Tips on SELECTING the RIGHT cow for your family:
SHOULD I BE A DAIRY FARMER?
Qualities of a good dairy farmer:
- -Fondness for animals
- -Hard working and willing to learn
- -Willing to get up early and stay up late and adapt to change
- -Basic understanding of health, feeding, and care of dairy animals
- -Own lots of pasture land
- -Have a good barn or can build one!
- -Inventive, creative, resourceful
- -Pays attention to detail
- -Have availability of high quality feed sources
- -Have uses for the milk produced
Discuss your budget and whether you can afford the initial purchase price of a cow and continued maintenance. Owning and caring for a cow is NOT cheaper than buying milk at the store if you are only considering dollars. The value is in your health, quality of food consumed, satisfaction of hard work, and love of farming. (Remember – cheap is not always a “good deal” if you end up having to spend a lot to keep the cow healthy and expensive will not see a return in profit if the animal is not functional and her offspring sellable in your market area.) Click HERE to review potential cow-related expenses.
WHERE TO BUY HER?
- Buy from a farmer with a good reputation. If you arrive on the farm and are not comfortable with their management practices, politely excuse yourself and continue looking.
- You never know where people will advertise. Craigslist and the local paper are common places to look for family cow sales. If you have a friendly nearby dairy farmer, you may be able to stop in and ask them if they have a good cow for you.
WHAT TYPE OF COW?
- Pick the breed that best fits your household and farm: Click HERE for a comparison of dairy breeds.
- Ask WHY are they selling this cow (Any blatant flaws in her? Does she have family members that you can go see? What are they like?)
- Ask if the cow leads well on a halter
- Ask about all testing and vaccinations/complete testing before purchase. Click HERE for tests you might want to consider.
- Pick a cow that calves regularly, what is her history? What is her current status? (dry, open, pregnant, stale) Who do they recommend breeding her to next time?
- Avoid buying a cow that is known to have had major mastitis or other major health issues. Read here about mastitis.
- Pick a hearty animal free from physical weakness, especially backline (spine) and legs (Click HERE to study Appraisal graphs)
- Look for a well attached udder (floor of udder above hock and teats placed under the udder, not on the sides)
- Ask to watch the cow being milked out at least once (Udder should go from looking like a full balloon to looking like a limp rag). Machine or hand milked? Which side do they milk on? How much does she milk when fresh, mid-lactation/just bred, and late lactation?
- What is her current feeding program? Can you purchase a little feed to help transition the cow over to your feed?
- Ask for copies of all records: milking, appraisal, health and breeding, etc.
End note: What works for you may not be what works for others. Accept advice, but keep in mind that we all have differing opinions and at some point you will have to plunge in and become a cow owner before you can really understand all the facets of ownership!