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Author Topic: Pet cows?  (Read 6181 times)

Remy

  • Joined Dec 2011
Pet cows?
« on: July 10, 2015, 07:24:12 pm »
I know nothing about cows, but am thinking about getting a couple (or a female with calf) as pets - primarily to eat grass!  My horse population has dwindled and I'm not going to get any more, so after considering all the grass-eating possibilities thought I'd ask about cows.


I do have a flock of sheep, and couple of pigs so am not new to livestock.


My questions are, what kind of cows would make good pets - dairy or beef?  I have a hankering for Belted Galloways, although have no idea what they are like or what I'd be expected to pay.


Are certain breeds friendlier and easier to handle than others?  Any to avoid?


Would I have to get specific cow handling equipment?  I'm aiming to have a halter trained cow or at least halter train it myself.


What comprises basic cow husbandry (feet trimming/worming/fly treatment/tests etc?)


What age cow is best?


Thanks in advance  :)



1 horse, 2 ponies, 4 dogs, 2 Kune Kunes, a variety of sheep

trish.farm

  • Joined Feb 2014
  • hampshire
Re: Pet cows?
« Reply #1 on: July 11, 2015, 10:15:36 am »
What you get and whether to get cows depends on loads of things!!  Assuming you have plenty of grazing (no idea how many acres you have) and some shelter (either built or natural) for the winter, then you can keep cows.  What you get depends on what you want to do with them.  Are you going to breed from them?  Do you want to breed and take milk from them? Or do you just want them to eat your grass??

I have 3 Jerseys who are basically pets, all halter trained from 6 weeks old.  I treat them like horses handling them.  Mine are pets but are bred from to a beef bull to sell or go in the freezer.  That way the girls are paying for their keep.

If you have small gentle cattle that are properly halter trained you can get away with very little handling equipment.  I have a makeshift crush for TB testing, etc.  2 gates wide enough for them to pass through that I tie them to for treatment.  (this is not suitable for anything bigger, stronger or wild!!)

Worming, fly treatment, TB testing, AI (if you go down that route) and all the odd things that crop up with livestock. 

I went down the route of buying my jerseys in at a couple of weeks old, it meant I could halter train them and teach them from a young age what was expected of them.  You can then build a great relationship with them.  I think that worked for me rather than buying in a full grown, un-tame cow!!

Good luck!!!

Rosemary

  • Joined Oct 2007
  • Barry, Angus, Scotland
    • The Accidental Smallholder
Re: Pet cows?
« Reply #2 on: July 11, 2015, 11:37:21 am »
I agree withTrish but remember you shouldn't keep one on its own - ideally they need company of their own kind.

We have Shetlands; small, docile and easy to handle; produce fabulous beef and we hand milk ours for the house. However, I wouldn't recommend them if you aren't going to breed from them - the breed is so rare, it really needs to be a working breed.

Me

  • Joined Feb 2014
  • Wild West
Re: Pet cows?
« Reply #3 on: July 11, 2015, 11:51:47 am »
Dexters are small, cheap and plentiful. Buy quiet ones though  ;)

Rosemary

  • Joined Oct 2007
  • Barry, Angus, Scotland
    • The Accidental Smallholder
Re: Pet cows?
« Reply #4 on: July 11, 2015, 01:49:03 pm »
Dexters are small, cheap and plentiful. Buy quiet ones though  ;)

Yeah, ask my vet about them  ;D

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Pet cows?
« Reply #5 on: July 11, 2015, 03:39:59 pm »
I agree withTrish but remember you shouldn't keep one on its own - ideally they need company of their own kind.

They also need company of the same age group and kind - so thinking that one cow and her calf is okay, because she has the calf for company, is not right.  She needs another adult cow for company, and her calf needs other calves to play with.

In practical terms, 3 is a realistic minimum.  Then if one has to be indoors to calve or for any other reason, you don't have a lonesome other bellowing her head off outside and/or rampaging through the countryside looking for her pal ::)

If you don't want calves, just literally want beasts as lawn-mowers and pets, then you could buy 2 or 3 bullocks.  Or retired dairy cows - Ayrshires and Jerseys fetch little in the fat ring, you may be able to buy ones which are no longer suitable for a dairy farm but have plenty of years left in them.  Dairy cows are generally fairly quiet, even soppy.

If you choose a beef breed then an older cow from a commercial beef suckler herd is less likely to be tame.  The suckler cow lives a fairly independent life, looking after her calf in a herd of like creatures, and doesn't see humans as providers in quite the same way as a dairy cow would.  This is of course a generalisation - we have a number of suckler cows who are soppy, but most of those came to us as calves and were reared here ;)
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

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Pet cows?
« Reply #6 on: July 11, 2015, 03:47:38 pm »

Are certain breeds friendlier and easier to handle than others?  Any to avoid?


Avoid Limousin.  Wouldn't choose Charollais either.  British Blues usually very quiet but avoid Belgian Blues if buying for breeding.

Buy from a farm where you can see that the beasts are quiet.  If you can't see them at the farm, you can tell a lot by how they act in the ring - in particular, how the seller acts around them ;)


What comprises basic cow husbandry (feet trimming/worming/fly treatment/tests etc?)

Adults need little.  If you are in a fluke area, fluking on housing and again 6 weeks later, or throughout the winter if outwintering.  Feet shouldn't need trimmed, although it's something to watch in dairy breeds if your ground is soft.

Youngsters need little while suckling their mums.  Worm and minerals on turnout for their second summer (first summer off their mums.) 

You will of course have to TB test at the prescribed intervals. 
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

Rosemary

  • Joined Oct 2007
  • Barry, Angus, Scotland
    • The Accidental Smallholder
Re: Pet cows?
« Reply #7 on: July 11, 2015, 04:06:21 pm »
And there's compulsory BVD testing in Scotland but I think it's only calves that need to be tested (but not sure).

Remy

  • Joined Dec 2011
Re: Pet cows?
« Reply #8 on: July 13, 2015, 02:11:54 pm »
Thanks for all the info.  I have 18 acres but some of that is too wet to keep anything on over winter.  I'm not looking to be milking, and wasn't considering breeding - just in having a couple of cows to help with keeping grass down - is this feasible?


I'm fine with the general husbandry - sounds like they are like horses/sheep in their needs re. worming, vaccination, fly treatment etc.


Are females a better bet than castrated males?  I obviously don't want to be bull handling or indeed handling anything that's rather wild!  So would prefer to get youngsters or even calves to get used to being handled and halter training.


At what age do calves get weaned and start grazing?
1 horse, 2 ponies, 4 dogs, 2 Kune Kunes, a variety of sheep

Me

  • Joined Feb 2014
  • Wild West
Re: Pet cows?
« Reply #9 on: July 13, 2015, 02:24:57 pm »
I would tend towards smaller, native type breeds if your place is wet

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Pet cows?
« Reply #10 on: July 13, 2015, 02:29:47 pm »
If you're not breeding then frankly I'd get bullocks.  (Mares / geldings ;).  Plus female bovines may jump a lot of fences to try to find a bull, and will come a-bulling every 21 days forever...   Though usually quieter over winter.)

If you are planning on keeping literally as pets, ie., not slaughtering and butchering and replacing with youngsters every couple of years, then you better choose a small breed!

Buying a pure beef or rare breed you will probably only be able to buy weanlings, so choose a seller who has done a lot of handling with them.  Beef calves normally get weaned quite late, around 8 months, but you may be able to arrange to get some castrated boys weaned a bit younger.  If you keep them in over winter, they'll get pretty tame anyway ;).

If you buy beef cross bull calves from a dairy farm, you can get them at a young age and bring them up yourself, so will get them very tame.  (Resist all games which involve them pressing their head into you in any way shape or form ;).  When they weigh nearly a tonne, you don't want them butting you, even in affection!) 

A lot of dairy farms will put some or all of their cows to an Angus or a Hereford, calves of either will be biddable and make nice pets. 

If buying unweaned, don't get ones under one month; if they make it to one month they'll probably do fine.

I usually keep them on milk to 4 months old, though many wean them sooner.  They should already be eating straw when you get them, and you can introduce them to grass straight away - but gently so their systems get used to it.

I get them on eating cake from about 6 weeks, just a little, then by the time I want to wean them they really like cake.  Giving them cake but no milk is not such a big deal ;).  I usually stop one milk feed first, then the second, so they are already used to eating cake when they are hungry for milk.

I keep them on cake for a couple of months after weaning if I can, depending on the time of year and the grass. Your grass will be a heck of a lot better than ours, so you probably wouldn't need to cake as much or for as long - but with ruminants, make any dietary change gradually, of course.

If you buy weanlings they'll already be castrated; if you buy babies direct from the dairy farm, you can ask them to get them castrated before you take them, or get the vet to burdizzo them for you while they're still small enough to restrain with a couple of people and a gate.
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

Remy

  • Joined Dec 2011
Re: Pet cows?
« Reply #11 on: July 13, 2015, 09:00:12 pm »
I really really like the red polls!  Any info on them?
1 horse, 2 ponies, 4 dogs, 2 Kune Kunes, a variety of sheep

marka

  • Joined Dec 2012
  • Moray, NE Scotland
  • www.facebook.com/WellsideCroft
    • Facebook
Re: Pet cows?
« Reply #12 on: July 14, 2015, 12:00:11 am »
The best piece of advice that I can give you is that cattle are addictive and despite any original intentions to just have a couple of pet cows etc, before too long, you're planning a full breeding program and buying a bull - trust me, I know, Ive been there................
Castlemilk Moorit sheep and Belted Galloway cattle, plus other hangers on.

Rosemary

  • Joined Oct 2007
  • Barry, Angus, Scotland
    • The Accidental Smallholder
Re: Pet cows?
« Reply #13 on: July 14, 2015, 08:50:08 am »
The best piece of advice that I can give you is that cattle are addictive and despite any original intentions to just have a couple of pet cows etc, before too long, you're planning a full breeding program and buying a bull - trust me, I know, Ive been there................

Me too  :innocent:

Remy

  • Joined Dec 2011
Re: Pet cows?
« Reply #14 on: July 14, 2015, 08:04:08 pm »
The best piece of advice that I can give you is that cattle are addictive and despite any original intentions to just have a couple of pet cows etc, before too long, you're planning a full breeding program and buying a bull - trust me, I know, Ive been there................


I'm a bit worried about that, as I originally wanted a few sheep to eat my grass, got given six orphans. Then got talked into having a ram, and now have about 57 .....
1 horse, 2 ponies, 4 dogs, 2 Kune Kunes, a variety of sheep

 

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