FAQ from cow owners

Here’s the place to ask your questions. We reply to every question or concern, so post here and we’ll reply as soon as possible!

1. A lady recently asked about preventing milk fever in her cows that are close to calving. She has had a history of milk fever in past years:

How does your cows’ manure look? I’m guessing kinda runny right now being out on spring pasture? If so, you should see if you can find some oat hay to feed them. This will help firm up the stool and slow down digestion. The grass runs through their system so quickly that instead of hydrating it actually sucks out moisture. So, keeping their stool firm (but not constipated) will help. If you have to, you might just need to lock them up at certain times to get them to eat the hay. Another plus to that is that cows like to eat grass, then lay and cud. Well, they smoosh down the grass and get holes going and you lose valuable pasture land. So, if you want to, you can start getting them tuned into a milking routine of coming in for a little grain (not sure how you’re set up, whether one or all at a time). Then you could come up with a pasture routine based on weather. If it’s going to be a really hot day, then keep them inside under shade during the day to eat hay and let them out all night to pasture in the cooler weather. If still cold at night, then lock them up then for their hay and pasture in daytime.

Have you had hay taken off your fields that could be tested for nutrient content? Or taken soil samples? Maybe your fields are somewhat out of balance, like high in potassium where you could add some supplements to balance out the pasture…

You might talk to your vet about adding some Vitamin D or B complex vitamins around the few days before and after calving.

At their production and ages, you shouldn’t be having too much problem with milk fever…. There are a few things you can do to help around calving time.

1. Make sure they’re not fat or thin

2. You can give a preventative calcium or CMPK paste just before or after calving. CMPK is preferable, because often a cow has an imbalance in more than one area, so the combination covers the most important ones.

3. If the cow does come down with milk fever, treat ASAP! We IV a bottle of CMPK and a bottle of Dextrose into the cow. Dextrose is just sugar water to give her a little boost. If she is dehydrated, then you can also IV a saline solution. This will get her wanting to drink. The worst thing you can do is let a cow get dehydrated and have her system shut down. She should shiver while you are giving the IV, it indicates that everything is working. Afterwards, she should pee fairly soon. That’s a good sign also. If she’s thirsty, you can try your water trough or you can bring lukewarm water to her in a bucket. If you give saline, she’s going to want that right away. If she is down, you’d also like to see her get up soon after treatment.

4. If she is still slacking, then re-treat her. I’ve seen my husband treat cows only hours after a first treatment if they’re really sick. His attitude is that an aggressive (“proactive”) treatment is much more likely to get a cow better quickly.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cow come down with milk fever that my husband couldn’t treat. We rarely lost a cow, because of his management. I say this to encourage you that if you try adjusting some feed/mineral rations and keep vigilant about monitoring the cows’ health, you should see a definite improvement.


2. A lady recently purchased a Jersey cow, only to find out the cow has had no training and is due to calve soon:

1. Horns must go. Yes, God made Jerseys with horns, and original cows were wild. He said to have dominion over animals, so we domesticated them and part of that is by dehorning. Losing your life for milk is just not worth it. Consider buying polled semen for your future breedings if you don’t want to deal with horns.
2. Do not allow her to push you! Whatever it takes, do not let her be boss. She’s probably lonely and adjusting to a new place by trying to be “boss cow” and because you’re smaller, she’s winning. Their ears are sensitive, you can flick their ears with your hand for more impact. Another thought is to carry a rope with you and snap it at her if she comes at you agressively.
3. I am guessing this Amish farm did not halter train this cow? One thing you can and should do is get some treats, such as grain, to start feeding her. Get your stanchion for milking built ASAP and start NOW feeding her in there twice a day. While she is locked up, start petting her all over. Massage her udder with lotion as the swelling increases (closer to calving).Gently rub and squeeze her teats (not too much, you don’t want to let out the natural plug in the teat end, but you want her familar with you touching her there) This will help her get more comfortable with you touching her, and when she is in milk, you will be very thankful for the time spent beforehand! You should have a halter on her, at least until she starts obeying you consistently. You can get a rope halter with lead (they’re very cheap, about $4 at feed stores and are adjustable). Then when she is locked up one time, put the halter on her. You can let her out and leave the halter/lead on her. One, you’ll be able to catch her more quickly and correct bad behavior. Two, she will drag the lead around and learn about having something pull on her face. Once she is somewhat settled with the halter, tie her closely to a very secure, firm post or wall. She may fuss for a while, but leave her tied there. After one or two days, she should be comfortable with the halter. You can decide to keep her on a few hours and let her go or you can just leave her tied and bring her food, water, and bedding.
4. To catch her: First, tie up your horse and lock up all the animals you can. They do not need to be added distractions while you’re catching a wild cow. Do you have a trailer, round pen, stall, anything enclosed to catch her in? Corner her in one of those areas with at least one or two other people helping you. You can throw a rope around her neck initially, then try to get a halter on her head. If you really have to, maybe your husband can grab her by the nose. Pinch hard like you are a nose ring, fingers in each nostril. Then lift up her head and the other person can try to slip the halter on. I know I am sounding agressive, and trust me, I don’t like to be, but if this cow is wild and calving in 1 month, you need to get control as soon as you can. Once you get her on a halter and tied, your biggest step is over. In the future, if you have a heifer calf, be sure to put her on a halter at a young age, around 1-3 months old. They’re very easy to handle and the sooner they learn, the easier it is.
5. Milk pumps – They are very expensive. You can check out craigslist or call neighboring dairies or look in your local papers. But, used are very hard to come by. You can build one if you have the know-how. Otherwise, check out http://familycow.proboards.com/index.cgi and post that you are looking for a new or use milk pump for your machine. Scroll down to “The Family Cow” and post there initially. They may move it, but you’ll get tons of people looking and helping you. Fyi, price for a new pump ranges $800-1200. I can get a brand new stainless steel pump for $900 from the Amish here. Used, I once found one for $150, but I’ve never seen one that cheap again. My friend got a pump and milker for $800 off ebay, a rebuilt unit. Might check into that. Be sure to get one tho, because dairy cows are NOT modernly bred to be hand milked. Often they have little tiny teats.
Well, I hope that’s not too overwhelming to start with. I’m sure there’s more to talk about, but I need to get back to work. Let me know if you have more questions and update us all on how your cow is doing. :)

3. 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.

4. What is causing that off flavor in milk? Is it the wild onions?

Onions and garlic are notorious for off flavors. I have heard that if they eat them, the taste will be gone after a few hours. So, where you get your milk, say they milk at 7pm. You could talk to them about locking up the cows around 4pm, feeding them some hay, and letting it wash out of their system before milking time. Then let them outside again after morning milking.

One experience I had with off flavors was in the spring, the cows eating a weed called Pennycress. Your milk tastes bad, even though it is fresh!

5. A person got bit by a tick, wondered about Lyme’s disease, and then wondered if cows get tick-borne disease?

Keep an eye on the spot where the tick was. If you get a bullseye, head to your dr asap. Might not hurt to get checked for lymes, too..For cows, I got to researching and remembered when we moved our cows to PA, one thing we had to test for was anaplasma. It’s a tick-borne disease for dairy cattle. Because of insecticides (is that the right word? Anyway, whatever chemicals they use to kill ticks).. ticks are resistant to many chemicals now, and are increasing. In Maryland, the incidences of tick-borne diseases has skyrocketed!! Anyway…I was going to add some info, but if you’re really curious, just read this link: http://veterinarynews.dvm360.com/dvm/Vet…./d etail/501075QUOTE: ” In non-endemic areas, the goal is to prevent the disease from coming into a herd. Herd additions should be screened with the cELISA or purchased from test-negative herds. Because of the potential for possible false negatives on the cELISA during the incubation phase and the potential for wildlife reservoirs, the disease still can sneak in. Therefore, a new needle should be used for all animals and equipment should be washed/disinfected between animals.If available, vaccination, especially of the most valuable animals, should also be considered. The only vaccine available is produced by University Products and is offered in 14 states via a U.S. Department of Agriculture experimental approval. However, work is ongoing to allow availability nationwide. Visit www.anaplasmosis.comfor more information about the vaccine. ” 6. 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!
7. Why do I need to dry off my cow?
Drying off is NOT just about colostrum! Cows require 60 days to relax, take a break. They need time to build back up their strength, body fat, minerals, etc. Plus, the last month or two are when the calf inside her is growing the most. She needs all her strength to calve and have a healthy lactation. If you never dry her off, it will affect greatly her next lactation and can lead to reproductive problems and all sorts of other issues. Powdered colostrum is for the rare chance that a calf cannot get colostrum for the mother. Powdered colostrum/milk should be a worst case scenario last resort.Can you milk through? Yeah. Should you? No!In all the cows I’ve worked with, we’ve never had a cow refuse to dry off. Operator (people) error is more the issue.
8. What kind of a dairy cow should I look for if I want to keep her on mostly a pasture diet?
First, you need to look for genetics that can support an all-grass diet. Any protein breed will be superior than Holsteins in efficiency of pasture grazing. Beyond them, you can look into other dual-purpose breeds for increase efficiency, but much lower milk production.I would agree with you that regardless of operation, a good udder is a good udder. For a cow outside, you might want to be extra careful to get a very well attached udder to lessen chances of sunburn. So, a high, wide rear udder and well attached fore udder are good. Plus, if there’s brush and whatnot, a high udder would be less likely to be scraped, poked, etc.I would also agree that in general, a smaller animal (Jersey/Milking Shorthorn/Dexter/etc) would be easier on pasture.I know of many bulls that produce “stockier” type Jerseys, so a few of mine are definitely ones that need to be on a grass diet. They tend to be shorter, wide, high tight udders, and a tendency to get fat.One note, on grass, just about any dairy cow is going to be thinner looking. Grass tends to keep a cow looking dairy and milky without putting on that chunky weight.
You can look for a few bulls (I mean, more likely their offspring) that will reduce stature or give you a smaller Jersey: Dusaiseoir, Centurion, Golden Boy, Simba’s Pride, Remake. They should all give you gorgeous udders and smaller stature. Plus, they tend to be bulls that aren’t overly plus on milk (except Centurion) so they do well as family cows and are heartier.
9. I’ve been told Udder Comfort is a good lotion to use on cows:
Udder comfort is a very expensive name-brand cream that has peppermint and tea tree oil. Funny most natural methods commercial farmers aren’t interested in, but they branded it in a way that they will use it. LOLYou can make your own at home from a lotion base of any kind and add peppermint and tea tree oil. Or you could just mix them with some oil. I make it strong enough that I can feel it tingle on my skin. That way you know the peppermint is taking effect. Tea tree oil is antimicrobial, so very good on an udder too. My cows did well with the homemade version.10. I want to give my cow Dexamethasone so her swelling goes down:
Dexamethasone can cause dehydration and cause a cow to stop eating. Many people do not realize that you can use less than the recommended levels for just as good of results. My husband Jay likes to use a lesser amount, and then over a 3 day period if he does use it. Dex. is used for aborting calves, so you have to be careful of unintended consequences of use. Again, this is all mostly if you are using too much. It can stop liver functions. He says it’s like wringing them out, sucking out the edema but also dehydrating them. The difference between dex and banamine is that dex does not make a cow thirsty, but banamine gives the cow a good feeling so she wants to drink.My opinion is to just not use any drugs unless really necessary. Occasionally, a cow may have a bad calving and get swelling all over, and so some cases do benefit from dexamethazone. It’s just good to be cautious. People see good results, so they might not be so careful about dosage.Any anti-inflammatory type medicine inhibits healing. For simple udder edema, there are any natural methods, and time, that any cow on a healthy diet will respond to.
11. Edema causes mastitis, right? My vet gave me banamine to treat it.
All cows get edema, it’s just one of those things in life. It doesn’t mean she is definitely going to get mastitis, I promise. Banamine won’t do much except make her a little happier, temporarily. Some cows take up to a month or more to lose all their edema. It’s more important to have a sanitary milking routine and clean bedding and feed management. Even if you think it’s doing no good, get some cream and massage the udder all over, especially the cleft. The stiffness of the teats at first can prevent the teat ends from closing properly, so having a post dip and practicing good management (such as keeping the cow up and eating for a half hour after milking) will help the teat ends close up before the cow chooses to lay down.
12. My cow has mastitis for sure. I want to get the milk checked, but what should I test for?
Because you already know you have mastitis, the bacterial culture is more important to see WHY.Then, Somatic cell is nice to do over and over to check the health of the milk. Checking somatic cell when you know you have mastitis might give you a minor heart attack.  ;)
13. We bought a dairy cow and she’s really thin!
It could be that coming from horses the cow looks very skinny to you and maybe she’s just a busy cow in milk? People always see certain breeds of dogs, like hounds, and think, “Your dog is way too skinny” when they just naturally look kinda thin, mostly because they have such a thin hair coat. (See: Body Condition section of our website for more information on evaluating your cow.)14. If my cow gets mastitis, is that it, is she ruined?
We’ve had mastitis of many different types and from many different cows. Almost all of them can successfully be treated within a few days IF you catch and treat as soon as it shows up. Those cows can come back to 75 percent production or more in subsequent lactations. And it’s healthy milk too, cultures can show low SCC and no “bad” bacteria.Penicillin gets a bad name because it is misused quite frequently. Only a milk culture will be able to tell you which antibiotic to use, if you go that route.My opinion is that vitamins, minerals, etc are all important PREVENTATIVE measures… For full blown mastitis, as everyone says, step one is a culture. Step two can be decided by what comes back in the results. If mild, then mild measures can be taken. If severe, antibiotics must at least be considered.Bedding issues are a major source of bacteria. A lot of people like their cows to be outside, but being in wet or muddy or dirty areas equals mastitis potential. Always have a nice, dry, clean area for your cow to sleep in or be locked into in bad weather. IF you are going to have your cow outside, she needs nice grassy areas to lay in. Or bare minimum, a very dry area to lay on.

15. There’s some kind of clear slick coming out of my cow’s rear end. Does that mean she’s calving now?

Mucous just means she’s doing the right things.Could mean a week or two away. Watch for if she’s acting strange, sticking her tail straight out, wanting to go far away from everyone. If the teats are full and glossy, or even spraying milk, that could mean she’s close.16. I want to trim my cow’s hooves, but she won’t let me touch them. Can I tie them down?
I’d be very careful with any restraints or force. Scaring a cow might just make her permanantly scared. Is she okay with her front feet being done? At first, just do fronts and get her very comfortable there.When she is good there, then you can chisel around the back toes WITHOUT picking up the hoof. Most cows don’t want their back feet picked up. I just turn into a neat freak and want the bottoms nice and clean and trimmed, so after a while we try to get the cows to pick up their back feet. But it’s definitely a slow process. :)You can angle the chisel to try and get a bit underneath the hoof. It’s not the most ideal situation, but keeping the worst of the tips trimmed off is better than nothing and eventually, working with her, she should allow you to pick up her feet.Or you can try to trim when she’s napping laying down.17. 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.
18. If I had a cow with BLV, can another cow get it even if the infected cow is long gone?
I compared BLV to HIV. First, some people get HIV and never AIDS. Second, think of how HIV/AIDS is transmitted – through blood. So, occasionally a calf can get it inside the mother. It helps me to think of HIV as a comparison.I’d recommend anyone purchasing a cow to have thorough testing done beforehand. “Cheap insurance” It puts everyone on a level field of honesty and then if the cow comes up positive for something 6 months later, you know you all did the best you could to get a healthy cow and that’s life.Buying a lot of cows from different places can bring in all sorts of problems. I see you have multiple animals, and that can be a consequence of “buying around”. As close as you can get to a closed herd (meaning no buying of animals from different farms) the more protected you will be against new diseases. Staph Aureus is a terrible plague at a farm I know. They sold off all but about 15 older cows and then calved in 40 young cows. Guess what? Those young cows are coming in with huge staph counts. :( Very sad.
19. My cow won’t let down her milk for me, only her calf.
If you are wanting to not keep her with the calf, you can give her 1/4 cc (.25 in a tiny diabetic needle) of oxytocin in the milk vein OR 2cc (regular needle) IM at milking time. This is the natural hormone that a cow uses to let down her milk. You’re just making the decision for her. It works well for the few milkings you’ll need it until she starts to forget about the calf.If you fight her for long, you may end up seriously affecting her milk production for the year.Also, you can massage the udder, especially high up on the rear udder and all the way down in a soothing motion.
20. I’m having a hard time finding alfalfa hay for my cow. Any tips?

1. Have you looked up a hay directory? Or just drove around? We had to search high and low to find our hay, but we are so blessed to have a barn full of hay this winter and a great supplier now. Took a while to find him! We pay $5/bale for maybe 30-40 pound bales. So, lets say $250/ton. My friend in Howard Co., MD pays more than me, from $250-500/ton. (My dad pays $110 a ton for good hay, see why we’re moving home next year!!)

2. Alfalfa mixed with grass is your best bet for overall “value” due to palatability and digestibility. So, try to find that. Be willing to pay more for HAY instead of alfalfa pellets or beet pulp, because a cow needs LONG-STEMMED fiber. I’m not trying to yell, just highlighting the most important points. :) Fiber = rumen = milk!!!

3. I would pay a lot more for good hay than even for grain. Grain bill high? Cut back and go buy some good hay. LOL Am I getting repetitive?!

4. If you know you need a lot of hay and somehow you can get the money, consider getting a trailer of hay. And I mean semi-trailer of hay. If you can’t get it locally, you’ll have to look further. So you may be getting enough tonnage to last you 2-3 years, but if you can store it securely, you’ll probably get a much better rate than from a store (that’s probably where they’re getting it anyway!) and you’ll know you have hay. :)

5. Consider that semi-trailer, but then re-sell hay to your neighbors for a higher price. They’re probably begging for hay too, and then you could use up the trailer much quicker. When straw prices got silly for a while in Washington (using it all for construction of a major road, so price jumped to $11/bale!!!) someone drove to LaGrande, Oregon and filled a pickup truck and huge trailer with straw. Sold it to us for something like $5/bale and he’d paid $2. Wow, we all benefitted! I know a lady in Buckingham, VA (45 min. south of Charlottesville) that would LOVE to buy some alfalfa from you if you got it. Her Guernsey is in desperate need of some good hay, as she’s just fresh!

6. If you buy a whole load, it’ll probably already be tested. You can look up “forage testing” online to check the numbers, or feel free to email me and I can help explain them.

7. If you buy a smaller load, ask to take ONE bale home that represents the load pretty well. Feed it to your cow. If she hogs it down, buy as much as you can. If she spits it out of her mouth, say “No thanks.”

8. Breed your cow to Canadian bulls that decrease production. This will help create offspring that will “take care of themselves” meaning they won’t demand so much input for output. You’ll cut your hay bill without losing much production.

9. Keep watchin craigslist and other hay dealer sites for new postings. Now is the time to buy (well, ideally is “just out of the field in July” but now is much better as they still have a lot of stock. Come spring, you’ll really be paying a lot!)

21. Do I have to feed my cow year-round?

You can plan on feeding a dairy cow hay year round. Grain can be minimal, but so far I have not seen much success not feeding any grain (they need some, at least while they are in the first months of lactation. All dairy cows go through some negative energy balance near calving, so the grain is important for an energy source.) If you have ideal plush pastures, yes, you can cut down on your hay bill drastically. Cows are more efficient converters of milk (for what you have to feed them to what you get back in milk) than goats, but goats work better for so many people because they don’t need 5 gallons a day OR they are limited on space. And I believe goats eat grass too. :) Our friend have all goats and they hand-chop all their hay (like the olden days!) and that hay is just pasture grasses.

The term “grass fed” applies to BEEF not DAIRY. Beef, we raise our steers 6-8 months on milk (no grain necessary if they get good raw milk from their mom. We bottle/bucket feed to the calf, separated from cow.) From there, they can live on pasture and hay (Ours are on pasture only all summer, but like I said, we have lots of good pasture, so they always have enough feed. Come September, they are usually supplemented with 50% hay and October – April, a hay diet.)

 The confusion on grass fed is complex…. “What is grass” and all that nonsense. Basically, a beef animal is eating for MAINTAINENCE and GROWTH. Maintainence requires very little nutrients. Growth requires good quality hay, but still a moderate nutritional need. A dairy animal is eating for Maintainance, Growth of a baby (9 of the 12 months each year), and LACTATION. Lactating is the most nutrient demanding function an animal can have. This is why a cow requires excellent hay and a bit of grain. So, even when the cow is not lactating, it means she is likely in the last stages of pregnancy, in which the baby grows the most. You just can’t get around those nutritional needs!

22. What exactly is grass-fed? Most people that say they are feeding their cows “grass fed” are feeding a lot more than just grass!

Yes, “grass fed” is about as mis-used as the word “organic”! True grass fed would mean the cow would be on only pasture or grass hays. Not even alfalfa!Some include silage because they say “Well, corn is a grass”… Well, the stalk may be, but the corn itself is a grain. Most “grass-fed” people seem to feed alfalfa, which is a legume.We just say we feed what the cow needs to be healthy and productive. That may include grains (soaked, sprouted, cracked, etc.); vegetables (beets, etc.); legumes (alfalfa, clover, etc.); molasses; minerals/clays/etc.; grasses and I’m sure some types of weeds or herbs; and as much sunshine as we can get them! We don’t have a need to “label” what we feed our cows. We just try to do the best we can!

23. When I first start milking my cow, her teats are nice and round and full. After just a few squirts, her teats have gone soft and feel empty. I can still get milk from her but it seems I’m working very hard for every little bit. Is this normal or is it her holding up?

Hmm, sounds like she’s NOT letting down for you.For our cows, we go through a “letdown” process, which involves turning on the milk pump, dipping the teats, letting that soak for 30 seconds, wiping the teats, squirting once from each teat, and then we put the machine on. There are lots of variations to that process, that’s just how we do it.

And I can definitely feel from when she first comes in (touch her udder then) to when we’re ready to put the machine on (touch the udder again)…She feels like she’s real heavy in the bottom part of her udder, her udder might even go pear shaped because her milk is letting down, literally.

On a side note, I was reading in Hoards Dairyman about milk quality and low somatic cell and a bunch of farmers do their dipping and pre-milking in different patterns, so I thought “I’ll pre-milk and THEN dip, like some of them do” so I walked up to my cow and pulled on a teat…nothin! So I just went back to my other routine (mentioned above) and by the time I’ve wiped and massaged, she’s let down her milk, so I pre-milk then, and we’re good enough!

24. My milk is foamy when I strain it. Should I be concerned?

Here’s some information from Bernard W. Hammer (1946) Dairy Bacteriology. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 46-54.
“The organisms of most importance in producing gas in dairy products include (1) certain non-spore-forming yeasts that ferment lactose, (2) the Escherichia-Aerobacter group, and (3) certain organisms of the genus Clostridium.

Sanitation will be most important, to avoid growth of these bacteria. If they aren’t there, they won’t cause the foam. Make sure and read up on how dairy equipment should  be cleaned and sanitized. Also important: cool the milk quickly to avoid growth of whatever is causing the foam.

Yeasts can be a problem because “they interfere with the normal churning when cream is held for several days, as is done in home buttermaking.” Yeasts are acid tolerant, which is how they show up in products like sour cream and other milk products.
“Without coagulation there is little tendency for the gas to be held and it readily escapes.” So basically, if you cool your milk quickly and just use it as straight milk, the yeast should not be a problem. The problem comes when you start to use the milk for products like butter or cream, where the gas cannot escape as well. Occasionally, I think this can be a problem in cheese as well.

If it’s not yeast, it might be E. coli or A. aerogenes, and can be eliminated through sanitation measures at milking time. (Rarely, comes directly from cow. The book says primarily contamination causes it). These bacteria are less foamy and stinky than yeasts. If you shake the milk, it may foam up if you have enough of these bacteria. They also create “objectionable flavor” which is probably your biggest concern, along with more rapid deterioration of the quality of milk (doesn’t taste good as long).

Clostridium bacteria are not of concern if you are keeping the milk raw, as they don’t survive over the good bacteria. Your only concern, then, is if you improperly pasteurize the milk, they can have room to replicate then.

44 thoughts on “FAQ from cow owners

  1. 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”?


    • 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! :)


  2. 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.


  3. 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.


    • 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.


      • 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?


      • 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.


  4. 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!


    • 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.


  5. 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.


    • 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!


  6. 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!


    • 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!


      • 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!


      • Julia,
        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”.


  7. 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.


  8. 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?


    • 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.


  9. 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!!


  10. 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 …


    • 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!


      • 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.


  11. 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


    • 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.


  12. 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.


    • 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! :)


  13. 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


    • Tim,
      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. :)


      • 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.


      • 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! :)


  14. 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.


  15. 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


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


  16. 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


    • 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.


  17. 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.


    • 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!


  18. 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


    • 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! :)


  19. 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.



    • 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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