Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Cow for Anyone: What Cow Can Work for Your Homestead

Okay, that statement was a bit too all consuming; however, the truth is
there is a breed of cattle that will work for almost anyone with a bit of land
and a willingness to learn proper husbandry.

The Dexter or a Dexter Cross

This little cow can be the whole homestead dairy package.


this little cow does a great deal for a farm on just a little bit of land.

We initially began our cow experience with a Full size, high production lined Jersey heifer in 2009.

She was a beauty of a cow. A Big cow.


What more could one ask for?

Well, with vast amount of land, resources, LOTS of grain, quality hay, pasture, an outlet for all ten gallons of milk each day. . . 

Not much could be better. . .

But I did not have any of those things at the time.

The years went on, more than two, in fact,
and our lovely cow grew up, and the fears of how we could
sustain such a cow here grew with her.

(You can read about that here)

Resources in terms of land, time and money was one matter we couldn't overcome at that point.

We had more cow than we needed. 

The size of the Jersey is modest, as far as cows go, very much so.

When comparing the fairly small size of a Jersey to:

A Holstein


A Guernsey

 the Brown Swiss

The Milking Shorthorn


The dainty Jersey looks downright tiny. . .

But still around 900 pounds of higher production dairy cow, she 
still means big commitment, big feeding and more impact on the land.

This is not the only reason small Dexter cattle 
 make such an excellent choice for a homestead, and it isn't why, for 
a time, they were a good choice for us:



 Dexters do make less impact on the land with their small size, 
and in a hilly area like West Virginia, this is a huge plus. 

They also forage on weeds and brush, in addition to grass, 
by nature in a way most cattle do not, 
especially traditional dairy cows.

This breed does not strip the land in the way cows do
unless you grossly overgraze an area.

With proper rotation, 2 cows with calves seem to do very well on 5 acres, 
especially if you use rotational grazing. 

They eat things other breeds leave behind, making use of weeds and brush a bit.

They make an good beef cow while giving high butterfat milk.
They don't excel at either independently compared to a true meat or true dairy cow, it is true, 
but they are excellent in doing both at the same time.

Their small size makes them very easy to manage, 
and their bulls pretty docile, as far as bulls go.


Dairy goats and most  dairy cattle breeds cannot maintain good condition
on grass only, but Dexter cows usually have no issue with this.

You will not be flooded with more milk than you can use, for sure, though.

You are looking at a gallon a day with the cow still feeding her calf,
 if you choose the right milk lines.

Dairy steers have little value in a market area (though the people
who take the time to finish them say the meat is excellent).
Dexter steers should have a beef value in a market forum. 
They finish faster and have a beef carcass that people often prefer.

This is another economic advantage all around.

You do not have to be a rocket scientist to formulate a regime to prevent milk fever,
mastitis or any of the other plagues of the high production dairy cow because the Dexter
rarely has bouts of mastitis and hypocalcemia. They do not have the strain on their bodies of
 the high production cow. This is a huge benefit to the average small homestead farmer!

They are thrifty and hardy overall.

You do not have to be tied down to milking twice a day or at all if you wouldn't rather not.

The Dexter can produce enough for her calf
or for a small family and her calf. 

You can milk, you can not milk.

 This is not the case, typically, with a Guernsey, Jersey, Holstein or Brown Swiss. 

The average small homestead can look solely at the hardy,
 milking Dexter as a beef and milk animal.

They can truly fill an off grid, sustainable or self sufficient farmer's dream!

While nothing will ever make me love the ever pretty Jersey cow less, 
but for many people looking for a family cow,
the Dexter is what they really need. 

The only  draw back I've found to these cattle is they are flighty if not handled from birth.
You will find it harder to find gentle milk cows in these breed than the other breeds.

For me, these days, I raise MINIATURE Jersey cows, but I will
always appreciate the Dexter and often sing the praises of the Dexter or Dexter Cross, especially the Dexter x Jersey cross for those looking at more milk, smaller sized but a hardier cow, than the Dexter or Jersey alone would offer.








Saturday, April 7, 2012

Spring has Sprung

Our journey into successful seeds starting is still  a work in progress.

We have some plants growing very well, and then others, not so much. . . 

Some. . . not at all.

I really like the set up my co-farmer (read: Husband) set up with PVC pipe for
under $50, including lights, too!

I am certainly no gardening pro, but all in good time. . .

All in good time.



Happy Easter, and remember the reason we celebrate. . . 


Pages

LUCAS FARM

Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds. For riches are not for ever: and doth the crown endure to every generation? The hay appeareth, and the tender grass sheweth itself, and herbs of the mountains are gathered. The lambs are for thy clothing, and the goats are the price of the field. And thou shalt have goats' milk enough for thy food, for the food of thy household, and for the maintenance for thy maidens

- Proverbs 27:23-27




"I know of no pursuit in which more real and important services can be rendered to any country than by improving its agriculture, its breed of useful animals, and other branches of a husbandman's cares."

- George Washington