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Author Topic: house cows  (Read 4267 times)

undergruntled

  • Joined Feb 2014
house cows
« on: March 13, 2014, 10:26:09 am »
I've been re reading John Seymours book and when we move I'd quite like a house cow.  But, having lived on a dairy farm for a couple of years, I wonder if they are really happy on their own?  Also Johns book seems to tell you to keep it indoors all the time - doesn't sound like much fun for the cow?
 I'd like a Jersey if I was to get one but I don't/can't commit to milking twice a day every day so thought we could have a calf a year for her to raise that we could eventually eat, and have a little milk for ourselves as and when required.  Is this a daft idea?  Also what would be a good meat cross as jerseys are little cows and I wouldn't want to risk her with a big calf.  There's only two of us so I don't suppose we'd wait too long before it went to the butcher either, so maybe a dexter as a cross?  Are there other small beefy types?

shygirl

  • Joined May 2013
Re: house cows
« Reply #1 on: March 13, 2014, 10:48:45 am »
a Shetland cow sounds ideal for you if you want beef and milk.

landroverroy

  • Joined Oct 2010
Re: house cows
« Reply #2 on: March 13, 2014, 11:11:40 am »
I agree with your doubts on keeping an animal on it's own, and about keeping it inside all the time.
It sounds like this book was written someone who regarded the cow as merely a milk producer, and who had never realised that it is also a living, feeling being. A cow is a herd animal and needs the company of others with which to interact. To keep it inside for its entire life is to condemn it to a life of solitary confinement with no hope of remission. How can any animal deserve that? 
A pair of dexters might be a good solution for you. They are a dual purpose animal, so are amenable to milking. They can produce surplus milk over what the calf needs so there's plenty for you if you want any. But at the same time they do not provide such a great excess over what a calf would drink that it is necessary to milk off the surplus daily, or get another calf to drink it.
Also, the carcase of a dexter will easily fit in a family sized freezer, without being overwhelmed by a mountain of meat.
Rules are made:
  for the guidance of wise men
  and the obedience of fools.

undergruntled

  • Joined Feb 2014
Re: house cows
« Reply #3 on: March 13, 2014, 11:35:56 am »
Well the book was always regarded as the self sufficiency bible, but I'm more used to horses than cows and I wouldn't keep a horse on its own.  If we left the calf on her, she would always have company as we would be in no rush to slaughter it.  We wouldn't mind housing them over winter, for example as we will only have 2.2 acres to play with and we also want three or four sheep on that space too.
The plan is to divide it into three or maybe four paddocks and the sheep and cow would graze it in rotation.  We won't be selling any of our produce as we both have jobs, except maybe to friends, so the cow would be more a pet than anything, same with the ewes, we hope to borrow a ram and raise the lambs for the freezer and keep the ewes. 

Dan

  • The Accidental Smallholder
  • Administrator
  • Joined Oct 2007
  • Carnoustie, Angus
    • The Accidental Smallholder
    • Facebook
Re: house cows
« Reply #4 on: March 13, 2014, 12:50:28 pm »
You might find this useful, it describes a lot of what we've learned keeping cattle since 2010 as novices:

http://www.accidentalsmallholder.net/livestock/cattle/

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: house cows
« Reply #5 on: March 13, 2014, 01:44:11 pm »
I keep Jerseys as house cows.  I don't want to be tied to twice-a-day milking, so I buy in calves to suckle the Jerseys alongside their own.  I spean at 4 or 5 months and then put another pair of youngsters on, so each year, each Jersey rears her own plus 3 to 6 bought-ins (or orphans from the suckler herd.)

Keeping a house cow with a calf or two is clearly much nicer for her than being an only bovine.  But IMO all bovines need company of their own age/status, and the welfare standards say that too.  So for me, I would be inclined to look at goats rather than cattle if I was limited on land so couldn't manage a pair of cows.

I love my Jerseys  :love: and can't imagine life without them.  They don't half eat in order to do what I ask of them, and the operation uses a lot of bedding too, so there are significant costs, but with 3+ calves per Jersey per year, in the context of a working beef/sheep farm, we feel they make a net contribution.  As a smallholder, I do think it would be worth looking at a lower input / lower output system with a couple of Shetlands or Dexters. 

As to what to cross a Jersey with, the Jersey has a very wide pelvis and can calve a larger calf with more ease than some of the more muscled continentals ;).  So plenty of people put them to British Blue, and any amount to Angus.  We've just had a couple of Red Devon X calves this year, and the heifer calf is outstanding.  She should make a great suckler cow or house cow herself.  A neighbour who used to have a very high-performance Jersey dairy herd, and who also bred Jersey bulls that were used for AI, used the Murray Grey on her Jerseys for a more meaty calf when they weren't being bred to the Jersey.

Personally I always put them to the Jersey for their first calf, then a more beefy breed thereafter.

Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

undergruntled

  • Joined Feb 2014
Re: house cows
« Reply #6 on: March 13, 2014, 01:57:43 pm »
I now think Dexters a better plan that a jersey.  They won't have nearly so much milk and we don't want to rear lots of calves as we only want beef for the two of us.  They are quite a bit smaller so hopefully will manage better on our small bit of grass. 
There seem to be quite a few for sale around me, but I don't know a great deal about them, except I want a red one!

Anke

  • Joined Dec 2009
  • St Boswells, Scottish Borders
Re: house cows
« Reply #7 on: March 13, 2014, 04:23:20 pm »
If you only have 2.2 acres to play with you are going to struggle to keep 1-2 cows with calf(ves) happy on it, especially if you also like to have some sheep.

Goats would be the more sensible way to go, if you want dairy and some meat from surplus male (castrated) kids.

If you are not planning on selling any meat, the feed costs for a cow + weaned calves would be far more than the return of milk you get from her.

undergruntled

  • Joined Feb 2014
Re: house cows
« Reply #8 on: March 13, 2014, 06:31:22 pm »
well, we are going to EAT the calf and take milk as and when we fancy.  We don't want to be tied to milking daily as we both have to work.  From what I've read, one cow needs an acre so a pint sized dexter ought to manage alongside three sheep on two and a bit acres.  Especially as they compliment each other grazing wise.  I don't want goats and don't want to eat them.  I'll have lambs for that,  :yum:
Anyway, all still up in the air at the moment as we haven't settled the purchase of the property yet....

Sbom

  • Joined Jul 2012
  • Staffordshire
Re: house cows
« Reply #9 on: March 13, 2014, 07:00:49 pm »
The "calf" won't be decent beef til it's at least two years old, we have a dexter cow and she has this years calf, last years calf and is in calf again, even when the older one goes we still have the younger one for another year or so. She needs to keep having calves to stay in milk so you need to plan for two-three cows on the field at a time unless you intend to have rose veal which is an aquired taste and will leave you milking until she calves again...... Even little feet tread up the ground when out all winter so you may need to consider housing for the worst months.
Dexter is delicious beef and well worth the effort  :thumbsup: hope it works out for you

undergruntled

  • Joined Feb 2014
Re: house cows
« Reply #10 on: March 13, 2014, 07:13:56 pm »
Thanks, the milk doesn't really matter.  We are only playing at a lot of what we do as we aren't doing it for a living.  The cow and probably the ewes will end up as pets. ::)
We have raised quite a few sets of pigs, chooks, turkeys and cade lambs to eat on our current place and with only half an acre here, we have learned how to make the most of all the space.  I like cows and would quite like to keep them, but not to their detriment.  House cows get mentioned in many of my smallholder books but, as I said in my original post, seems a bit of a sad life for a single cow in a shed most of its life.  We are only two so would only keep the calf until it's replacement arrived, we might even consider simply raising a couple of calves in a barn similar to the rose veal calves, except we would let them out, maybe in at night, out by day, like my horse!  That would save the ground a bit.

Rosemary

  • Joined Oct 2007
  • Barry, Angus, Scotland
    • The Accidental Smallholder
Re: house cows
« Reply #11 on: March 13, 2014, 07:22:37 pm »
 :hugcow: We bought two weaned heifer calves in autumn 2010 and now have seven animals - the two originals, a 2012 daughter form one and a 2013 daughter from the other, and a 2012 bullock (destined for the freezer this autumn) and a 2013 bullock plus our bull (destined for the freezer this autumn). Three calves due in May. They're addictive  :)

I did intend to milk them but haven't got round to it yet - maybe with Annie, this year  :fc:

david c

  • Joined Jun 2013
Re: house cows
« Reply #12 on: March 13, 2014, 11:31:48 pm »
sorry to hijack the thread, but re the Jersey House cows, Sally - how many calves do you have on them at anyone time? How easy do Jerseys take to adopted calves? Do they still have their own calf on when you foster another one on? Are you taking milk off them for the house at the same time and if so how much do you get?

cheers David

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: house cows
« Reply #13 on: March 14, 2014, 09:25:28 am »
how many calves do you have on them at anyone time?
Depends on the cow, her production, but up to 3 so far.  I don't think Plenty would ever have enough milk for 3 at a time but Hillie works hard so has managed 3 at a time.  I could see her having four if I had 2 nearing weaning and was getting a new pair established - but I'd have to be managing their access to her so that the older ones didn't take all the milk.

How easy do Jerseys take to adopted calves? How easy do Jerseys take to adopted calves? Do they still have their own calf on when you foster another one on?
Hillie huffs and puffs a bit when you first put a 'stranger' onto her, so you have to manage feeding so the calf gets enough for a week or two.  But once it smells of her she lets it drink.  After the first set, once her own calf is weaned, she will then love the next like her own after about two or three weeks.  When she still has her own calf on, no other calf gets mother love but is allowed to suck and she will take care of them all when they're out in the field.
Plenty hasn't taken to it quite so well, partly I think because I didn't manage the first set-on quite so well as I did with Hillie.  But again, after a while she accepts that there'll be two suckling and #2 works out to nip in at the back when #1 is suckling.  She never quite really loved her second set, but did take them out with her and let them suck.  Hopefully she'll be happier about it this time (this is her second lactation.)
This time around I am running the two of them together, both with their own calf and a pair of set-ons.  It's pretty much a free-for-all, everyone suckles everyone!  It's working well actually, as Hillie has so much more milk than Plenty, so when Plenty's empty anyone who's still hungry moves over to Hillie!

Are you taking milk off them for the house at the same time and if so how much do you get?
Yes I take milk for us, and lambs, too.  I take what I need.  The cows are kept apart from the calves overnight, then fed and milked if I want milk.  Then the calves get on to drink what's left.  If the weather's nice they all go out together during the day, otherwise the calves are in a strawed area and the cows go into the cubicles.  If they've been inside all day, I put the cows back with the calves in the evening for a few hours.

I mostly take around 2L a day for us, when I'm feeding lambs I may need more.  One of the set-ons is a month older than the others, so he can be weaned earlier if I need more for lambs later on.  And if I need twice-a-day milk for lambs then I may not let the calves run with the cows during the day.

I get the calves eating cake as soon as they will, which means they don't starve if mum is a little short now and again ;)

Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

david c

  • Joined Jun 2013
Re: house cows
« Reply #14 on: March 14, 2014, 10:56:08 pm »
many thanks for the detailed info Sally - very interesting as I am contemplating various options at the moment and calf rearing this way for veal looks worth more investigation.

cheers David

 

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