sometimes I'll lead her to a lush part of another paddock and stand whilst she munches away, or tie her to a post whilst I do something else.

From the milk I've made yoghurt, panir, quark, sour cream (didn't work out), cottage cheese and cream cheese so far. Mostly, though we only milk out what we can use fresh and in cooking. The Home Creamery has been an invaluable resource (and inspiration) in creating products from excess milk.

There are more blog posts and photos of our house cow journey on Home Grown.


Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

They're both beautiful! I am envious of your pasture starting to grow, our's is on the wane with winter coming.

dixiebelle said...

Honey is gorgeous! I am glad the effort is worth it...

Katja said...

Thank you for keeping us updated on your house-cow journey! I'm terribly interested :-)
You mentioned that in the beginning it was very expensive to feed the cows. Do you have other animals that need hay, silage etc. or do you have to buy small quantities just for the two cows? I'm asking because I'd really like to have a cow someday - and since we already have to provide feed/pasture for up to ten horses, I don’t think two cows would make much of a difference, wouldn't they?
Anyway, good luck with your endeavour, your girls are so cute!

Francesca said...

This is very, very interesting, well done! I somehow missed part one, I'll go and check it!

Bel said...

Katja, cows can eat everything that horses eat, so that will save you money if you have bulk feed. I'm buying small amounts - small rectangular bales of lucerne hay and 25kg bags of grain and 20L of molasses at a time. We have horses, but they do well on pasture here year round, with only some supplementary feed to mix their minerals into. Because I have the house cow in a small paddock near the house, the pasture is poorer, so I provide more bought feed for them. Also, a dairy cow requires high protein food to create milk. I'm feeding a mixture of micronised barley, copra, lucerne hay, molasses, dolomite, copper sulfate, sulphur and seaweed meal.
I don't mind buying the feed because our dry season is very short and in theory what I feed Lucy is keeping her, raising Honey, providing milk for us and sustaining her calf due in late March.
I highly recommend a house cow to anyone who has the time and resources - space and money to buy feed if required (such as dry times like now for us). Overall I wouldn't say it saves us a huge amount on dairy products, but it is very rewarding and I'm rapt to have learned this new skill of caring for a house cow.
Thanks everyone for your kind comments. x

eatclosetohome said...

I was under the impression (not sure where I picked this up) that you HAVE to milk a cow dry once or twice a day to prevent mastitis, even if she's nursing. Is this true?

Bel said...

eat close to home, yes, I was milking the cow out dry after the calf fed once a day when they first arrived (for 4-5 weeks). Once I knew the calf could take almost the full udder I began to take the cow away first and take 'our' share, then put the calf onto the cow to empty the udder completely. The calf is very good at "stripping out" the udder so there's nothing left. I supervise the afternoon feed to be sure that all quarters are empty.

Theoretically, when Lucy has her own calf, the milk supply should settle to the calf's needs and the risk of mastitis should be low. But dairy cows tend to make a lot more milk than their calves can take, so I will probably have to milk out daily then, until the calf is big enough to consume as much milk as she's producing in a day, then I have a few options as to how I take 'our' share. :)

I hope this answers your question!

BusyMomof7 said...

Nice! I enjoyed reading about your house-cow. I have a Jersey, too...her name is Matilda. We homestead on our little hobby farm (Mooberry Farm), and I love reading about other people's experiences with this awesome lifestyle. Thanks for sharing this! ~Julie~