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Author Topic: Buying a cow for milk  (Read 14331 times)


  • Joined Nov 2007
Buying a cow for milk
« on: November 01, 2007, 03:24:14 pm »
I'm busy doing my homework before expanding my smallholding into the realm of cattle.  However, I'm finding it hard getting information on buying a cow for milk.  I'd be really grateful if you could help me with the following:
  • What types of dairy cow are most suited to a smallholder environment - we're talking a couple of acres here and a family of six?
  • At what point is it best to buy one - as a calf, after it has calved, or when it's already had a few years of milking?
  • How much should I expect to have to pay for one?
Er. . . okay, so I haven't found out much info yet, as you can tell.  Still, you could really help!



  • Joined Oct 2007
  • Barry, Angus, Scotland
    • The Accidental Smallholder
Re: Buying a cow for milk
« Reply #1 on: November 01, 2007, 07:38:26 pm »
I think it's quite hard to get the information you're looking for from "practicing smallholders today"! I suspect that very few smallholders keep a house cow - now there will be loads of responses to prove me wrong! I've kicked the idea around too, in an abstract way, so I will be really interested to see what advice you get.

Apart from not having enough land at the moment, the two reasons we don't have  a cow is 1) it would be difficult to get a minder if we did want to go away (throwing a bucket of pellets to a couple of pigs is quite different to milking once or twice a day) and 2) the time it takes to process the milk. I'd like to have a go at dairy processing though.

Seymour recommends Jersey cows as being small, easy to handle and giving high quality milk ie high butterfat. Downside is that the carcase of any bulls is inferior for beef production. The same would be true of any extreme dairy breed, though. If you didn't want a replacement for the cow from a calving, though, you could cross to  a beef bull which would help.

You could look at Shetlands or Dexters - they seem to be popular with smallholders. I did ask a breeder of Highland cows if they could be milked or would they just kick me into the middle of next week - and they said that Highlands used to be treated as dual purpose in the Highlands but were now regarded as a beef breed. However, you could milk them - milk of a high quality buut not a huge amount although additional feeding would increase yield.

I wondered of you could milk the cow once a day and then put the calf back in, but I can't work out the logistics.

I haven't even seen a book about house cows. My auntie and uncle had one - my uncle was a shepherd. I can remember the big pail of milk in the pantry and it being skimmed for the cream. Wish they were around now so I could pick their brains.

Sorry to ramble on - hope someone has something sensible to add.


  • Joined Oct 2007
Re: Buying a cow for milk
« Reply #2 on: November 07, 2007, 07:59:25 am »
We looked into cows as well, which is odd considering I have a phobia about anything with horns.  (Includes rams and large goats).

My research such as it was concluded that a jersey would probably be best for our use, being extremely gentle (albeit with horns) that I could buy an older milker cheaper, and hopefully her experience would make up for my lack of, that by putting both her and the calf in at night, but putting the calf in the stall next door rather than in with mum I could milk in the morning, leaving the rest of the days milk for the calf.  As I didnt actually go ahead I dont know how this would work.  At the time the cost of a jersey was around 500 euros, that was a specific older cow on offer. 

I have kept and milked goats quite successfully in the past, have you considered goats Rosemary?  They need far less space, and less feed in winter.


  • Joined Oct 2007
  • Barry, Angus, Scotland
    • The Accidental Smallholder
Re: Buying a cow for milk
« Reply #3 on: November 07, 2007, 06:21:05 pm »
Jersey's generally don't have horns - most cattle are dehorned or technically disbudded when they are a few months old (except for naturally polled breeds) so you'd be OK with your horn phobia.

I don't like goats milk, yogurt or cheese - absolutely gives me the willies - so no goats!


  • Joined Oct 2007
Re: Buying a cow for milk
« Reply #4 on: November 29, 2007, 09:11:59 am »
Sadly not over here, the cows have huge horns, even the sheep (Jacobs) have huge horns here.  Even tiny miniature goats grow big horns it must be the climate.  Thats why I think I shall stick to pigs.


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