Homesteading for Dingbats: DAIRY Animals - part 1

So you are thinking of adding a dairy animal to your farm or maybe you have
already bitten the bullet and have done so.

 I find dairy animals the most complex of all farm livestock

The learning curve is high. The differences in breeds is vast.
The things you need to know create a list a mile long.

There is so much I have learned, and there is so much I wish
I had been aware of 3 years ago.

I would have done things quite a bit different, but that is all
water under the bridge, and it helped to teach me a great deal
that have proven invaluable.

First the question you should ask yourself is why do you
want the dairy animal?

These animals have been bred for production, and almost
all require milking daily, some even with the offspring
are on them, though not all.

Are you ready for milking 1-2 times a day, like clockwork?
If not, if you feel unsure about dedication
to milking, then look into a herd share program,
if your state allows them. Contact
a local Weston A Price chapter leader for info.

What will you do with the milk? How many animals do you
need to fulfill the farm needs? Are you in a state where
herdshares or raw milk farm sales are legal? Do you have
chickens, pigs or dogs you can give excess milk to?
Do you want to make butter, soap and cheese? Do
you plan to breed to sales and for a quality animal
in addition to breeding for milk for your farm?

Dairy goats are easier and better suited to most farms
when compared to dairy cattle. They are easier on the land,
wallet and easier to milk and handle. They produce, if
well bred for production, more than enough for most
families, though making butter is not easy without a
pricey cream separator with goat's milk.

Goat's milk is fragile. Some folks just
don't like the taste. If it is handled right,
it taste like cow's milk. Many people do
not handle it right, and you do not have to
be as careful in the cooling of cow's milk.

The problem with many dairy goats is that
many dairy herds carry CL and CAE, which
are two things you do NOT want to deal with.
CL is a Zoonotic disease. This means people
can catch CL from drinking an infected goat's
milk. CAE is not contagious to humans, but
it is transmitted to goat kids from colostrum,
is fatal and painful for the goat. CL and CAE
are found is more than 50% of goat herds.

You do have diseases to be concerned about dairy
cattle, but it does not appear nearly as
rampant as what you find in the goat world.

Many Breeders of goats, because they are cheaper
than dairy cattle, breed anything. They do not
regard quality, conformation, milk production
or hardiness. Dairy cattle typically run higher
in cost, do not come in flashy colors and
leave folks less room to breed for pets
or without thought. Also, keeping a
dairy bull is so dangerous, many people
use AI to breed their cows. This assures
at least half of many heifers brought great
genetics to the table. Goat breeders are
notorious for breeding pets, flashy colors
and for blue eyes in Nigerians. So many 
do not often seem to regard the importance
of milkable udders, good production
and hardiness!

All of that said, dairy cows are massive
creatures to feed. Jersey cows are
prone to milk fever, Holsteins
give enough milk to flood a family
out for weeks on end. Cattle do not
seem as forgiving as goats when
nutrition is not exact. They seem to
have a much, much higher incidence
of mastitis. They really do not
given as much milk considering
body size and feed amounts when
compared to a mega production dairy
goat, either. Milking a cow is a much
longer affair, messier and even a bit
dangerous compared to milking a
goat. Goats rarely share bodily
functions while on the stand, but
cows will do so quite often. One
can deal better with a pint of pee
and a cup of pelleted poop easier
than runny cow pies and so forth.
Still, many goats have very difficult
to milk teats, where cows typically
will have easy to milk teats.
If you're looking to buy a bucket milker,
then this will not matter, but few homestead
folks have $800 to buy something
to milk a single animal or
even a few. Besides, with the
proper teat size, milking by hand
is quicker than machine milking.

Dairy goats must have grain
to produce. Please do not believe
otherwise. They have been altered
by selective breeding for so long,
there is no possible way to avoid
a good amount of grain during
lactation. There are some dairy
cattle, especially milking
Dexters and Jerseys, which can milk
on only forage. This is less
expensive and more sustainable.
Holsteins and many Jerseys, as
well as Guernseys and Ashires,
are not typically able to milk
without some level of grain.
But Milking Shorthorns, Minis and Dexters,
to name a few, are often able to milk
on grass alone, if it is of good quality.

I have found goats to be, on average,
much higher maintenance in regards
to health when compared to cattle.
They have serious mineral
requirements, and they have a much
larger problem with parasites. They
are likely to have more kidding 
problem, fall victim to issues from
feed changes, too much grain,
founder, mold and so forth.   

Milking a goat is easier on the back when
compared to milking a cow,
and I must say, the goat is a lot
easier to handle all around when milking!

If I am to be frank, for the average homesteader
that doesn't feel the call of dairy production
in her soul, the Dexter Cow or low production Mini Jersey
or Dual purpose smaller breed cow
is likely the BEST choice.

Obviously, I am a dairy fanatic with
not enough sense to fill a spoon because
not only do I have several breeds of Dairy goats,
but I also have a Mini Jersey cow.

Don't ask what I do with all of the milk.
I have not a clue.

Pick a direction, go that way UNLESS
Your last name is, like mine,
CREAMER and you have
dairy written all over you!

The reason I argue for the Low production
cows for most homesteaders, like a Dexter, is
you can leave a calf on her and
milk as needed. She isn't going to give so
much that you're doing to harm her
by not milking and allowing her calf
to take all of the milk. She doesn't make
so much milk, like a real full size Dairy cow, that a calf
can't consume it all. She can be dried up
quickly if need be. She can produce on only
grass/hay if high quality. The size is small
when compared to a full size Jersey.

NOW, if you are really more into the
goats for their personalities,
cheese making, small size (esp. when
talking Nigerians), ease of impact
on the land or so forth, then
YOU DO NOT want to miss my next
Dairy Animals: Part 2

This next blog with explain all you need
to know about buying goats, why goats,
things to look out for and what breeds
you want to consider and why!!

I will not further address cattle beyond this blog
in the Homesteading for Dingbats series (ha ha!).
My expertise, little as it may be, lies more with goats.

 I believe, for now,
I've given the average homesteader
A LOT to mull over and certainly enough
to decide which dairy animal she or he would like
to bring to the farm. Heck, you might realize
you are like us "Creamer's" and you need them all!

Gosh, I hope not - for your sake!