"When are you gonna blog about the cow?"
So, we're thinking of getting a family cow. The one in the picture, in fact. (The little red one, not the momma...) How's that for a way to use those "economic stimulus" funds?
Crazy, right? With a baby on the way?
Well, we've got fenced pasture and a barn full of hay. And we do miss the unlimited milk supply we had with the goats. And cow's milk would be much more versatile for us. Not to mention that beef is a better fit for us than chevon. (We wouldn't actually be milking for at least a year and a half, in case you're thinking about the baby and getting ready to call the men in white coats.)
Goats really are better in many ways. They're more efficient and less picky grazers. They are smaller. Their milk is better for the lactose intolerant people of the world (which is actually the majority, by the way). Their manure is more manageable.
For us though, they were not a perfect match. And who knows, a cow may not turn out to be an great fit either. I tend to think otherwise, which explains the existence of this post, I guess. And for you long-time Green, Blue, Brown readers, this may come as no surprise.
And really, you rarely learn anything by not trying it.
We wanted a smallish, hardy, multipurpose breed. Unfortunately, yaks aren't in abundance around here. We kicked around the idea of Dexters, but they are hard to find in our area, a little bit pricey, and their milk is apparently naturally homogenized, which was one thing we didn't like about the goat's milk. We thought about a Jersey or Gurnsey, but they're fairly milk-centric. Not a bad thing, per se, but not quite what we were after. We even looked into mini-Jerseys, but they were too expensive. There are Angus cattle around but those are a meat breed, of course. Holsteins are readily available, but they tend to be more about "maximizing production". It brings to mind a joke about an old-time dairy farmer keeping a barn full of Jerseys for the milk, plus one Holstein in case they ever need to put out a fire.
In the end, the American Milking Devon ended up at the top of my list. Despite the name, they're good for both meat and milk, and even draft power if I ever got really ambitious. They're a very old breed, and they're said to do well on pasture and hay alone, even while milking. And there are a couple breeders within a reasonable distance to us. [If you want to read a cool article about this breed (from an admittedly biased source), check this out.]
So after asking around a bit, we found - among various other options - a heifer calf who is one half Milking Devon and one half Angus. (Well, mostly one half Angus. Maybe a little Holstein or some other breeds mixed in.) She's got the trademark red color of the Devons, with no horns and a slightly beefier frame. And her price reflects her non-purebred status, which is good for us.
A couple weekends ago, when we went out to take a look at her and her herdmates, the temperature was well below freezing, with a biting wind that sent e5 scurrying back to the car before we got 100 feet. The cows were not in the barn. They weren't in the field shelter or behind the windbreak of trees. They were just out basking in the sun like there was a nice September breeze wafting through...
We're still working out the logistics and the financials, but we figure we're spending over $1200 a year on milk now, and that's not counting our next kid's eventual consumption. It's not counting the continuing price increases that are sure to come. It's also not counting any butter, cheeses, cream, yogurt and other dairy products. Or the inevitable offspring a cow would produce, which could either be sold or, well, frozen. Given the fact that we've already got fenced pasture and a barn, we could certainly keep a cow like this for less than $1200 a year.
So it's under serious consideration. Just so you know.