I’ll admit it… I’m totally prejudiced.
Try as I might to get all excited over green beans and squash, I’d much rather talk about milk cows and home dairying. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy the gardening aspect of my homestead, but animal husbandry is just more of my thing I suppose… And did I mention that I have a pretty severe brown thumb? Yeah… that might have something to do with it.
How much milk do you get?
A lot! Again, the exact amount depends on the cow and what she is eating. Once we wean the calf in the fall and are milking twice daily, I can usually expect to get 3-4 gallons per day. And if we really pushed her production with grain, we could get even more.
How do I keep the milk clean?
I usually brush off any hay or “dirt” bits that are hanging on the cow’s udder or belly before I start. I also wipe off the udder to remove any dirt or manure. This goes a long way in keeping the milk clean. However, it’s inevitable that you’ll end up with some dirt specks or bits of hay in your bucket at some point–I’m personally OK with that, and I just strain it and call it good. However, on the rare occasion that the cow sticks her foot into the bucket, or a big ol’ clod of manure lands inside, the milk definitely goes to the chickens….
Do you have to pasteurize the milk?
Nope. You can if you wish, but many home dairyers (including myself) enjoy fresh, raw milk. Here’s why we prefer our milk unpasteurized, and also some tips for safely handling your raw milk.
Can I sell the milk?
It depends on where you live. In the majority of states in the USA, it is highly illegal to sell raw milk for human consumption (crazy, but true)… However, there are a few states where you can–so be sure to check the laws first. Another option is to set up a cowshare or goatshare program, in which participants “own” a portion of the dairy animal and receive milk as part of the benefits of their ownership. This way, no money is actually exchanged for the sale of the milk itself.
How much time does it take you to care for your milk cow?
We have a small herd of other cattle and horses, so Miss Oakley generally gets lumped in with them. We feed large bales, so those have to be fed usually on a weekly basis with the tractor (during the wintertime.) Daily maintenance really doesn’t take much time–just filling up the big water tank and scooping poop out of the barn several times per week.