House cow

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1 month 4 days ago #557410 by Crumpy10
House cow was created by Crumpy10
Hi All

Been a long time lurker! We have a 12 acre block with Wiltshire sheep, goats, 4 new calves, (2 Angus and 2 Whitefaced)
We have in training an 10 week old Angus heifer with an awesome temperament soon to be a house cow when she's old enough. I have a few questions that I just cant find the answers to! We have had lots of calves before and sent them to the freezer. We have plenty of experience with horses and large animals. So we are not 'green!'

I have read that you can get at least 2 years milking from one calving. (The Harry Krishna's do this apparently) This isn't a priority but I would like to get as long as possible out of one calving, ie a year minimum and 2 maximum.
We plan on keeping calf and mum together and fostering on another. Ideally foster calf and calf stay and get fed by mum after we have milked her in the morning. (I understand you separate them overnight)

My questions are:

How soon after calving does she need to be mated if we wean naturally and are still milking in order to get as long as possible between calves? I don't like the idea of putting her in with a bull with a calf at foot. I am happy to do so if the calf is weaned... but she will still need milking while she is there...(we have a neighbours bull to borrow)

How soon after calving do you start milking?

How do you foster on? Is it really difficult? Would I be better off just feeding fostered calf with milk from her via a bottle?

How much milk do you get and subsequently how much of that is cream?

Apologies for the questions! My mind is burning!

Thanks :)

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1 month 4 days ago #557412 by Jaybee
Replied by Jaybee on topic House cow
I think you have the wrong breed of cow for your plan, beef cows (even if half-bred crossed with dairy) are unlikely to milk on for more than a few months, and generally won't produce large amounts of milk past the first couple of months. Also training a heifer to milk takes a bit of experience, and very tame animals are the worst to train from my experience with ex calf club calves.

The best animal for a house cow is a Jersey and it's good to start with a cow that's later on in lactation while you learn (if you're hand milking) as it's easier to milk them out properly.

For a dairy cow, I milk them out 2 days after calving. Leaving it that long gives the calf a good go at the colostrum and helps avoid milk fever, but you do run a bit more risk of mastitis compared to milking them out on the first day. Most of my dairy cows give 20 - 25 litres of milk, some will milk on for more than a year but plenty will dry themselves off (especially if there's a drought) which is why dairy farmers get them in calf every year. It's fine to run the bull in with a cow with the calf at foot after a couple of months.

Some cows accept foster calves, some won't. Lots will feed an extra one or two while they feed their own calf but won't mother up extra calves once theirs is weaned. You are less likely to have success with young cows and beef cross cows.
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1 month 4 days ago #557413 by LongRidge
Replied by LongRidge on topic House cow
From my experiences, a very good answer. We also have the problem that we usually don't get much grass growth during November to March, and again from May to September, so we would have to feed very good quality supplementary food, every day. So that makes the job very tedious and expensive. Also, the cow has to be milked every day to keep all the quarters producing lots of milk. Both of these factors mean that someone reliable has to be home every day to do the job every day.

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1 month 4 days ago - 1 month 4 days ago #557414 by Ruth
Replied by Ruth on topic House cow
Welcome to the forum. :)
  1. Where are you?
  2. "We plan on keeping calf and mum together and fostering on another." I wouldn't do that in the first year, until you know how much milk your hiefer will produce. First season milking will be less than subsequent years. When we have an extra, we feed via a feeder/bottle. Cow wouldn't take kindly to an extra.
  3. "How soon after calving does she need to be mated if we wean naturally and are still milking in order to get as long as possible between calves? I don't like the idea of putting her in with a bull with a calf at foot. I am happy to do so if the calf is weaned... " Put a bull with her whenever it's about nine months before you'd like her to start milking again, allowing 6-8 weeks minimum rest period before next calving.
    What's your problem with the bull being with her when the calf is there? Do you think it'll be embarrassing for her to have her calf watching? Bulls always go out with cows and calves in a beef breeding situation, otherwise you'd have starving, under-grown calves or empty cows.
  4. "How soon after calving do you start milking?" We usually milk some off on the next morning, for her comfort more than anything. Here we leave the calf with the cow for weeks, until we don't get enough milk in the morning for ourselves, then we start separating at night.
  5. "How much milk do you get and subsequently how much of that is cream?" Depends on the cow. Our Angus/Jersey cow, when we were taking all she would give us, would give us about 300ml cream every day off her nine or so litres in the morning. When we had an orphan calf to feed, we only took as much as we needed, prioritising feeding the other calf.
Last edit: 1 month 4 days ago by Ruth.

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1 month 3 days ago #557415 by Crumpy10
Replied by Crumpy10 on topic House cow
Welcome to the forum. :) Thanks! :)

Where are you? We are in the Manawatu

"We plan on keeping calf and mum together and fostering on another." I wouldn't do that in the first year, until you know how much milk your hiefer will produce. First season milking will be less than subsequent years. When we have an extra, we feed via a feeder/bottle. Cow wouldn't take kindly to an extra.

Great advice! Some farmers here foster on with no problems, that's why I was asking... I guess a tame house cow may be different?


"How soon after calving does she need to be mated if we wean naturally and are still milking in order to get as long as possible between calves? I don't like the idea of putting her in with a bull with a calf at foot. I am happy to do so if the calf is weaned... " Put a bull with her whenever it's about nine months before you'd like her to start milking again, allowing 6-8 weeks minimum rest period before next calving.

Ok, thanks, do they dry off naturally?


What's your problem with the bull being with her when the calf is there? Do you think it'll be embarrassing for her to have her calf watching? Bulls always go out with cows and calves in a beef breeding situation, otherwise you'd have starving, under-grown calves or empty cows.

Not sure why you suggested I would be embarrassed by her calf watching... I was more concerned for the safety of the calf and also mine when it come to milking her with a bull there as well.... I wasn't sure if you took the calf away as so many farms seem to...

"How soon after calving do you start milking?" We usually milk some off on the next morning, for her comfort more than anything. Here we leave the calf with the cow for weeks, until we don't get enough milk in the morning for ourselves, then we start separating at night.

Ah ok! so when you dont get enough you separate, seems easy enough!

"How much milk do you get and subsequently how much of that is cream?" Depends on the cow. Our Angus/Jersey cow, when we were taking all she would give us, would give us about 300ml cream every day off her nine or so litres in the morning. When we had an orphan calf to feed, we only took as much as we needed, prioritising feeding the other calf.

Do you use a separator for the cream? I understand this gives you more cream as it separates the cream from the milk better....

Thank you for the advice. Much appreciated.

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1 month 3 days ago #557416 by Crumpy10
Replied by Crumpy10 on topic House cow
From my experiences, a very good answer. We also have the problem that we usually don't get much grass growth during November to March, and again from May to September, so we would have to feed very good quality supplementary food, every day. So that makes the job very tedious and expensive. Also, the cow has to be milked every day to keep all the quarters producing lots of milk. Both of these factors mean that someone reliable has to be home every day to do the job every day.

Where we are we have more grass than stock, we make hay and feed that adlib in the colder months. We are considered summer safe and don't tend to runout of grass.
Thanks for the advice. :)

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1 month 3 days ago - 1 month 3 days ago #557417 by Ruth
Replied by Ruth on topic House cow
You might like to put your region in your profile, so it comes up with your identity in anything you post. It helps for answers, since we all have different climatic/growing conditions.

To wean you will need to separate a calf from the cow physically, on either side of a good fence. They yell for each other for a few days but it's helpful to both sides if they can see and smell the other still. If you're still milking the cow, just up it to twice a day for a bit and keep feeding both as much as possible. We never dry off the cow at the time we wean the calf, preferring to taper off the amount we're taking from her. (Beef cows I just separate and they dry off after a few days' discomfort.)

Tongue in cheek re the calf watching its mother mating. I couldn't think why you'd be concerned. Sometimes a calf gets knocked about a bit but only if it's silly enough not to learn fast and get out of the way. I took a recent picture of the bull pushing against one of the calves while he was trying to feed! We always have an accompanying cow and calf with our house-cow, so shut the bull out of the milking area and even use some electric tape if the cow is actually on heat and the bull might try jumping over something to stay with her. Never let a bull get the idea he could try a bit harder to get with a hot cow and then learn to do it. Electric fencing is great; essential even.

Some people use separators. I'm too lazy for all that washing up. I use a wide holey spoon because much of the time the cream is really thick, almost like a bit of soft leather after the milk has sat for 24 hours in the fridge.
Last edit: 1 month 3 days ago by Ruth.
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1 month 3 days ago #557418 by LongRidge
Replied by LongRidge on topic House cow
If you have the bull with the cow and calf, keep the bull out of the milking area. A yearling bull is very strong, and bulls can jump more that 1 meter from standing. If they hit rails on the way over, steel rails bend and wooden rails break :-( .
If the calf is a heifer then there is a chance it will get mated from about 10 weeks onward if it has any dairy in it's breeding. You do NOT want to have a one year old heifer calf trying to calve :-) . So about 4 weeks after the bull has been separated from the heifer calf, get the vet out to inject the calf to abort it. We get the vet to also do a pregnancy diagnosis of the cow/s when he is doing the heifer calves. We have also had to get bull calves operated on during this visit to castrate the calves because the testicle/s have not dropped to be able to rubber ring them.
When my fingers are cold they get stiff, sore, and weak, so I am unable to get much milk out of a cow on a cold Manawatu morning. Also we have Herefords which tend to have small teats so are more difficult to hand milk. Thus if I were doing it I would get a cow with large teats, but not too large or they will drag on the ground so will need warm water in the milking area to clean the udder before each milking. It's also difficult to get the bucket under the udder if it is sagging.
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1 month 3 days ago #557419 by Ruth
Replied by Ruth on topic House cow
Heifers with precocious puberty happen but they're not that common and really, if you're milking a cow every day and separating at night, you're going to see if the calf is of interest to the bull.
Women are also vets.

LR will tell you every possible disaster that can happen in the most extreme instances. Usually those things don't occur.
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1 month 3 days ago #557420 by LongRidge
Replied by LongRidge on topic House cow
Exactly .... but when they do occur it is a disaster, and unnecessary suffering :-( .

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1 month 2 days ago #557421 by SepiaSue
Replied by SepiaSue on topic House cow
We had a house cow for many years and sharemilked with her calf ... kept the calf on her for about a year at least once, until she got a bit fed up with the calf... (it got bigger than her and we felt she needed a rest from it) Sharemilking with a calf meant we just separated 8-10 hours before milking her. That way we could go away for a weekend and just leave the calf to guzzle all the extra milk if necessary. With a share calf the milking is not such a bind. We could also choose to milk in the morning or evening, depending on my husband's shifts. She was an exdairy 3/4 friesian 1/4 jersey so had tons of milk... so much so that mastitis was something to watch out for in the couple of months after calving. In fact we had so much milk we either gave it to pigs, friends or an extra calf.
We did manage to mother other calves onto her but she wasn't tempermentally suited to it and it required starting soon after birth, standing by her and making sure the adoptive calf got a drink several times a day, then collaring her calf and the adoptive calf together for a few weeks to help that process. Sometimes she would only let the adoptive calf drink if we were standing there... Other years we gave up and trained the new calf to bucket feed - this we read about in one of the "Little House on the Praire" books, and is quite successful and saves the bother of bottles and teats ... you stand around the calf, pop your fingers in it's mouth and lead it down to the milk in the bucket. It soon gets the hang of it and doesn't require your fingers to suck on any more.
Whether a cow will take another calf easily depends a lot on their temperament. We had another cow that took a second calf as easy as pie ... she was so generously motherly that she would let almost any calf drink off her if they wanted. So you'll just have to try it and see if it works for your cow. As others suggest, probably don't do it the first season.
You can start milking a couple of days after calving ...I can't quite remember.... but the first few days it's got colostrum in it too and looks funny and we only did it to make sure she didn't have mastitis... after all, her breeding was to produce lots of milk and one little calf might not drink enough for her. Probably after about a week the milk will taste quite normal, from memory.

Cream levels will depend on the breed, and her feed. Also on whether you only milk the foremilk and leave the hind milk for the calf (you'll get less cream) or if you milk her completely out you'll get more cream towards the end.

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1 month 2 days ago #557422 by Stikkibeek
Replied by Stikkibeek on topic House cow
Fostering on can be easy or hard. A lot depends on the cow and her acceptance of the strange calf. The sooner it is introduced while mum's hormones are raging, the better. Will your cow tie up and let you handle her in a yard. You will have better success fostering on, and if she proves to be resistant to feeding two calves, there are good hopples that you can use to stop her kicking the new calf. If you are planning on milking the cow as well, then two calves might be a bit much especially for a heifer. It is better to freshen the cow each year with a new calf. After calving the cow will not begin to recycle again for up to 3 months and sometimes a little more time. If she is running with a young steer, you are more likely to notice her in season and could then borrow the bull. She will cycle around 21 days each time and stop once in calf again. If you try to continue to milk her non stop for more than a year, you will need to feed her super well. Are you prepared to cover droughts etc when feed will be lower and less nutritious. All this can have a bearing on the ability of a cow to milk and she will lose weight badly. Collaring can also help, but be prepared to accept that sometimes one or both calves will get kicked until she is used to them. You can milk off excess colostrum and freeze it for use if you need it for another calf but make sure newly born calf does get as much as it needs over a couple of days, and the calf gut is only receptive for a short while.

Did you know, that what you thought I said, was not what I meant :S
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3 weeks 5 days ago #557430 by Crumpy10
Replied by Crumpy10 on topic House cow
Brilliant info! there is a lot here and i am really grateful! :) Thanks heaps.

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2 weeks 3 days ago #557457 by Inger
Replied by Inger on topic House cow
And if anyone has a Dexter for a house cow, be aware that the Dexter breed matures very early and you need to have the bull out of the cows before any heifer calves reach 4 months of age. The bull calves will need to be ringed before 4 months of age, but preferably within a month or two of birth. The day after birth, the calf is easier to catch and hold, to put the ring on. Just make sure the cow is behind a fence, while you're doing so, as they can be quite protective.

We put our bull in with the cows, two months after calving.

45 hectares between Whangarei and Paparoa
Herd of Registered Dexter cattle
New Hampshire Red poultry & Dorking poultry and Sicilian Buttercup poultry
Pilgrim Geese, Appleyard Ducks.
Polled Wiltshire Sheep, both black and white
An old Heading Dog called Lad and a cat called Pusscat,

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2 weeks 3 days ago #557464 by LongRidge
Replied by LongRidge on topic House cow
If you are able to put the ring within the first few days, especially within 24 hours, then this is very good practice. However, be very, very careful to ensure that you have both testicles. Young calves can retract them up into the body rather too well, and a "rig" has very bullish behaviour and can sometimes be fertile.
By 2 months the testicles can be too large to force into the rubber ring, even one at a time, because with most ringers the stretch of the elastic is too much to open the ring wide enough. So do the ringing as young as possible, and put on 2 rings at the same time.
Another problem with doing it too late is that the minor infection of the wound can get fly blown if the weather is warm enough for blowflies :-( .

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