Feel free to comment or ask questions here:

[Note: Some of these questions have been transferred to relevant sections as we update the information available online, in order to help make searching for particular items easier.]

FAQ: A family was looking for an “all-in-all” reference book about family milk cows:

Sorry, that book does not exist!

You can search online for books. I borrowed some through the library first to see if I wanted to purchase any of them. I never did, but rather wrote down a few notes from the books that I wanted to keep on hand.

Joann Grohman’s book “Keeping a Family Cow” is an informative start for those new to the dairy industry.

I would also recommend looking online.

Magazines Progressive Dairyman or Hoard’s Dairyman can answer some your questions, even though they’re intended for larger farms.

The best long-term resource is to know a dairy farmer you can call or visit with issues about. One of the main reasons we have never “published a book” although handy for reference, is because the cow world and our knowledge is constantly changing.

FAQ: About a new cow and adapting to a new environment:

Getting a cow mid-lactation like you did and all the changes… You might not get much milk the rest of the lactation. Some cows just take change a lot harder than others. If she is bred, too, then she’s naturally going to decrease production.How tall is your grass? Cows are picky and they like nice tender stuff. If you have a mower (on highest setting) or even better a brush hog, you can “clip” the fields/pasture occasionally to keep the grass growing and nice, soft, appealing for the cow. Your pastures will last a lot longer if you clip them, so that’s always helpful.Someone already mentioned soaking your alfalfa pellets or buying hay. If you cannot find good alfalfa hay, then I’d agree to soak them. The cow should like them, or you could add some grain or molasses to “sweeten” the mixture to appeal to her. I like beet pulp too. You might consider a mixture of the two (beet pulp = healthy rumen and glossy coat.) My first cows were very grain-fed, so I had to just put grain on top of soaked beet pulp and let them very slowly adjust (like, over half the lactation to get them excited about beet pulp).If your cow is not enjoying her hay, then cows can get real picky and stubborn and even starve rather than eat a bad bale. You may not see why, but she senses something bitter or wrong. It’s a good lesson in buying one bale to test out on her before buying tons of hay!! Remedy is to just find different hay for her.With all the stress of moving, changing owners/handlers, new feeds, new environment… Don’t expect much milk and don’t expect her to gain much weight. If she’s letting down well and seems content, then you should be able to stabilize production. But your real goal is to just slowly improve condition (and I mean from now until Thanksgiving!! Takes time!) until you get her just a tad chunky, then calve her in and milk that off and you should be good to go condition-wise!
FAQ: When should I cut off extra teats?

You should check a heifer at a young age (3-6 mo) to see if she has any extra teats. If you know what you are looking for and see an extra teat, you can use a sterilized clean curved surgical scissor and snip off the extra teat. It’s a similar concept to using a gouge to dehorn. The curve of the scissors clips just under skin level to take off the whole teat so it will seal up and heal over. If you catch them at that age, the cut should heal up very quickly and never cause you a problem.


Canadian Dairy Network: http://www.cdn.ca/home.php (Research information on BULLS)

Keeping a Family Cow: http://familycow.proboards.com/index.cgi (Great support from fellow family cow owners and owners of small dairies)

National Association Animal Breeders: http://www.naab-css.org/db/ (Look up bull information)

Dairy Cow Daily: http://dairycowdaily.com/More-Excellent-93-Point-Jerseys.html (Keep up on news of good genetics)

Penn Dutch Cow Care: http://penndutchcowcare.org/ (Treating Dairy Cows Naturally)

Archived Book “The Jersey, Alderney, and Guernsey Cow: Their History, Nature, and Management” http://www.archive.org/stream/jerseyalderneygu00haza#page/n7/mode/2up

American Livestock Breeds Conservancy: http://www.albc-usa.org/dairy/heritage_dairy_animals/dairy_farming.html

Dairy Information Resources: http://babcock.wisc.edu/node/120


51 thoughts on “FAQ & RESOURCES

  1. Hi, i have a Jersey 4yr old that is due to calve any day with her second calf. She still has her horns, I have had her for 3 years, have never milked her but she is very gentle and I think would do fine… she loves attention, likes being scratched but gets a little pushy. don’t think she would intentionally hurt me with her horns, but I really watch her. I am contemplating having the vet cut her horns off ….. is there a problem having them removed at this age? i didn’t do it before because she is so pretty with them … but safety is also a factor.


    1. Hi Pam – I would definitely wait until after the cow has calved, at least a couple weeks – because the weeks before and after calving, a cow’s immune system is at its lowest. So avoiding stress is best. Until then, if you have a stanchion or tie area you can milk her so that her horns are safely out of the way, that would be good. As far as the actual dehorning, I have heard of adult dehorning being successful – one vet I know uses a sort of wire to cut the horn off. Some procedures create a lot of blood/bleeding and others do not. If the person dehorning your cow does cause a lot of blood, be sure to have them cauterize the area with a burner, which will stop the bleeding and help prevent infection. If there’s blood, it’s always good to clean around the wound area and prevent flies from getting to the area (Blue-kote, fly repellent salve, etc.)


      1. Thank you for your response…:) It will be a couple of months before i can haul her to the vet to get the horns done as i have Snow and slick roads at this time, so that should work. I do have a stanchion that i will use.


  2. Jessica

    Good morning,

    I have a question about production amounts in a newly freshened full Jersey heifer (the calf (half Jersey, half mini-Hereford) was born one week ago today). We began by taking a pint per quarter once per day and have gotten up to 1 gallon total (although we’ve gotten more like 1/2 gallon for the past 2 days). We’ve been milking her once per day. We have also left the calf on her all day with plans to separate them at night starting at 6 weeks.

    Is this amount normal? We’ve heard that Jerseys can produce 2-3 gallons per day on grass/hay (we don’t want to feed grains) and we want to be sure we are not doing something wrong. Also, the cream has been thin (thinner than the cream we used to get from a neighboring farmer before we got Rosie). However, her colostrum was nice and creamy – it has just changed in the past few days.

    We just want to be sure to correct any issues before we get too far down the road to make a difference. Any advice would be very, very appreciated. Thank you very much!


    1. Share milking is a complicated issue and each cow is different. Next lactation, I would encourage you to milk her out from day 1 – a Jersey cow is almost always 99.9% of the time going to milk a LOT more than a newborn calf can consume. By not milking her, you are telling her to only make enough to feed her calf. Milking once a day also tells a cow not to produce much. Some people milk once a day and leave the calf with the cow the other half of the day, but heifers can be pretty notorious for not liking that schedule. It’s a jewel of a cow that gives both the human and the calf her milk!

      Which leads me to the second likely issue – that she is holding up her milk from you. A cow can willfully refuse to give you all of her milk, as in her mind, she’s saving it for the calf. When milking a cow, you start by getting the thinnest milk (maybe 1-2% butterfat) and the very last of her milk is her cream (maybe 6-8% butterfat) and the sum total you get in the milk pail, if she gives it all to you, should be 4-6% fat. Thin milk this early in her lactation is likely from her holding up (based on the production you say she is giving you, you’re only getting the portion she can’t hold up, which is what is in the “cistern” section of her udder). Later in lactation, I would have guessed that she has gotten thin from being in milk a while. Heifers most often lose a lot of body condition, regardless of how well you feed.

      On the bright side, next lactation she should have higher butterfat content in general. She’ll no longer be growing and her body system will be used to the milking routine.

      A 2 year old 1st lactation Jersey should give at least 3 gallons per day (3-6 gallons would be pretty standard, total production, without calf). The first few milkings, she may not have that much due to edema, but by a few days into her lactation, she should have at least 3 gallons per day, even on a grass diet. This late into the pasturing season you will most likely need to supplement her with some grain to prevent ketosis. I urge you to watch her very closely, as ketosis can be life threatening if she does not get enough energy in her diet these first few months in milk.

      Suggestions for now – start separating the calf immediately. We don’t share milk, but I know you can safely separate cow and momma. I’d suggest visiting the Keeping a Family Cow forum to ask more advice on sharemilking: http://familycow.proboards.com/

      Also, you can milk twice a day for a while, to stimulate production. It may be too late, but it’s worth a try.

      If she’s really stubborn, you may soon be getting no milk at all. If that’s the case, you may be able to work out a plan with separating the calf and only letting it nurse at certain times. You may also need to speak to your vet about getting a few doses of oxytocin (the natural hormone that causes milk to let down) to give to the cow for a few milkings to make sure she is getting milked out.


      1. Jessica Morgan-Tate

        Thank you very much! I do have one more question. My husband tried to separate Rosie from her calf (Bert). She was very upset and damaged the stanchion as she panicked from not being able to see her calf. He did manage to get a full gallon of milk when he put Bert on one side and he milked the other side. So, we are wondering if it is possible to keep them together with a weaning nose ring and let him nurse when we milk? Or is he too young? Also, we have one quarter that produces pink milk? Is this something we should be concerned about? P.S. We really love your website – its been so helpful for us. We live in cattle country but its all beef cattle and no one seems to know much about dairy cattle – even the local vet has said she’s not really familiar with dairy cattle even though she handles beef cattle on a constant basis. So, we’ve really appreciated all the information! Date: Tue, 13 Oct 2015 15:51:46 +0000 To: jcmorgan25@live.com


      2. Hmm… It’s worth a try. 🙂 Calves can be really deceptive when left with temptation – and if they try hard enough, they can figure out how to nurse with the weaning ring on! (So frustrating! LOL) You’d want to look for a easily removable style.

        If you can give separation a try again and see how she does over a few days, maybe you’ll see she settles down into a routine. If you have a way of separating them so the calf is next to her, that might be less stressful. You really just have to try and see what works. I would separate right after a milking, not right before, and have the cow in a secure area where she can’t damage equipment.

        If that doesn’t work, consider separating permanently and feeding the calf from a bottle. It’s not worth someone getting hurt, so you’ll need to decide which is more important – to have the calf on the cow or to have milk for your family.

        Pink milk can be caused by blood vessels bursting from the edema at calving time. Fairly common in heifers as they’re developing an udder. There may still be some there, if you’re not getting her milked out real well, but it should be gone soon. If it’s not, then look for symptoms of mastitis.

        Glad to be of help. 🙂


  3. Didjit

    This is such a great page! Thanks so much for all the information. We have a few jersey cows and a few heifers. One cow is super sweet and has always been the first in and out of the barn and loves to be scratched and brushed. Yesterday the vet came to do a TB test on all the cattle and vaccinate the horses. Ever since he left this cow will not come near any of us and runs if she’s approached. He did get a little “cowboy” with her and I’m worried her trust in me has been violated. She should calf in about 60 days so its a bit of a concern. Have you ever experienced this sort of thing and what do you suggest we do to get back in her “good graces”?


    1. Spirited Rose Dairy

      You’re absolutely right. First, I’d consider if there’s another vet you can have come out in the future? The one we use is not very good at problem solving if we have issues, but he’s so gentle with the heifers when they get Brucellosis vaccinations that we ask for him!

      I generally don’t recommend feeding grain during the dry period, but if she likes grain, I’d look for a nice tasty molasses pelleted kind, or something she really likes as a treat. If you need to halter her to catch her, go ahead and do that (quietly) and then just hold the lead rope close to her chin and offer her some grain in your hand. Pet her gently along her neck, maybe scratch under her chin, and just talk real calmly to her. If the ground is not slippery (icy, etc.) you might even take her for a short walk. Just to say, “It’s me, I’m not here to hurt you, you’re OK!”

      As she gets closer to calving, and hopefully she’s settled down by then, you should work with her to practice your milking routine. Again, a little grain may be just enough incentive. Walk her into your milking parlor, feed a handful of grain, let her stand there a bit, and then release her. You can do that daily so she gets the routine. By the time you’re milking her, she should be good to go.

      Cows have long memories – they know when they’ve been violated (in their mind)! But in most cases, you should be able to bring her around, with patience and in a quiet manner! 🙂


  4. Tim

    She is great Jersey and in the past she would reach up to around 50lbs with 2x milking. Milking her out once a day sounds safe at least until the calf or calves could keep up. You certainly are echoing my concerns.


  5. Tim

    Hi guys, Its been a while and I have another cow question to ponder. Now with 3 out 4 cows bred we are hoping to allow our older cow be a brood cow to raise not only her own calf but hopefully the two calves due before hers. Considering her track record she would certainly have plenty of milk to go around, but what might be the best approach to getting her to adopt the two slightly older calves who will be approximately 4 to 7 weeks older. Since we expect to have two others close to fresh, will one, two, or three calves be sufficient to keep her milked out enough to not cause any issue? I am hoping to set the cow and calves in a separate pasture next to the barn to keep little calves from gumming up the works at milking. Thanks in advance for any input on this aspect of cow care.


    1. Spirited Rose Dairy

      This would depend on how much milk she is giving. At the beginning of her lactation, she “should” be able to feed three calves, but as she gets further into her lactation, that number may need to be adjusted down to compensate for her lesser production. A calf can survive on a gallon of milk a day (x3 calves, theoretically she could give as little as 3 gallons and feed those calves). But, I would worry that at only getting the minimum, the calves will remain hungry and could really damage the cow’s udder, trying to get more milk out of her.

      I would also be pretty concerned trying to put a 7 week calf on a cow. Two reasons – if the calf hasn’t been fed by a nurse cow up til then, they probably won’t take to a real cow (vs. rubber nipple or bucket). Secondly, that calf would be so much larger than the newborn, I wouldn’t want two together that far apart in age, at that age.


      1. Tim

        Good point about the potential age difference and competition/bullying. Ironically I was concerned that at freshening she would not be getting milked out enough! Feeding two calves then should not be a problem. This cow had twin heifers two lactations ago. Is it correct to assume the cow will adjust milk production relative to the demand of the calf or calves?


      2. Spirited Rose Dairy

        Again, it depends on how much milk she produces. What breed is she?
        Two calves may not be able to consume enough when she is first fresh. If you do go through with that plan, I’d still be cautious to watch her and maybe even milk her out (in addition to the calves) once or twice a day, that should gauge whether the calves are doing enough or not.


  6. Julia

    Oh, Thank you!! This is just what I needed! Now I will have a plan of action in this all-but-ideal situation! I never thought of testing the milk. That is a good idea. I will wait till after she calves at this point. So it might be possible to get some milk out of those two quarters after this new calf comes!? That was what I was hoping for. I guess we will wait and see. I’ve ordered the Spectramast LC and will start administering it tomorrow after she’s not been milked for three days.
    Once again, you have been such a help and encouragement. Thank you. If you’re interested I can let you know what happens in a couple of weeks!


    1. Spirited Rose Dairy

      Yes, I would like to hear how calving goes. 🙂

      Sometimes (50/50 chance) a cow does milk at a reduce level out of those shy quarter(s). It won’t be as much as her good quarters, and it will probably dry off or slow down earlier.


  7. Julia

    OK. I guess I don’t know the difference. I would say they were blind as in no signs of infection but she does have a large lump at the top of the udder (in a blind quarter) that is sensitive to my touch. As I think about it she doesn’t like me touching the teats of those quarters either. I can only get a few squirts of a clear liquid out of one and absolutely nothing out of the other one. Does blind mean that they are basically gone forever? If that’s the case it’s ok. She gives us plenty of milk with two but I just don’t want her with an infection forever if I can stop it. Sorry for all these questions but I really don’t know who to ask!! I really appreciate all the information you are giving me. I will call my vet tomorrow and talk to her about those medicines. That’s good to know I have a little time before the calf comes.


    1. Spirited Rose Dairy

      You’ve done the right first step by giving her Today treatments. That’s about as mild as treatments come, but as we talked about, you don’t want to give her DRY treatment tubes if she is at all likely to calve soon. That’s why I recommended something like Spectramast LC, which is a much stronger antibiotic, yet still for lactating cows.

      You’ll have to wait until she calves to see if they will give any milk. Then, you’ll have to wait probably 2 WEEKS of milking them, and hope there’s enough in there to get a sample (I think 3cc is sufficient, but check with a lab). Why? Because you won’t get accurate readings if a cow still has colostrum or antibiotic residue. But I do suggest getting her milk sampled for bacteria (and/or somatic cell), because that is your only way to know if there IS a bug bothering her (unless you see physical signs in the milk or udder).

      Because she’s a new cow, you can’t really know whether she hurts in those quarters or if the scar tissue causes her to be sensitive or what. If you can’t get any volume of fluid out and she doesn’t show symptoms, and you’ve treated her, I would not worry about the immediate harm of mastitis (it’s already done its course, your future action is to get the milk tested after she calves, as I mentioned above).

      Something to consider, if the two good quarters are healthy and you have not treated them, you could do a milk sample from those quarters to make sure she’s clean there (but if she’s dry already, wait til after she calves and send it in with the other samples).

      You’ll want to be real careful to separate your milking routine in that you’ll always want to milk the GOOD quarters first – and process that milk (calf, bottling, etc.) before touching the bad quarters. Be sure not to use the same cleaning rags on the good vs. bad unless you’re always careful to clean the GOOD first. Post-dipping after you’ve milked can be another safety precaution, I recommend iodine dips.

      I hope your vet is able to give you some good ideas as well…. it’s sure hard to find vets that know much about dairy!


  8. Julia

    I have a 6-7 year old jersey cow that I bought off craigslist. It was ok I just needed to examine her myself better before buying her. She was skittish and the guy was trying to load her quickly (I wonder why!?) so I didn’t inspect her till I got her home. She was in milk but not producing out of two of her quarters. She still gives plenty of milk for our family but I feel like it’s not good to leave her that way. I have tried two rounds of Today with no luck. She has lots of bumps on that side of her udder. It’s not particularly hot and she doesn’t seem to have any symptoms. Could it be something else? Well finally to my intended question. I knew she was bred but actually had no idea how far along she was. I was expecting Jan – May of 2015. I was going to dry her off soon and work on her udder to try to clean it up. Well this morning she had mucous coming out of her! She does seem to have dropped but her pin bones and tail head are still solid. Should I dry her out asap so she has time to rest before calving? What can I do about her udder? Sorry, that was really long!


    1. Spirited Rose Dairy

      In farming, most learning seems to come by experience. I’m sorry to hear about your troubles. If there is absolutely no milk coming out of the two quarters, and if they do not feel hot, red, or have discharge… then what you are dealing with is called a blind quarter (in your case, two blind quarters). Blindness most often comes from a case of mastitis that was aggressive enough to damage the internal milk secreting tissue – making the cow go dry in those quarters. At that point, the only thing you can do is when you dry her off, you could put a dry treatment in each bad quarter (for example, Spectramast DC, which you probably have to get from a vet). This will protect her during her dry period and if there is any lingering infection, this is your best chance to get rid of it. You will only know if these quarter are “productive” when she calves again. You will most likely get edema (swelling) in the quarters whether they make milk or not. If you do get milk out of her when she freshens, milk the quarters like normal, but do not expect much (if any) amount of milk. Oh, and the bumps in those quarters are probably scar tissue, they will probably never go away. A two quartered cow can still produce a lot of milk, that’s the positive note!!

      Now, your second problem is you don’t know when she is due, which can be a very difficult problem. Was she bred to a bull or from AI? Can you get ANY better information from the prior owner!?! Are you positive she is bred? (If your answer is no, then I highly suggest BIOTRACKING her before you dry her off: http://www.biotracking.com – it’s VERY accurate pregnancy testing). There’s also a milk pregnancy test, but I’ve never used that method so cannot advise to accuracy and procedure.

      If you’re fairly confident she IS pregnant, that she’s due soon, and especially if she is thin, then yes you could go ahead and dry her off (taking the risk you’re seeing the wrong signs….if you don’t first biotrack/preg test).

      Good luck!


      1. Julia

        I did have her preg checked with a blood serum test and she is pregnant. Yesterday she had a mucous “string” hanging out and she has never done that before. She is in great health and is a good eater. The guy I bought it from had her with his Angus bull for four months so I thought the window of due dates was Jan-April. She might have been exposed before they got her but I asked him and he has no idea. I will dry her off because the mastitis is bad but I’m afraid she will calve too soon to clear up the blind quarters!! Does that medicine need to be out of her system before she calves? I guess I’ll have to call the vet! Unfortunately, my vet knows very little about dairy cows. Thanks so much for your advise I am getting into more complications that I thought I would and I have no idea what I am doing!


      2. Spirited Rose Dairy

        I’m glad to hear you preg checked her. You can dry her off by just stopping your milking routine. If she’s this late into a pregnancy, that should be okay. If her udder gets really full after a couple days, you can milk it out once (if she looks really uncomfortable). At this point, you could talk to a vet about using a dry treatment, although ask about WITHDRAWAL times, as you’re correct – the dry treatment may have a longer withholding period. If you think she’s close to calving, ask your vet if they would recommend perhaps Spectramast LC (for lactating cows) or Pirsue or ??

        If she has mucous coming out that is a pre-calving slick – that you’re just now seeing – you probably have up to a few weeks, as cows will start that early.

        Be sure to take a deep breath, though, and don’t worry – even if a cow is milking and calves (it has happened to people before!) a cow’s body still knows to make colostrum!! So even worst case scenario, nature provides the miracle of colostrum for the calf.

        Is there anything coming out of the bad quarters? Because, as I stated in my first reply to you – if there’s nothing coming out and they don’t feel infected, they may be BLIND and not necessarily “mastitis”.


  9. Elizabeth

    Also we don’t have dairy cattle….. we have mixed breeds but they aren’t used for beef. They aren’t halter trained although I plan to halter train the heifer.


  10. Elizabeth

    I have a Heifer in a barn. She is the sweetest tamest calf I know. She may be 3 months pregnant. First question, when we let her back outside into the herd will she still be as tame as she is now? Second question, When she has her calf (i’ll do best to be right by her side when it’s time) Will she let me handle it?


    1. Spirited Rose Dairy

      Once out with a herd, if unhandled for several months, she may become somewhat skittish. We usually suggest bringing her in a few weeks before calving. Practice with her by walking her to where you will milk her. Maybe give her a nibble of grain so she knows it’s a good place to go. As cows age, if they are friendly, they tend to stay that way. Once milking, cows love routine and they should behave if you can provide a happy quiet routine for them.
      Most dairy cows are fairly tame when they have their calf (compared to beef, for example). Most let you be around the calf. Just always be aware, she will have lots of hormones running and she is a very big animal (compared to a human). Be aware of her and your surroundings and don’t let her pin you up against a tight spot.


  11. Hello, my family and I are just starting out. We don’t have a cow yet and are putting up a fence. I would like to know if one acre is good for a miniature Jersey. Also, how much (average) hay and grain would I need to get to last the whole year? Should I buy it all at the same time or spread it out? Also, can you use a picket line on a milk cow? We are in west tn and have pretty good grass…it is a chore keeping it mowed, so I figure a small cow would have plenty to eat. We are planning on doing grass-fed and all-natural/holistic approach with our cow. Any info hrs you can give me that would help us would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much!!


  12. Monique McKay

    Thank you for your wonderful website … I bought my first milk cow, Rainbow, in November. She came from a raw dairy and was bred and dry: she is a four-year-old Jersey/Angus cross and freshened two weeks ago. Until now she had not been hand-milked, and I have left the calf on her and milk her twice daily. She comes to her stall and trough where I clip her neck chain onto two chains with carbiners. She eats her ration while I milk her, on a cement slab in huge stall, about 20 x 16. The problem is that she finishes her ration before I’ve finished milking, and the dance begins. She hasn’t kicked me or even really tried, but she lifts her back feet and shifts from side to side … very annoying. I am halter breaking her and teaching her to lead, it’s going well. I have a good relationship with this cow, and think mainly we just lose patience with each other. I am considering building a stall within the stall, enclosing the front half of her body so she can’t sway or sidestep, and then maybe tying a foot. Maybe I should start with tying a foot. What are the chances she could fall? There’s no way I could get those carbiners off if she falls. Anyway, I would really appreciate some solid, practical advice …


    1. Spirited Rose Dairy

      No! Do not tie a foot! Once you do that she will really not trust you and it will take forever to regain trust.

      Here are a couple thoughts: 1. Have you tried hay? Will she stand still if she’s eating on a flake of hay instead? 2. Try taking away all grain. You could transition from grain to grain with some large rocks in it (so she has to search) to maybe a grain x soaked beet pulp mix to putting a little on top of a flake of hay to just a flake of hay to a dish of salt to nothing. Something to gradually get her away from simply grain.

      On our farm, our cows come down to a holding area where they are first tied and given a tub with chaff (the leaves from a flake of alfalfa hay) and a sprinkle of grain. Then we give them time to go to the bathroom if their the type to do that… and then we milk them.

      There’s going to be no way to “fix” her problem if you keep giving her grain. Some cows take longer to train, but the #1 rule is patience and get her off grain and you will always thank yourself for doing that! 🙂 Good luck!


      1. Monique McKay

        Thank you. I halved her ration and am dumping it on a square of hay.

        So I understand that eventually my cow will learn to stand tied quietly, like a well-behaved horse? Perhaps I should do some tie-up exercises, like with the colts?

        She lets down readily for me and is generally so quiet I can milk her in the corral, untied. She is habituated to grain while being milked because that’s how they did it where I got her, only with a machine. So maybe the problem also is that she thinks it’s only necessary to be still for ten minutes…

        Is there anything I should do to correct unwanted behaviour, like lifting her foot to kick? My horses are sensitive, so when teaching them to stand nicely a stern ‘Hey!’ or setting them up to stand square again with the command to stand (which we’ve worked on the lead) is how I do it … I know cows are smart, but I suspect she doesn’t care what I think about her as much as my horses do!

        I will try to do things right the first time with her calf, Bright. Easier than trying to fix it later!

        Thank you for your kind advice. I’ve posted and researched this problem elsewhere, and the suggestions were always physical; hobbles, tied feet, even throwing the cow. I am much more comfortable with this approach.


  13. John and Pam Schalo

    hi~ we have a 3yr old ayrshire, she has had one calf with no problems. and she has had no problems with milking.However about a month before her dry time the front right 1/4 slowed and then dried up completly. is this normal or should I be concerned? everthing seems healthy. Thank you , John


    1. Spirited Rose Dairy

      Cows do not always milk evenly out of every quarter, so some may dry off early on their own.
      This can be cause by being sucked on as a heifer (hard to know), or could be from damage from prior mastitis.
      If the milk is healthy, I wouldn’t worry about it, but you could culture and if something shows up, I would recommend a dry treatment for that quarter.


  14. Tim

    So here is another question. Since we are very fond of our cows we have a hard time parting with them and seem to operate as an old age home for some of our girls. At the moment we have three younger girls who provide (will provide) us with more milk than we need most of the time. To solve this “problem” we try to space our calves out by 4 to 6 months to keep our milk supply steady but not overflowing. This works great with only two milking but we have a young heifer just bred for next August, 2013 an older girl bred for next May 2013, and the fresh cow (October 2012)(who is doing great by the way no mastitis!!!). We would be drying her off at about the time the heifer calves next summer (mid august). The problem/ question is this; we are planning to to leave the fresh cow open until about June of 2013 before we breed her back so we don’t have the overlap of three cows milking at once. (Too much milk and time experience has shown) She would freshen in March-April 2014 which leaves a long period of being dry obviously 6-7 months). The concerns are getting over conditioned on simply pasture, hay and minerals, and any udder issues going so long dry. I know don’t have so many cows, but we do so…
    We know some cheese makers who only milk from November to May and focus on their market garden the other 5 months. Our cows have always been generous with their milk and even at 9-10 months will be producing nearly 20 pounds with 2X day milking. We supplement a small amount cracked corn and oats (4 cups or about 1.5 pounds per day when they are makaing lots of milk) with free choice salt and minerals. We wonder how they are able to sucessfully dry their cows off when pastures are starting to green up and getting lush. In the future maybe we would consider drying a cow off earlier to avoid the overlap but also don’t want to invite any problems by doing so.


    1. Spirited Rose Dairy

      If you have room to raise some pigs, that would be my first suggestion. Our pigs have not needed any grain since we started them on the cows’ milk. They get primarily fresh/warm milk, with a variety of “scraps” such as our household food compost, leftover zucchini from the garden, and today, they’re working on the pulp from our cider pressing. They very easily got up to 250# within 5-6 months!! Cheap meat, if you ask me.

      Second, it’s okay for most cows to be dried off early. Some people actually prefer 90 days to get the udder very “dry” for a while before it starts preparing for the next calving. As far as I know, there is no issue with the udder being dry so long. We’ve had old ladies calve after being dry over a year, and they sometimes to best ever, udder-wise!

      If you decide to go several months without calving, you do risk issues with the cow becoming fat. We have a two year old that got bred back a little late, but since she was always so thin (one of those hard to keep weight on) we have already dried her off and she’s not due til March. But, that’s a case of her needing to put on a lot of weight, so we think it’s worth that risk. If your cow is already chubby, then it would be better to milk her longer and just dump the milk out than risk her getting obese. A dairy cow is different from a beef cow in that she stores her fat on her organs. You may have heard of fatty liver, it has various causes, but one is definitely if a cow becomes fat. Yes, a dairy cow CAN become fat on a very minimal diet. It’s better to try to keep her from getting fat than to try to get a fat cow thinned down, so keep that in mind.

      We like to calve cows in in the fall as well. The first thing you would need to do is cut out the grain and take the cow off pasture while you’re drying her off. She may need to be penned up for up to a month, depending on how “productive” she is. A cow giving less than 20# a day should be able to dry off fairly easily. I’ve seen cows still giving 35+ and it’s much harder to dry off that cow, regardless of the season!! Once her udder is visibly collapsing, you should be okay to put her back out on pasture. Rarely does a dry cow need grain. Be sure to be gradual going out on pasture, even with your milk cows. Start them out at an hour or two and work your way up to full days over the next few weeks. Watch their manure to make sure it doesn’t get too runny.

      Last, if you feel that the number of cows you have is not feasible, or just too much work, you could always consider selling some of your handleable older cows (or younger, if you prefer). An older cow can be a very good animal for someone to begin on. I’ve often said to myself, “I could never sell that cow!!” But then, God always brings along the right person and a year later I look back and can say, “Wow, that cow is spoiled!” Here I was wanting all these cows, and sometimes, if the right home comes along, it can be okay to sell a cow. Not saying that’s necessarily what you need to do, but keep that thought in the back of your head. If you can mentor someone else, then that will help more people get access to good food and plus, people don’t realize how wonderful dairy cows are until they have their own! 🙂


  15. Tim

    Wonderful site! I wish you were neighbors! I have recently fresh ( 3rd lactation calved 10/15 healthy bull calf no problems wit delivery,ie milk fever, ketosis, retained placenta etc.) Straining the milk today for use I am finding some cheesey like clots on the filter. She is averaging about 2.5 gal per milking. Milk flows through the filter well. I suspect mastitis despite her being treated at dry off with Today 2X then Tomorrow in all four quarters. Before I go the antibiotic route, do you have any thoughts for helping her through this? Her udder is not hot or tender, just big with freshening


    1. Spirited Rose Dairy

      Fresh cows can calve in with mastitis, but where you dry treated her, I would be cautious in thinking it is mastitis. Was she actively sick with mastitis at the time you dried her off? Did you have a bacterial culture done before you treated her with antibiotics?
      I would go to three times a day milking for a few days. See if that clears up the clots. It could be just a fresh cow thing, and nothing to worry about. Lets hope that’s it. Unfortunately, fresh cows are not able to be cultured accurately. But, I would recommend that you find a dairy lab and call them to see when is the earliest you could have your cows milk cultured. Then, I would send off a sample in a sterile tube (labs or a vet should have these) to the lab to be cultured. If something shows up, they will let you know within a couple days (takes a while to grow the bacteria).
      Even if her milk clears up, I would send off a culture. I would also recommend getting a somatic cell count done, just to see what the overall health of her mammary system is. Colostrum and being just fresh skew all those results, so if they come back high, I’d test again in another week or so and see what is up.
      In the mean time, frequent milking, making sure you milk her out as completely as possible, a peppermint and tea tree oil lotion (like “Udder Comfort”), good quality hay and grain, and as little stress as possible are my first suggestions. 🙂


      1. Tim

        Thank you !! Good advice, I wish I knew what I’ve learned form your site over 8 years ago when I got my first cow. I need to get in touch with the extension lab from Cornell University (Quality Milk Production Services) to find out how to send them samples. (my vet can’t do scc or specific) I’ve had clots appear in the milk from my cows at times and sometimes things cleared up with what you suggest along with some immune boosting herbs/ supplements from Crystal Creek in Wisconsin. (I’m in northern NY by the way, in the Adirondacks). Sometimes things have not cleared up and bacteriological culture through my vet has shown staph or strep on different occasion with different cows (3X over 8 years). This cow did test positive for Staph aureus last year and I am always on the lookout with her. As for stress, my cows are quite happy cows, the farmer is the one stressed. 🙂 Her milk from last week which we saved still shows no off flavors or odors. Thank you again.


      2. Spirited Rose Dairy

        We’re glad to be of help. We started this website a couple of years ago when I realized there wasn’t much online that could be of help to family cow owners. My husband owned a 100 cow dairy for most of his life, so he has a lot of experience that needs to be shared! 🙂
        Cornell will be a good resource for you. Staph A can become a big problem, easily spread through bedding and equipment. So, good to keep on top of it, if you’re wanting to keep that cow.
        Good luck with your venture. Sounds like you’ve got quite a nice little operation going! 🙂


  16. Mirko C

    We were already wondering since we did not get a response back over a week. After the vet told us that it would cost $160 for him just to come out we continued to read read read and treated her to our best ability and with God’s grace she has totally recovered.


  17. Mirko

    Thank you so much for all the information, that was very kind. It was kind of hectic around here since we both had to work this weekend, but I did leave work twice to see how our cow was doing. When I came back the first time her temperature was 102.2. To play it safe I went by Tractor supply and bought some broad spectrum antibiotics. Our heifer did not like that at all, well who would,ha ha. She still does not eat and shivers. To answer your questions, we always give our animals fresh water daily and the water temperature is 50. We did notice that part of her stool seemed to be covered or wrapped with slimy tissue lining. She was lying when we got home and is now standing with a sleeping bag on her back.
    She is 4 years old and we feed her all the hay and 2lb of 12% sweet feed a day.
    Is there something else we can give her so we do not have to go to the vet?

    We hope this helps, and again thanks for taking your time with people like us.

    In Christ, Mirko


    1. Spirited Rose Dairy

      You’ve got us stumped… Hopefully the vet can get you some clear answers since they will actually be able to see the animal.


  18. Mirko C

    We are very new to this. Several months ago we got a bull,cow and a heifer dexter breed. Yesterday we noticed our heifer not wanting to eat anything. We were able to take her temperature 101.3 and one can tell that she was shivering. We put in shelter and added some heatlamps and gave her to be safe some wormer. This morning she seems to shiver a little more and has not touched any feed.
    Many thanks in advance, Mirko


    1. Spirited Rose Dairy

      101.5 is normal cow temperature, so that is fine. What has she been eating and what is her age? Any weeds? How cold is the water she is drinking?

      She could have a gut ache. What is her manure like? You can give her banamine, but the dosage would depend o her size… You could call your local vet and ask. Banamine will help slow down her system if she does have a gut ache and that’s our easiest and best treatment for animals that are just a little “off” their feed. Sometimes one dose is enough to get them eating, sometimes they require two or three days of banamine.


  19. Yani

    Thank you so much for your time and expertise. I suppose I hadn’t really thought that Daisy would be stressed by the move; other folks thought we’d been sold a ‘rogue cow’, (whatever that may be). Not having had any previous experience, I hadn’t thought it through and made it nice for her to stay with us, say with treats and such. I’ll go to the produce store today and start making it up to her! I really like your suggestion of tying her to a post regularly; her poor hoofs are a disgrace and our paddock will not gradually wear them into better health. I’ll let you know how we progress. Again, I am grateful for your help.


    1. Spirited Rose Dairy

      Absolutely! Cows can be moody, and they love to be spoiled. You’ll probably find she’s much smarter than people give cows credit for! 😉 We wish you the best of luck!


  20. Yani

    Hi Spirited Rose
    Your site is a Godsend at the moment. We have an 8 year old Jersey, new to our place, not sure of her history. I wanted her to keep the grass down on our 5 acres and for the manure for our desperate gardens. But the previous owners said she could be handled etc. I’m not planning to milk her or breed her. She can consider herself retired! But she seems so cranky. I have treated her for lice, and I go speak to her everyday. We keep the dog and the kids away because she looks irritated by their noise and she has charged at us several times. Now I go by myself to see her, and I put out my hand and say No in a strong voice and stand my ground. She swishes her head around and that is about it. Sometimes she tolerates a neck scratch. Its so sad to see her like this, particularly because she really needs her hoofs trimmed. Yikes! I can’t imagine the commotion that is to come. My question is, Is this just a cranky old cow with a rotten temperament? Or can she be rehabilitated? How much time could I expect for her to ‘warm up’ to her human family? Many Thanks, Yani


    1. Spirited Rose Dairy

      Can you contact the previous owner for any more information?

      What do you feed her? – If she is only out on pasture, you probably will not get far with “taming” her. If you feed some hay, she will learn in time that you are good! If you wanted to buy a bag of grain, you could bribe her into coming to you. Soon, even if you quit giving the grain, her mind should adapt to knowing you as something positive and nice, so she will want to come to you. You should also have available a salt block and preferably a loose mineral mix (in some sort of container easy to reach and under cover). The move caused stress, which can lead to mineral deficiencies. Until her body is back in balance, she may act upset or rude. Once her body has regained a mineral balance, she should improve a lot.

      Some older cows absolutely do not like to be moved from their environment. They were comfortable where they were at, and you up and moved them. So she doesn’t know why she is suddenly in a new place or how you will treat her. Always be patient with her, you will get a lot further! Give her time, as she gets to know you, she should settle down. This could take a few months. You are doing a good thing by keeping your kids away for now. As she keeps improving, you will want to involve them, maybe letting them give her some grain or treats. That way, she can adjust to their voices and movements and be comfortable around you all. This may take time, but most Jerseys are very sweet once they get into their routine.

      If you are able to put a halter on her, you can practice tying her to a pole and letting her stand tied for an hour or so. Teaching a cow to stand while tied is a very easy way to get them to realizing, “Hey, that person is boss!” If you cannot halter her, then try enticing her with grain into a stanchion. You can leave it open, pour in the grain, and then let her eat and leave. Do that a few days, then next lock the stanchion so she has to stay put. The key is to work slowly and keep at her pace so she does not feel pushed. She should come around, hopefully sooner rather than later! 🙂


  21. Caitriona

    Dear Spirited Rose,

    I know that you advise on your site never to milk through but I have!. My cow is only days from calving and her milk has started to turn to beestings/colostrum. Can I stop milking suddenly ?(I have been told that she can’t get mastitis while in beestings?) or must I stop gradually? I would appreciate your advice.

    Thank you.



    1. Spirited Rose Dairy

      I suppose the high immunity of the colostrum would have some additional affect against mastitis. Not knowing exactly when your cow is due, my opinion would be to probably just continue to milk the cow. By now, the colostrum may be compromised and a dairy calf must have excellent colostrum.

      What you will need to do is call up or go to your nearest farm supply store and look for powdered colostrum. Then follow the instructions on the packet. Feed the calf its first colostrum as soon as you see it is born and starting to get stimulated and moving around.

      Some studies have shown that cows milking right through may have decreased production in the lactation. Without the 60 days of rest, their body has not had time to build up stores of minerals, etc. for this lactation. So while you may have avoided a milk fever issue by now, keep your eye out for ketosis and have some free choice minerals available to the cow. Depending on where you live, you may be able to find dairy mineral mixes.

      This link may be helpful: http://familycow.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=cow&action=display&thread=48077

      In the future, you will want to dry the cow off 2 months before the calf is due. I know with bull breeding dates, this period of time can be hard to determine, but it would be safer to have 3 months dry than none.

      Good luck with your cow! I hope all turns out well!


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