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Showing posts with label house cow. Show all posts
Showing posts with label house cow. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Butter Production on the Farmstead

by Throwback at Trapper Creek





Often times the only thought of dairy products on people's minds is fluid milk, and with a weight conscious society, butter is frequently overlooked.  I happen to think though, that good fat is what's missing in many people's diets.  Enter the family cow, a real workhorse for the farmstead if you have adequate land and pasture to support a bovine.  Milk, cream, butter, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream are all delicious and are necessary items for the home kitchen.

If you're reading this blog I am probably preaching to the choir, so I'll just run through my butter making scheme to give you a general idea of what is possible for stocking the home larder with butter.

Jane is raising her calf in addition to providing enough milk for the house.  A purebred Guernsey, she is currently giving about 6 gallons of milk each day.  Two plus for the calf, and four gallons for the house.  As the calf grows larger it will drink more to support its growth and we will take less. 



I milk twice a day, and strain the milk into wide mouth gallon jars with the idea in mind that I will be skimming the cream for butter.  It takes about 24 hours for the cream to rise completely, so I skim the cream from the milk after that time, and when I am going to make butter.  The real method to my madness (and it is madness this time of year) is to make as much butter with early lactation cream as I can and store it for later.  I freeze my butter, but you could also make ghee if you don't want to use electricity to store your butter.  Why early lactation you ask?  Because I am a lazy churner, and during the early lactation period the fat globules are larger and it churns faster.  Of course, Mother Nature designed this to benefit the calf, but anytime I can hop aboard the lazy train and make hand churned butter in 7 - 10 minutes I do it!  So I churn to beat the band in the first three months and about the time I have a good amount of butter stocked up, and the calf is needing more milk, the fat globules are getting smaller and the butter takes longer to come.  Sure, I could buy an electric churn and who would care how long it took to get butter, but also the urgency to stockpile is part of our genetic make-up and I am harvesting sunlight after all.  That means I have to behave in a seasonal manner and stock up on the bounty when there is truly a bounty, not a faux bounty that the store bought mentality has given us.

Fitting butter churning into an already busy farm schedule takes some planning, and is dictated by the amount of milk in the fridge.  I can only store so much milk, and I only have so much time.  It doesn't take any longer to churn two pounds of butter than it does one, so I go with my two gallon churn and churn every other day, rather than use a smaller churn and make butter every day.  That works out the best for me.  It's half the cleanup too, which is where the largest portion of my time is spent when I say I spend and hour and a half a day "milking" the cow.  The actual milking, "pails" in comparison time-wise to the milk handling and processing. 

I skim the cream into squatty wide mouth half gallon jars that I have just for cream.  With hand skimming, it takes about 4 gallons of milk to yield a half gallon of cream, mileage may vary depending on the cow, stage of lactation and your hand skimming skill.  To keep from exposing the milk to bacteria over and over, I wait until a few hours before I am going to churn to skim, and I skim all the jars at the same time.  The cream needs to be at about 60 degrees F to churn fast, much colder it becomes grainy  - much warmer and it is greasy.  I know that sounds funny, but butter has lots of similarities to dough and all its quirks, once you see and feel these subtle differences you'll know what I mean.  After skimming, I leave the milk to reach room temperature or 60 degrees and then I have a little leeway to do other chores or fit in churning while fixing dinner.

After churning the butter needs to be washed and worked thoroughly to get out all the buttermilk, this is very important for longer storage.  Adding salt at this time is a personal preference, I have never found that it makes much difference in the keeping quality.

To figure out how much butter I need for the year, I use my loose 52 week plan I keep in mind when I am canning.  How much butter do you use per week?  One pound, three pounds?  Multiply that figure by 52 and see what you get. We fall somewhere in between that number, and luckily that works out to be an attainable goal for the resident butter maker.  At this point I am getting about a pound a day, so if I can keep up that pace, in four months time and when the sunlight is starting to fade I can have 120 pounds of butter stored up, maybe. 

So there you have it, from 4 gallons of milk, you get 1/2 gallon of cream, which magically turns into a pound of butter and a 1/2 gallon of buttermilk.  Plus you still have almost the 4 gallons of milk that is perfect for cheese of some sort, or clabbering for hens and hogs.  And after all that there is gallons of whey too.  The family cow, the true workhorse of the farmstead :)

Jane Butterfield

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Raising Calves

Posted by Bel
from Spiral Garden

New babies are always exciting!  We have had calves born here on the farm (Wags and Mimi) and calves we've brought here and fostered onto Lucy (Honey and Poppy).  We've never raised calves ourselves though, Lucy has always helped.  You can read lots about our journey with a house cow and calves throughout the co-op blog and here.

Today a new little guy arrived - Red.  He's being raised for the freezer and is a by-product of the dairy industry.  I'm trying to foster him onto Lucy alongside Mimi (who is a big girl at over 4 months now), but Lucy's not exactly keen on calves which aren't her own!  So meanwhile I am also bottle-feeding him.



Bottle feeding a calf with calf formula is something I remember doing as a child.  Also trying to convince them to drink from a bucket by letting the calves suck our fingers.  It was lots of fun, even though newborn calves are quite pushy and can easily bump a child over!


I'll post more about our new baby as the journey progresses.

Meanwhile, read about calf-raising here.  And if you have experience with raising calves, or other baby animals, please share!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Living with a House Cow

Posted by Bel
From Spiral Garden

I've written before about our house cow:
House Cow FAQs
House Cow Journey Part One
House Cow Journey Part Two
House Cow Journey Part Three
House Cow Journey Continues

It's been over two years since we first brought Lucy home and we're feeling more confident about raising our own cattle these days.  The timeline of our journey (if you don't want to read everything above) goes like this...

We brought Lucy, a pure Jersey cow of a few years of age, here to our 42 acre farm from a dairy.  She was in calf to a Wagyu (beef breed) and had never been hand milked, halter-led etc before.  We also got Honey, a pure Jersey heifer, from another dairy at the same time, just a couple of weeks old.  Lucy raised that calf (begrudgingly), and after she was weaned she had a break, then delivered her Wagyu-cross bull calf named Wags whom we later steered.  I got another pure Jersey heifer, Poppy, to raise alongside this calf.

They weaned and we had mixed success with milking Lucy that lactation.  Awhile after she was AIed we sent her out into the large paddock for a break.  During this time we cared for (and milked) someone else's cow for a few months.  We also had the butcher in for the steer calf, Wags (at 20 months).  Honey went to live with my friend and had her own heifer on her 2nd birthday (a surprise beef X - neighbour's bull!).

Mimi and Lucy
Between Christmas and New Year, we were blessed to welcome another little heifer calf.  This leaves us with 3 pure Jersey females.  Lucy (the original cow), Poppy (the 2nd foster heifer) and now Mimi (Lucy's own heifer calf).  These three will be our house cows in rotation over the coming years, all going well!

The delivery of Lucy's second calf on our farm went smoothly.  I went out to the shops after lunch one day, and when I drove back in the driveway there was a calf at her feet.  The delivery of the placenta, her feeding the calf, first milkings etc all went very smoothly.  It's hard to tell if that's luck, experience or good management though!

Mimi and Lucy
Again we froze all the colostrum we milked off during the first week.  We keep this in case the calf becomes unwell, but we've not had to bottle-feed any calves to date.
 
Baby Mimi
Because I'm share-milking with only one calf this time, we get a lot of milk each day.  It's time to get back into making feta, yoghurt, quark, custard, bechamel sauce and all those other recipes to use up milk!  It's probably time for me to learn some more cheesemaking.  I'll be heading over the Little Green Cheese for some inspiration!  While I wasn't milking, I was buying Misty Mountain dairy products.  It's lovely to have a local alternative so similar to our house cow's milk, but of course it's just not the same!

Looking back, the first months with our house cow were the hardest.  It was a huge learning curve and we were having a dry spell so feed was expensive.  Feed doesn't ever cost over $20 per week now, during peak milking/feed times.  I switched to chaff (oaten/lucerne) over bales of hay to reduce waste (stalks flicked onto the floor by Lucy).  I still give a little steam rolled (micronised) barley at milking time only.  We found a bulk source of seaweed meal which makes it much more affordable and so tend to give this valuable supplement more generously.  We use natural sprays for flies, balms for udder etc as per suggestions on The Family Cow forum.  We mix these up ourselves from ingredients bought in bulk.  We use diatomaceous earth (DE) in the feed buckets for about 4 days around the full moon each month as a worming preventative.  We also dust it on for ticks and flies and sprinkle in the bedding area as required.

 I'm always seeking the best way, asking questions, reading books, articles and forums when I have questions no one knows the answer to.  Trying different things with my cattle, and being as present as possible - checking them over daily so that any health problems are immediately recognised.  A lot of what I do is quite different from standard dairying practice in my area.  But when you're working with a very small herd, you can afford the time and resources to do things differently.

Timing of holidays is really tricky with a house cow.  Recently we had a two month break of no milking, and I really should have taken advantage of that more.  It still took some effort to arrange for people to look after our pets and other farm animals, but it's really tricky to get someone in to milk a cow!  When thinking about weaning a calf, drying off a cow, timing of AI, etc - we try to time this to best suit family commitments.  And these things don't happen overnight, so spontaneity can go out the window somewhat!


When others ask me about having a house cow, I strongly suggest that unless they are really passionate about it, and willing to spend a lot of time with their cow, don't bother.  Even though these past couple of years of raising our own cattle have been so very rewarding for me, I know it's not for everyone, especially in today's fast-paced society.

Glossary
cow - adult female bovine who has had a calf, generally over 2 years of age
bull - adult male bovine who has not been castrated
steer - male bovine who has been castrated
heifer - young female bovine, who hasn't calved
AI - artificial insemination - how to get a calf when you don't own a bull
colostrum - first milk



Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Home Butchering

Posted by Bel
from Spiral Garden

I hope by sharing this I don't upset anyone.  I am not up for debate of the ethics of meat-eating.  In fact I'm possibly the least likely to know about anything to do with butchering...  I haven't eaten much meat at all during my adult life...  Some locally-caught fish, homegrown roosters, and very little else. Sometimes for years at a time I ate no meat (or even no animal products) at all.

But now I keep a house cow.  To produce milk, a cow has a calf.  Lucy's first calf when she came here was a Wagyu-cross male.  Unneccessary as a lawn mower and so deemed for the freezer.  And so, at 20 months old this week, his time was up.

 
 Wags as a new calf

Since we'd known all along that he was to be eaten, for most of our family it was no big deal to call the butcher out.  Some were in fact eager to watch the whole process, learn bovine anatomy and really find out how a walking beast became a packet of protein.  I didn't watch the WHOLE process, but surprisingly I watched quite a lot of it and was amazed at how peaceful and non-gory it was.  Everything was done humanely, quickly, cleanly.

Basically for us the process so far:
1. obtain a beef-cross calf (via Lucy, but there are other ways of obtaining cattle)
2. late weaning apparently promotes tastier beef, as does early castration
3. allow him access to abundant food (for us, grass) and water from birth
4. treat naturally for flies and ticks using neem oil, other essential oils, mineral supplements etc (diatomaceous earth as a worm preventative)
5. carry fewer stock so there is plenty of feed and less problems with pests and parasites
6. call the butcher, ask a million questions
7. buy a freezer
8. catch the steer in a suitable paddock, away from other stock
9. let the butcher do his thing

  
Wags had a beautiful life

So now we have a cold room in our front paddock for a week.  After this week of hanging, the beef will be ready to cut, pack, label and freeze...  So I'm researching types of freezer bags and different cuts of beef (I only know how to cook roasts, minced and diced beef so far)...  There are a TON of resources about home butchering on the 'net.

A few of our family members eat beef (local, biodynamic beef), who knows I might try some too?  I never would have imagined that I'd write about turning one of our animals into food, but this is where our farming journey has brought us...

I'll write about stage two of this home butchering process next time!


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

House Cow FAQs

Posted by Bel
From Spiral Garden

Also posted on Home Grown

It's been over a year since we first got a house cow, and we've learned a lot along the way. Here are some of the most common questions people ask us, and our replies. We are rather unconventional in the way we manage our home dairy, and I encourage cow owners to seek out information most suitable to their animal before following our example.


How do you tame a cow from a commercial dairy?

This was harder than I expected. Lucy was very frightened and stressed about being away from her herd. At first we had to use fences and ropes to get her to co-operate because it was important that a) we fully milked her at least once a day and b) the calf we also brought home (not hers) got milk. After the initial rough days, Lucy would lead on a halter (the show type with a small chain under the chin). From there we brushed her, spoke kindly to her and got her used to a routine - dry food with minerals and molasses, same time of day, same people around, same calls and commands... Within months Lucy would come when called and take herself into the milking shed at least some of the time. She didn't kick or otherwise carry on for us.

Where do you get the foster calves from?

Our foster calves are calves from a nearby dairy which are excess to their needs. In commercial dairies, male calves are often killed at birth, or they are raised to sell for veal. Some female calves are not kept as replacement heifers because they might be the wrong bloodline or colour, or they aren't a strong animal. If a dairy runs about 200 cows who each 'work' for several years, and each cow has a calf per annum (the usual way in commercial dairying), and half these calves are female - the dairy can't use 100 replacement heifers each year. And so there are often perfectly lovely little heifer calves available for a low cost in dairying regions. And that is how we got Honey and Poppy! We use the term 'foster calf' to describe a calf raised on its own mother for a couple of weeks, who then comes to our farm to drink milk from Lucy until weaning age.


Do you really milk by hand?

Yes! I got a quick lesson from a friend who hand-milks, and a few tips from others who have milked by hand in the past, and within a couple of days had mastered the art! I find milking by hand is relaxing for the cow and I, and it ensures that no damage is done to the udder or teats during milking. Also, milking machinery isn't cheap!

Does owning a cow take a lot of time?

When I'm milking, or monitoring foster calves closely, the cows take me about an hour to an hour and a half each day. That is to feed, water, clean, milk, check the animals over, move them to other paddocks, and so on. To some, that may seem like a lot of time, but it is my exercise and 'hobby', and provides our family with milk. When I am not milking or required for so much hands-on work, I only need to check the cattle and their water once each day.


What do you do with the excess milk?

Excess milk has usually gone to foster calves at our place - I only milked out what we could use, and trusted the calves to take care of the rest! Currently, we don't have any calves on Lucy so with excess milk I make yoghurt, kefir, custard, soft cheese and so on. I also give milk to our animals sometimes, who seem to like it and digest it well.

Doesn't milk have to be pastuerised to make it safe?

After reading information from the Weston Price Foundation and Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions, we decided that the benefits of raw milk outweigh any small risk of contamination, for us. Also, because we control the health and hygiene of our cow and home-dairy facilities, we are confident that the raw milk we're drinking is a quality product.

How do you treat health problems in your herd?

We have been blessed to not have many health problems to date in our herd. We follow the advice of Pat Coleby who has excellent resources for farmers regarding minerals and nutritional supplements. We believe that this prevention is worth the investment of time and money. For buffalo fly, worms and ticks, all common pests in our area, we have tried Neem oil, and a specific mix of essential oils as well as supplementing their diet with specific minerals including diatomaceous earth. For behavioural issues we have used homeopathy and herbal treatments. We are not totally against conventional treatments and will use them if the health or comfort of our animals are at stake.

I hope this interests those of you curious about having a house cow, or looking into having your own cow sometime. I highly recommend the following resources:

Weston A Price
Sally Fallon- Nourishing Traditions
Keeping a Family Cow Forums
EnviroNeem
Natural Cattle Care by Pat Coleby
The Healthy House Cow by Patricia van den Berg
The Home Creamery by Kathy Farrell-Kingsly

Friday, May 28, 2010

Our House Cow Journey Continues

Posted by Bel
From Spiral Garden

I'm cross-posting from Home Grown this week, because my cows are the most interesting thing happening on the farm right now!

I began milking Lucy when Wags was a few weeks old. Until then, he and Poppy the foster calf shared all the milk. As they began to eat a little grain and some hay and grass, I decided to separate Lucy and Honey from them during the day, giving her several hours to graze the grass in the orchard and house paddock, and then I brought her in to be fed, checked over and milked before releasing her back into the small paddock with the babies and Honey for the night. I did this around four times each week, taking around 3 to 4 litres each milking. The other days they all grazed together. This routine went well for a little while, and then Lucy was only giving 2 litres at each milking, and then just a litre for the final couple of milkings last week. And then I gave up. Why go to all the bother of mixing feed, setting up, milking, cleaning the dairy, the buckets and everything for a mere litre of milk? As I led Lucy back to the small paddock, her udder would swell and teats fill with the rest of the milk she had withheld from me, ready to feed her babies she'd been apart from all day.

Last week we let them all into a larger paddock to allow us to do some maintenance on their small paddock and the areas we graze them inside electric fence tape. I'm not milking Lucy for awhile. We've slashed their paddocks and we'll harvest some manure and hay from near their pens to use in some of the raised garden beds I've emptied out recently. Do I still have a House Cow? Or a dairy breed with her calves let loose in the paddock? I'm trying to convince them they're still our dairy herd by encouraging them back to the water troughs daily for their minerals, perhaps some hay or another treat, and some checking over and brushing. Poppy and Honey especially love to be brushed, I think because they've had less affection from Lucy, being foster calves. I use a horse brush on them and they mostly love careful strokes around their face and ears.

When it's time to wean the calves, I'll bring Lucy back to the small paddock. I'm not sure on the exact management of the herd from there, but I'll try to get her into once-a-day milking again. I don't think I'll bother with another foster calf for a little while.

We have just castrated Wags using the banding method, which seems to us to have been a humane way to carry out the process. His job now is to eat grass and grow big!

The next thing we need to think about is getting Lucy artificially inseminated (AIed), which is usually done three months after a dairy cow calves.

So much to consider... And to think that once I just thought that cows ate grass, drank water, made manure and existed with little human intervention!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Our House Cow Journey Part 3

From Spiral Garden

Honey, at six months, is now almost as tall as Lucy, her foster mother


Continued from Our House Cow Journey Part One and Our House Cow Journey Part Two.

Since I last wrote a cow update, Honey was gently weaned by mid-January and Lucy had nearly 10 weeks holiday from milking. So did we! The milk in the freezer lasted awhile, then we had to go back to buying local milk again from here.

Last week, Lucy's calf arrived. After spending many late night studying books and websites about calving, we woke around 6am to find a wet little bull calf at Lucy's feet in the paddock. We removed Honey to another paddock and stood back and watched. It was amazing seeing him take his first steps, and drink colostrum from Lucy.

Lucy with newborn Wags - having her mineral-fix to help prevent milk fever and mastitis

We watched them keenly for two days, and arranged to have a Jersey heifer calf, almost three weeks old, delivered from a nearby dairy on Day 3. The calf had already been named Sweetheart, though after a week I'm still finding it confusing as I use it as a term of endearment when speaking to the other cattle, and possibly even the hubby and kids! I hadn't noticed before she arrived, but I'm mentioning her name a lot more often than I'm actually speaking to or about her... So if another character enters this tale along the way, perhaps it'll just be that I will have changed Sweetheart's name.

Wags (top) 3 days old and 'Sweetheart' 3 weeks old

At first Lucy was not interested in her new charge at all. So a couple of hours later my daughter Abby and I led the calf to the milking shed and washed her off with warm water and rags. We dried her with an old towel, as it was a cool, rainy day. Then we led Lucy in to milk out some of the excess colostrum (just as we had the day before). When she was in place having her snack of grain, hay, minerals and molasses we encouraged Sweetheart forward to feed from Lucy's udder. She fed with gusto, having been kept away from the nurse cows at the dairy that morning to make the mothering-on process easier for us.

After awhile we took them both back to the pen in the paddock where Wags was having a nap on the hay. Sweetheart again fed from Lucy, and Lucy let her! We were so relieved.

I continued to watch Lucy and the calves carefully each day - checking the calves' health and bowel movements (Wags was scouring for awhile, but it seems to be almost-normal consistency now), checking Lucy's udder and generally observing their interactions with each other.

Lucy, waiting at the gate to graze in the house paddock, with Sweetheart and Wags having a feed. See the mud? Hasn't stopped raining for 2 weeks!

In just a week they've all settled nicely, and Honey sleeps in her own paddock at night, but grazes alongside Lucy by day, with or without the calves.

We're still not taking any milk for ourselves, as Lucy is still producing colostrum, but we're looking forward to share-milking with two calves, and continuing our learning alongside our little herd.

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.