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Breeding Dexters for Dairy - what can be done with extra milk?

 
Posts: 29
Location: Eastern Ontario, Canada Zone 5b
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Hi all.

I've been thinking about Dexter cattle and how they are supposed to be dual-purpose animals. However, some experience with the breed and owners really suggests to me that by and large, most owners and homesteads are primarily using them as small beef cattle, and the dairy aspect in the breed as a whole (outside of some selected breeders) has been massively deemphasived to the point that many of the Dexters out there would not make good house cows. Personal experience has shown me many cows in the breed with bad to terrible udders, and questionable milk production - the owner unable to get much milk, and the calf eating signifigant grain or hay much earlier than would normally be expected.

So, I've been debating the merits of starting a breeding program to re-emphasize the dairy aspects of the breed.

My baseline expectations would be:

1. The cow should produce enough milk to sustain her calf's growth rate (~1.5 lbs daily) until an 8-month weaning, without limiting the calf or forcing it to more solids than is in the best interests of the calf's long term development.
2. The cow should produce a minimum of 3/4 to 1 gallon of milk per day for the family.
3. The cow's beef aspects should not be signifigantly deemphasized - merely balanced.
4. None of the other core aspects of Dexters should be compromised - easy keeping, feed efficiency, temperament, size etc.

I don't know if I will actually pursue this, as I am not keen to tie myself to a milking schedule, but I am still working through it mentally. A few thoughts:

1. I would need to split calves more or less immediately post-colostrum, so that I can harvest and track the cow's complete milk production, then feed an appropriate portion back to the calf. I need objective measurements to have objective results.
2. I would need at least a few cows in the herd under this regime, so I would (hopefully) harvest several gallons of milk per day.
3. This is more than my family can drink, and we only have so much time and resources for 'extra' enterprises like cheese making.
4. I live in Canada, so we can't sell any sort of dairy product, or even technically serve it to visitors.
5. I will need to find a use for excess milk.

Does anyone have any thoughts on the best uses for excess milk? So far, I have:

1. Raise a few extra bottle calves.
2. Perhaps feed it to the chickens or a hog?
3. Spread it on the pasture as an amendment?

I'm done with the lists, but would love to hear people's thoughts on all the above.


 
Brian Vraken
Posts: 29
Location: Eastern Ontario, Canada Zone 5b
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Additional goal:

1. I want the indicated level of production on average pasture and hay, without requiring extensive or expensive supplementation.
 
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I think this is an excellent goal. I suspect people have stopped using Dexters for milk because they don't want the bother of daily milking as well as the unfair legal issues here in Canada. I suspect that you may be able to sell shares in the cow to circumvent those rules, but only if you keep it *really* quiet. There has been "cow share programs" operating on South Vancouver Island within the last 10 years, but I suspect it's been fairly quietly done via word of mouth only.

Have you looked at this thread? https://permies.com/t/131895/kitchen/milk
It's all about all the things you can make with milk. All the way down to alcohol, but I suspect that would get the attention of a different set of regulators!! That said, micro-breweries have become a "thing", so maybe you could make a deal with someone?

Eventually, if we get more people back on the land and more small farms, a decent milk producing dexter would be great to have, so good luck if you decide to pursue the goal.
 
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It takes a lot of milk to make cheese, with a lot of leftover whey.  Is there a cheesemaker near you who might buy your extra raw milk?
 
Brian Vraken
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Location: Eastern Ontario, Canada Zone 5b
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Cristo Balete wrote:It takes a lot of milk to make cheese, with a lot of leftover whey.  Is there a cheesemaker near you who might buy your extra raw milk?



Not legally, here in Canada. Distribution of milk produced without quota ($24k per kilo of butterfat per day and not currently available) or raw milk (with or without quota) has lead to jailtime here. While I am sure I could find people who would buy it illegally from me, I'd rather find ways to convert it into product I *can* legally sell (or distribute).
 
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Honestly, i believe your best bet with the extra milk(in canada) would be to raise pigs with it.
The pigs will not worry about it being fresh, or even 100% clean.
The pigs will drink it if its warm/cold or when its soured.
I really miss having my pigs for the ease of feeding.

another question i have is, is this illegal milk selling an enforced law where you live? For instance I've read that places can have laws though without having a bylaw officer or someone to enforce the laws around, there are ways around selling things.  just a thought.

 
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jordan barton wrote:Honestly, i believe your best bet with the extra milk(in canada) would be to raise pigs with it.
The pigs will not worry about it being fresh, or even 100% clean.
The pigs will drink it if its warm/cold or when its soured.
I really miss having my pigs for the ease of feeding.

another question i have is, is this illegal milk selling an enforced law where you live? For instance I've read that places can have laws though without having a bylaw officer or someone to enforce the laws around, there are ways around selling things.  just a thought.



I'd say pigs make the most sense, too.  

As far as raw milk legislation enforcement, my advice would be not to fuck around with selling raw milk, or even pasturised milk without quota.  Even a cow share programme (which I believe satisfies the letter of the law) will get the Department of Making You Sad up in arms.

My experience with raw milk was great.  I'd fill 5 gallon buckets, cover them with a clean towel, and wait a day.  Then I'd skim off the sour cream and let the rest curdle for cottage cheese.  Super simple and tasty.  I don't like sour cream from the store, never have, but fresh sour cream from raw milk is amazing.  Five gallons is enough to make mozzerella or hard cheeses for personal consumption.
 
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Brian Vraken wrote:

Does anyone have any thoughts on the best uses for excess milk? So far, I have:

1. Raise a few extra bottle calves.
2. Perhaps feed it to the chickens or a hog?
3. Spread it on the pasture as an amendment?

I'm done with the lists, but would love to hear people's thoughts on all the above.




Per "Feeds and Feeding, Abridged 9th edition" by Morrison (1958), pg. 326:
"Reasonably good egg production can be secured when hens are fed only grain with all the skimmilk or buttermilk they will drink.  Such a ration is much better for hens on good range than those which are confined"  that would be my vote.  
In the same chapter the uses that he lists for milk and milk byproducts include three primary uses: Dairy calves, pigs, and chickens.  He also notes that some cows will drink milk, and that others can be tricked into drinking it by mixing it with their grain mix and silage.  He also mentions pasteurizing the milk before feeding to prevent disease spread, but I figure if it's your own herd, and it's a small herd, they are going to be exposed to the same pathogens even without worrying about transmission through milk.  
 
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Hands down Piggys love milk!  They especially love spoiled clotted milk. And they grow fat fast!
You would want no less than 2 piggys, they are a herd animal. A pen with old metal roofing buried partially underground will keep them where you want them.
Other than that if cheese  / butter is more effort than its worth to you, then pouring raw milk on a pasture is good for the earth.
 
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Former commercial dairyman...
I guess about 3 gallons/day fresh tapering to about 1 with pasture only minus what the calf takes. If allowed to nurse, the calf can easily do a gallon a day at a month old. You can increase the milk with grain and alfalfa. But once the production goes down, it's very difficult to bring it back before the next calving. Cows need to be bred and calf once a year to stay in milk. They are dry (not milked) for 2 months before the next calf. A cow can live on a 1/2 acre of excellent pasture. That's growing pasture and not stepped on, laid on, churned to mud or covered with cow pies.
Cows that nursed a long time continue to want milk and will often nurse as an adult whenever a cow with milk is present. They get down on their knees to nurse from any willing cow. It's better to wean the calf early and get it on solid feed asap. Calves on milk only are more prone to sickness. And vaccinate.
Pigs are the usual use for excess milk. Pigs eat anything, even meat.
As a dairyman, my calves were weaned by 30 days and much more healthy for it.
 
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