• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Doin' it right with Dairy Cows

 
Adam Klaus
author
gardener
Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
65
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I am going to be presenting at the Permaculture Voices Conference 2014 about small scale cow dairy, and wanted to start getting my thoughts organized. There are a lot of threads here in the forum about cow problems, cows vs goats, etc, etc. I wanted to share a bit about what I humbly consider the key components to success with dairy cows for the small permaculturalist. I'd like this thread to act as the beginning of a discussion on all the wonderful ways to succeed with dairy cows on your small acerage. I am starting with a rough outline of key points, and hope to expand each of these points over time. You contributions are welcome and encouraged; please contribute accordingly.

The basic keys to doin' it right, for me, in my experience, are the following-

-Genetics for health and robustness
-Milking management and equipment
-Pasture stewardship
-Care of calves and growing the herd
-Minimizing supplemental feeds
-Soil health and mineralization
-Customers

And off we go!!!....
 
Adam Klaus
author
gardener
Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
65
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Genetics

We want a cow that is going to be healthy, fertile, a good grazer, and produce good milk.

In a permacultural setting, where we are aiming to feed our cow as much as possible from homegrown feeds, this requires a strong animal that is not dependent on inputs of grain, hay, and other purchased and unnatural feeds. The breeds that seems best suited to this circumstance are the dual-purpose breeds. Dual purpose cows are thicker in flesh, and so have a more robust physical condition that is better able to cope with natural farming. Brown Swiss, Ayrshire, Dexter, Guernsey, and Devons are the breeds that I understand to be best. I myself raise Brown Swiss, and am very happy with that decision. Jersey and Holstein cows are highly specialized dairy animals, that maintain a very thin body condition, and are fragile in their management. Their exceptionally high production is difficult to support. These breeds may have come from more noble beginnings in their mother countries, but in this time and place, they are basically industrial animals that need very specific conditions for success.

The breeds that I suggest, Brown Swiss, Ayrshire, Dexter, Guernsey, and Devons, are all considered dual purpose animals, which means that they carry enough flesh to be worthwhile beef animals as well as good dairy producers. That value for beef is really just a bonus for us small farmers. The most compelling thing about these breeds is that they have been bred to be strong, sturdy cows first and foremost. We should be aiming for about 4-5 gallons of milk per day per cow. Production above this amount will not be sustainable without unnatural feeding. In other words, this level of production is the natural limit for healthy, natural cows. Dual purpose cows are genetically setup to produce the right amount of milk, while also maintaining a healthy body condition, and a fertile reproductive system. For me, the priorities in a cow are physically healthy, reproductive, and then finally producers of rich milk.
 
Adam Klaus
author
gardener
Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
65
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Milking

Milking once a day has been the best idea ever for my small dairy. When a lactating cow has an empty udder, it stimulates the cow to produce more milk. By only emptying the udder once a day, we limit the stimulation to produce more milk. Cows will produce milk, even if it means malnurishing themselves in the process. Since healthy cows is our primary goal, we want to manage their milk production in a way that ensures a healthy nutritional balance between their intake and their milk output.

Milking once a day gives the cow time to nurse their calves, while still functioning as a milk cow. In our system, we leave calves with their mom all night long. We seperate the cow and calf in the morning. The cows udder fills all day, and we then milk the cow in the evening. After milking, cow and calf are reunited. Having ten hours without a calf allows the udder to fill without excess udder pressure. If the cow and calf were together all the time, we would not get enough milk at milking. If the calf was not with the mom ever, there would be too much udder pressure after 24 hours. By milking once a day, we find a perfect balance for the cow, the calf, and the farmer.

The farmer is the most important animal on the farm. Milking twice a day is simple not a sustainable way to manage ourselves. Cows need to be milked at almost exactly the same time every day, maybe an hour maximum deviation is acceptable. We have chosen to milk in the morning or in the evening, both are satisfactory. As the season progresses, you can slowly shift milking time earlier or later to adjust for changes in daylight or temperature. Twice a day milking came about as a response to an industrial model, where labor was exploited as well as the animals. Twice a day milking is necessary when we feed grain to our cows, which unnaturally boosts their production. Twice a day milking is necessary when there is no calf being nursed to help relieve the udder pressure. When we start managing our cows in a more sane manner, we find that once a day is just right for cows with calves, fed on pasture, milked by the farmer.

Providing a peaceful setting for milking is essential. Study Temple Grandin's work on cattle psychology to understand the environment from a cow's perspective. We want the milking barn, and the milking stand, to be a sanctuary for the cow. She should feel completely at peace wherever we choose to milk her. Cows can be beneficially milked out in the field even. But certainly, wherever we chose to milk, should be a calm environment, free from noise or distraction. It should be a consistent location, that the cow only knows as a milking place. We help the cow to milk well by providing her a setting that is comfortable and predictable. She then knows what time it is based on her environment, and can focus on letting down her milk for us.

The simple bucket milker is a great tool that makes milking better for the cow, the farmer, and the customer. Hand milking is hard on teats and hard on farmers. Bucket milkers use a gentle pulsating action that massages the milk out of the udder. Cows definitely prefer a good machine milking over hand milking. The milk produced is invariably tainted with tiny particles or dust and debris. A bucket milker keeps the milk much cleaner, since the milk is never in contact with the ambient air. The perfectly clean milk from a bucket milker is much better suited for raw milk consumption, where cleanliness is critical.

When milking, taking a few minutes to care for the udder is a good practice. Brush the cow thoroughly, from head to toe. This stimulates the cows circulatory system and promotes milk let down. It lets the cow know that we care, and she gives more milk as a result. Brush the udder gently. Clean the teats with a sanitizing teat wipe. If the cow is just fresh, or swollen in the udder, applying a menthol lotion to the udder is soothing and cooling, and helps promote good milk flow. These basic acts of care and kindness make the cow eager to give her milk to the farmer, which is a generour act on her part. We care for the cow, and she repays us with her milk.

 
Adam Klaus
author
gardener
Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
65
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Pasture
 
Adam Klaus
author
gardener
Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
65
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Calves and the Herd
 
Adam Klaus
author
gardener
Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
65
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Purchased Inputs
 
Adam Klaus
author
gardener
Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
65
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Soil Minerals
 
Adam Klaus
author
gardener
Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
65
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Customers
 
R Scott
Posts: 3305
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
32
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Can you add a section on Breeding?

How to strengthen the good genetics you have already. And a small discussion on line breedings and maintaining the gene pool diversity.

Buy a bull, rent/trade with a neighbor, AI? How to decide and run the numbers. What to look for in bulls.

Keep purebred or cross? Discussion of pros/cons. Breeds or traits that work well with dairy breeds and those to avoid.

And integrate herd size into many of the discussions. We have had to learn many lessons as we went from goats to a single family cow to a multi-cow herd. How you manage 3+ cows for family production or raw milk sales can be very different than managing for a cheese creamery, for example.
 
David Livingston
steward
Pie
Posts: 2607
Location: Anjou ,France
102
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think you should have a "how many part "
For instance I am thinking in a few years of moving into livestock and a cow would be nice But is it cruel/impractical just to keep one of any herd animal ?

David
 
Kevin MacBearach
Posts: 213
Location: Beavercreek, Oregon
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
At the risk of having my post deleted, I must ask how you came up with that list of breeds? Though they are a bit hardier, Brown Swiss and Guernseys give as much milk and sometimes more than Jerseys do. That means they too have been specialized through decades of breeding (and grain) to do so, cause, as you say, it's not natural for any cow to have the ability to need to give that much to it's calf.

Could you explain the difference for the cow with once a day milking by the farmer while putting the calf on her during the other part of the day and twice a day milking with no calf? Seems like the same amount of milk leaving the cow, thus the cows increased dietary needs, with calf, or twice a day milking.
 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
Pie
Posts: 6139
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
187
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Adam, I hope your presentation allows enough time for you to compare pastured butter and milk to the standard store bought variety. I was amazed at the amount of good stuff in real butter.

I guess you might be preaching to the choir at this conference, but whenever you're speaking to a less sophisticated crowd, they may be unaware of the difference.
 
chad stamps
Posts: 46
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Might be helpful to touch on the benefits of multi-species grazing to get the most out of pasture and limit parasite load.
 
Adam Klaus
author
gardener
Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
65
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
thanks guys for chiming in and getting a conversation going here, I appreciate your contributions and questions.

R Scott- good points on genetics, I will definitely discuss. Feel free to add your knowledge/opinions/experience/speculation. Always welcome and appreciated.

David- I will get to how many in the herd section. I do think cows are herd animals for sure. Cruel might be overstating the family cow, lonely more likely. The bigger issue comes with breeding when you have just one, as I will discuss.

Kevin- The list comes from my experience of knowing folks who are successfully doing this type of dairy. The key difference between Brown Swiss/Guernsey versus Jersey, is body mass. A Jersey cow giving the same amount of milk as a Swiss or Guernsey, is giving a much higher yield as a proportion of body weight. This is key. It means that her rumen is smaller, yet her yield is the same, so her proportional nutritional requirements are significantly higher. Additionally, Jerseys are much thinner cows, so their bodies do not have the reserves necessary for maintaining physical health as easily. Hope that makes sense. I know, some folks love their Jersey cow. Thats great. I am just speaking from my experience and understanding.

The reasons for once a day milking with a calf nursing are several. First, the calf is only going to nurse for three months, when the cows lactation is naturally highest, and in a seasonal calving operation the pasture is most nutritious. Once a day milking would be unhealthy for the udder without a calf when the cow is fresh and pastures are at their best in May-July. When the cow is fresh, the stimulation on the udder from the calf butting and nursing is the best preventative I know of for udder health issues. It also makes the cow happy, which makes her a better milker for the farmer. Finally, we need to be raising the best calves we can, and having calves nurse directly from their moms is absolutely superior to bucket or bottle feeding. Once the calf is weaned, the cows udder has settled in, her production is starting to decline, the pastures are losing feed value, and suddenly once a day milking is in balance with the total system. Plus the calf has gotten off to the best start possible. Hope that makes sense, I could elaborate considerably.

Dale- I am not a quantatative type person, but I know (as you do too) that there is no comparison between grass dairy products and the commercial stuff they call organic. Any chance you have some solid numbers I could incorporate into my presentation? Good suggestion, as nutrition is the most compelling reason for why we raise our cows the way we do.

Chad- Multi species grazing isnt really my thing. From experience, I have had issues with using sheep, goats, and horses in my system. Parasite loading is not a problem with good rotations, IME. The increase in pasture yield is not enough to offset the extra costs in fencing and management. Additionally, in my wild setting, goats and sheep get eaten regularly. Big cows with intact horns take care of themselves. So I am not saying that multi species is a bad idea, just saying that I havent found it to be worth the work, in my experience.

Thanks again everyone, keep at it, lets make this an interesting dialogue.
Adam
 
Kevin MacBearach
Posts: 213
Location: Beavercreek, Oregon
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Adam Klaus wrote:

Kevin- The list comes from my experience of knowing folks who are successfully doing this type of dairy. The key difference between Brown Swiss/Guernsey versus Jersey, is body mass. A Jersey cow giving the same amount of milk as a Swiss or Guernsey, is giving a much higher yield as a proportion of body weight. This is key. It means that her rumen is smaller, yet her yield is the same, so her proportional nutritional requirements are significantly higher. Additionally, Jerseys are much thinner cows, so their bodies do not have the reserves necessary for maintaining physical health as easily. Hope that makes sense. I know, some folks love their Jersey cow. Thats great. I am just speaking from my experience and understanding.

The reasons for once a day milking with a calf nursing are several. First, the calf is only going to nurse for three months, when the cows lactation is naturally highest, and in a seasonal calving operation the pasture is most nutritious. Once a day milking would be unhealthy for the udder without a calf when the cow is fresh and pastures are at their best in May-July. When the cow is fresh, the stimulation on the udder from the calf butting and nursing is the best preventative I know of for udder health issues. It also makes the cow happy, which makes her a better milker for the farmer. Finally, we need to be raising the best calves we can, and having calves nurse directly from their moms is absolutely superior to bucket or bottle feeding. Once the calf is weaned, the cows udder has settled in, her production is starting to decline, the pastures are losing feed value, and suddenly once a day milking is in balance with the total system. Plus the calf has gotten off to the best start possible. Hope that makes sense, I could elaborate considerably.

Adam



One could also say that during the cow's lactation curve during the first 3-4 months, twice a day milking would take the place of the calf. Not many people have time and space to care for a calf each time the cow freshens. I've had calves that would nurse up to months if I let them so I had to keep them separate. Breeding cows well is a whole other science. I would rather, and this was discussed at raw-milk class last week, see someone in the area just do that, breed cows back to being "cows".

How do you time cows to calve only in spring? Cows need to calve, when they calve. Sometimes, many times, the cows heat is missed and then you try again at the next one, which could push her due date moths later in the year. Would you then wait till next year to breed her? I think a lot of these "in a perfect world" scenarios sound nice but very few people would be able to raise cows like that.

You never said how you gauge a cow's genetics for pasture. Is it just that you look for a cow to buy that was fed little grain by the previous owner, or do you run a test?
 
John Polk
master steward
Pie
Posts: 8018
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
269
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think that the first step is to only buy calves that have been raised on pasture, with their mothers.
They learn it early on. Bottle raised calves from a barn are starting life with a handicap.

A quick read on forage behavior gives some good insight:
http://extension.usu.edu/behave/htm/learning-tools/book-and-dvd

 
Adam Klaus
author
gardener
Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
65
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Kevin MacBearach wrote:
One could also say that during the cow's lactation curve during the first 3-4 months, twice a day milking would take the place of the calf. Not many people have time and space to care for a calf each time the cow freshens.


Twice a day milking does not have the same effect on the udder as allowing the calf to nurse. The regular butting of the udder, and sucking of the teats, is the best preventative care for udder health. We may massage the udder before milking, but it is no subsititute for the calf stimulating the udder, both in force and frequency.

Kevin MacBearach wrote:Not many people have time and space to care for a calf each time the cow freshens.


I think that calves are too valuable to not care for and raise, for a year at least. At one year of age, baby bull beef can be harvested, yielding over 200 pounds of table meat. Or heiffers can be sold, typically for $500-1000. In managing a dairy herd holistically, the value of the calves must be realized for the farmer to run a successful operation.


Kevin MacBearach wrote: How do you time cows to calve only in spring? Cows need to calve, when they calve. Sometimes, many times, the cows heat is missed and then you try again at the next one, which could push her due date moths later in the year. Would you then wait till next year to breed her?


Cows calve about 9 months after they are bred. If they miss a heat, they cycle again approximately 21 days later, so you are only talking weeks, not months. We put the bull in with the cows in mid July. Thus our earlies calving date would be mid April. Even if the cows dont settle for three heats, they would still calve by the beginning of June. If you have a cow that does not settle in three cycles, she has major fertility issues, and should not be in your herd anyways. We have never had that problem. Even with AI, which I used before owning a bull, three heats should be more than enough to get a fertile cow to settle.

Kevin MacBearach wrote: I think a lot of these "in a perfect world" scenarios sound nice but very few people would be able to raise cows like that.


I can only speak of my experience on my farm, and the other small dairy farms I have worked with over the years. I really dont know anything about a perfect world. What I am sharing here is my experience, which has worked for me, and I hope it can work for others as well.
 
Adam Klaus
author
gardener
Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
65
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hair patterns and what they tell us about genetics

When we look for a cow that is going to be healthy and productive in a permacultural setting, there are a few criteria we are looking for-

The cow's hair tells us a lot about what is going on inside of the animal. Shiny, glossy cows are healthy cows. When a cow has a ragged or rough appearance to their coat, it is an indication of poor nutrition. Some cows, particularly in a more natural farming context, might look a little coarse at the tail end of winter, but they absolutely should regain their shiny, lusterous coat by early spring.

A fascinating aspect to the cows hair patterns, is that they are predictive of the cows fertility and even milk production. A French farmer named Guenon wrote a remarkable text in the late 19th century that documents the correlation between the hair patterns on the escutcheon of the cow and her value as a dairy animal. Gerald Fry introduced me and many other farmers to this great technique. The escutcheon is the part of the cows anatomy between her vagina and her udder. It should be covered by fine hairs, growing in the same direction. The full system of understanding is too complicated to articulate here, but do investigate Guenon and Gerald Fry cattle genetics. We have an excellent tool for predicting cow performance from the day the calf is born. The escutcheon hair patterns are like a fingerprint, that does not change, and gives us excellent insight into the traits of that animal.

Another hair pattern worth noting is on the cow's face. The hair patterns here predict the animal's disposition or temperment. Considering that temperment is a critical part of a good dairy cow, this unchanging information, present at birth, is another useful tool. We want to see a nice clean spiral, located in the center of the cow's face, with the center of the spiral just at or above the level of her eyes. A broken spiral, or a spiral centered lower down towards the nose both indicate a difficult temperment in the cow. These hair pattern correlations are fascinating, and have been very useful in my observation and selection of cows over the years.


Purchasing a cow

When we first set out to purchase a dairy cow, our options are usually not great. There is a saying that no good dairy farmer will ever sell you a good cow. From my experience, this is largely true. Or, you will pay a dear price for that cow. The reason is, a good dairy cow is so profitable for the farmer, that he is not going to sell her for less than her business value to him. It is possible, but my experience in the West and Midwest of this country, is that a 100% grass fed cow, with excellent fertility, temperment, and production, will cost $3000-4000. This is not an animal that I have ever purchased, as that price is simply prohibitive to me. What we are left with choosing from, are cows that were rejects from somebody else's farm. This is not absolutely condemming, not by any means. We do need to understand the ways in which cows become rejects, so that we can pick the right one. Cows are rejected primarily because of their health, their temperment, their fertility, or their production.

Unhealthy cows are generally a non-starter for me; I would reccomend not even considering an animal that is not sound of health.

Temperment can be an area where a bargain can be found. On a larger dairy, a cow that is antisocial in a large herd can become a great family cow on a different farm. Also, there are cows that just need a little more training than a commercial dairy has time for, but still could become a great animal. Generally, the younger the animal, the easier to correct this bad behavioral habits. The two best cows I have purchased were both antisocial animals in a hundred cow commercial dairy. They both got bullied a lot by the other cows, and their production suffered because of the stress. They were botom cows in the social hierarchy. When I brought them home, they suddenly became the only two cows on my farm. They didnt get bullied anymore. They were happy and sweet animals, that just needed a different enviornment than a large herd. They have since socialized well, and are great in my system.

Fertility is another red flag for me. Especially on seasonal, grass based dairies, there will be cows that do not breed and calve on time, and as such are sold each year. To me, this is a concern. If a cow is not breeding promptly, it tells me that something is wrong with her system. I have seen great deals on these cows, due to calf in August instead of May. But I want a cow that is breeding on time every year, so that I can operate a seasonal dairy in harmony with the fresh pasture season. And fertility is the first thing to go on a cow who is having health issues. Maybe all seems fine on the surface, but if the cow were truly healthy, she would be breeding on time. Remember that cows are symbols of fertility in India and Africa, they are incredibly fertile animals by nature. Thus we expect that our cows would demonstrate this inherent trait of fertility as well.

Low producers are never going to last long in a commercial dairy. This is where a small farmer may also be able to find a good deal. Of course, the cow must be healthy and breed well. But if her production is 25% lower than her peers, the farmer is going to be willing to let her go. Just last year, I sold my favorite cow, a complete sweetheart, beautiful and healthy, because she ended up being a low producer. From her escutcheon hair patter, I knew something might not be quite perfect since she was a calf. She has a small patch of coarse, velvety hair on the escutcheon. But she was so great in all other ways that I kept her to see, and after two lactations, it was clear that she was a low producer. I sold her to a friend in my valley, and she is the perfect family cow. By breeding her to a top quality bull, her offspring should develop better milk yields, and so someday, she may be the foundation of an excellent milking lineage. We too can purchase a sound cow, and breed her well, saving her offspring to someday arrive at an excellent small dairy herd.

The best cows are the ones we birth on our farms, not the ones we buy from outside. Just like in saving seeds in the garden, our cows demonstrate biological adaptation over generations, become more alligned with their environment with each generation. Start with sound, healthy cows, and develop excellent dairy animals as time passes. It happens faster than you'd think. I now have granddaughters of my original milk cows in my herd, in only six years.
 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
Pie
Posts: 6139
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
187
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Wikipedia may not be the best proof of anything, buy it leads to many other references. This snippet is concerning CLA levels.

Dietary sources

Kangaroo meat may have the highest concentration of CLA.[52] Food products from grass-fed ruminants (e.g. mutton and beef) are good sources of CLA, and contain much more of it than those from grain-fed animals.[53] In fact, meat and dairy products from grass-fed animals can produce 300-500% more CLA than those of cattle fed the usual diet of 50% hay and silage, and 50% grain.[54]
 
Tony Flint
Posts: 27
Location: Maple Valley, WA, USA - Zone 8a, 500 ft elevation
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I was lucky enough to catch this session at the conference. It was fantastic - full of usable, actionable information (the what/how/when) along with the benefits (the why). Thank you Adam for sharing your experience, and thank you to all of the folks who chimed in on this thread for refining and adding to it.

Adam, I had a few follow up questions.

1. You mentioned needing excellent pasture due to the dietary needs of a cow in milk. Were your pastures already in good enough condition when you got there? Did you do anything to improve them prior to putting the cows on them (reseeding, running sheep over them, etc.)?
2. You mentioned raw milk yogurt during the presentation. When I was volunteering on a small raw milk dairy around here I tried to make yogurt without heating it above 115F. I ended up with something delicious, but it was not yogurt (it separated into a tangy kefir-like consistency). Would you mind sharing your technique?
3. How much pasture do you have and how much do you think would be required to run a viable cow share dairy? Of course, it depends on pasture quality/climate/etc - let's assume your exact conditions but shrinking your farm. How much smaller could it be and still be viable, do you think?

Thanks again!
Tony
 
Kelly Smith
Posts: 699
Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
18
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Adam Klaus wrote:Hair patterns and what they tell us about genetics

A fascinating aspect to the cows hair patterns, is that they are predictive of the cows fertility and even milk production. A French farmer named Guenon wrote a remarkable text in the late 19th century that documents the correlation between the hair patterns on the escutcheon of the cow and her value as a dairy animal. Gerald Fry introduced me and many other farmers to this great technique. The escutcheon is the part of the cows anatomy between her vagina and her udder. It should be covered by fine hairs, growing in the same direction. The full system of understanding is too complicated to articulate here, but do investigate Guenon and Gerald Fry cattle genetics. We have an excellent tool for predicting cow performance from the day the calf is born. The escutcheon hair patterns are like a fingerprint, that does not change, and gives us excellent insight into the traits of that animal.


here is a picture of what Adam is referring to:

its sometimes called a "milk mirror"

Adam Klaus wrote:
Another hair pattern worth noting is on the cow's face. The hair patterns here predict the animal's disposition or temperment. Considering that temperment is a critical part of a good dairy cow, this unchanging information, present at birth, is another useful tool. We want to see a nice clean spiral, located in the center of the cow's face, with the center of the spiral just at or above the level of her eyes. A broken spiral, or a spiral centered lower down towards the nose both indicate a difficult temperment in the cow. These hair pattern correlations are fascinating, and have been very useful in my observation and selection of cows over the years.


here is a picture of what Adam is referring to:


i have read that the lower the swirl, the better tempered the cow (my research is for dairy cows).
Temple Grandin also mentions cows with a higher swirl will be more agitated while restrained. reference


hope this helps.
 
Kelly Smith
Posts: 699
Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
18
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Adam Klaus wrote:
The reasons for once a day milking with a calf nursing are several. First, the calf is only going to nurse for three months, when the cows lactation is naturally highest, and in a seasonal calving operation the pasture is most nutritious. Once a day milking would be unhealthy for the udder without a calf when the cow is fresh and pastures are at their best in May-July. When the cow is fresh, the stimulation on the udder from the calf butting and nursing is the best preventative I know of for udder health issues. It also makes the cow happy, which makes her a better milker for the farmer. Finally, we need to be raising the best calves we can, and having calves nurse directly from their moms is absolutely superior to bucket or bottle feeding. Once the calf is weaned, the cows udder has settled in, her production is starting to decline, the pastures are losing feed value, and suddenly once a day milking is in balance with the total system. Plus the calf has gotten off to the best start possible. Hope that makes sense, I could elaborate considerably.

Adam

Hi Adam,
Quick question, are you only milking once a day from the start?
we are trying to get to once a day milking, but was under the impression that most cows have been bred for production, and must be milked in the first 2-3 months after freshening?

After ~3 months, i understand the concept of OAD milking, but was curious about what you do until then?

i have read about cows being bred to thrive on grass, but i dont think that is very common, at least no in southern CO.

there seems a to a gap in good homestead/family cow info. most of what i find is related to large industrial operations, so any info is appreciated.
 
Adam Klaus
author
gardener
Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
65
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Tony Flint wrote:Adam, I had a few follow up questions.

1. You mentioned needing excellent pasture due to the dietary needs of a cow in milk. Were your pastures already in good enough condition when you got there? Did you do anything to improve them prior to putting the cows on them (reseeding, running sheep over them, etc.)?
2. You mentioned raw milk yogurt during the presentation. When I was volunteering on a small raw milk dairy around here I tried to make yogurt without heating it above 115F. I ended up with something delicious, but it was not yogurt (it separated into a tangy kefir-like consistency). Would you mind sharing your technique?
3. How much pasture do you have and how much do you think would be required to run a viable cow share dairy? Of course, it depends on pasture quality/climate/etc - let's assume your exact conditions but shrinking your farm. How much smaller could it be and still be viable, do you think?


Hi Tony, thanks for the kind words, I really enjoyed giving the presentation, as you saw!

1-My pastures were excellent to begin with from decades of rotational grazing in an excellent cattle environment. No improving needed. Check out 'Quality Pasture' by Alan Nation, and 'Management Intensive Grazing' by Jim Gerish to get an understanding of what constitutes excellent pasture, and how to create it if your pastures are deficient.

2-Take body temp milk fresh from the cow. Stir in 1 Tbsp per quart of perfectly made yogurt mother. Incubate for 10 hours in a cooler filled with 100 degree water. Then refrigerate. Super easy.
Your results sound like there was a contamination issue, either in the purity of your yogurt mother, or in your innoculation. Everything must be very sanitary.

3- I run roughly 1 Animal Unit (1000 pound cow) per acre. But my pastures are excellent, and I feed 60 days of hay per year. You would be doing well to use twice the area and twice the hay if you are just starting out with management intensive grazing. Start slow, be conservative.

hope that helps, good luck!
Adam
 
Adam Klaus
author
gardener
Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
65
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
[quote=Kelly SmithQuick question, are you only milking once a day from the start?
we are trying to get to once a day milking, but was under the impression that most cows have been bred for production, and must be milked in the first 2-3 months after freshening?

After ~3 months, i understand the concept of OAD milking, but was curious about what you do until then?

Hi Kelly, Thanks so much for those images, very illustrative. So much to understand with reading hair coats on cattle.

The calves nurse 12 hours a day for the first 2-3 months, this is the key to udder health with once a day milking.

You are right about the rareness of good pasture genetics. I went to Montana to get cows to establish my herd, as they really dont exist in Colorado. Or if they do, the farmers arent selling! We have to have the right cow for the job, and that is a precious thing.

good luck!
Adam
 
Becky Keith
Posts: 20
Location: Kelly , NC
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hey all.

I didn't see any mention, or I missed it in the scan, about mini-cows for dairy and beef. They eat about a 3rd less than regular cows. The interesting things is the meat to feed ratio is higher with the mini's. For the dairy cows I am not sure how they would be for milk to feed ratio. I have had a harder time finding that info. They are about the same size as a large goat and easy to handle. Unless you plan to sell it a large cow that produces gobs of milk would be a waste any how unless you feed it to your pigs or made cheese. I would think that they would get along well with a goat. In the pics I saw they all were in the same pasture with multiple animals. I am still undecided yet about goat versus cow.
 
Casey Lane
Posts: 11
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This is great! Thank you! I just heard on Paul's podcast how awesome both of your speeches were at Voices. How can we hear them online? YouTube?

Yes, more on breeding and mini cows. My jersey is very small and I'm not sure what to do with her. I hear AI is tough with one cow figuring out the heat cycle.

We have a neighbor down the road selling a mini zebu bull and cow that he bought for pets. They look healthy but I'm afraid maybe too small. My jersey is 10 months old and is only 36" tall at the shoulders. Maybe she'll hit a growth spurt.
 
Kris Arbanas
Posts: 87
Location: PNW
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Adam, I read that you have a clover rich pasture. Have you or do you regularly seed your pasture with clover? If a current pasture doesn't have clover, would you recommend seeding it before bringing in dairy cattle? If the native pasture doesn't contain much or any clover even after being improved with mob grazing, do you think seeding would have to occur indefinitely or would self seeding occur with proper management?
 
Adam Klaus
author
gardener
Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
65
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Kris Arbanas wrote:Have you or do you regularly seed your pasture with clover?
If a current pasture doesn't have clover, would you recommend seeding it before bringing in dairy cattle?
If the native pasture doesn't contain much or any clover even after being improved with mob grazing, do you think seeding would have to occur indefinitely or would self seeding occur with proper management?


Once you have a good clover content in your pastures, with proper grazing management, it will be self-supporting. You will not need to reseed.

If you have no clover, the first step is proper grazing management. I would look at the books 'Quality Pasture' by Allan Nation, and 'Management Intensive Grazing' by Jim Gerish.

Generally, good grazing management will allow for existing clover seeds in the soil bank to germinate and grow.

Once you have a proper program of grazing management, then you could consider sowing some clover to get just the species you want. Climate permitting, red clover is really the gold of pasture legumes.

Sow just a little area at a time, right as you move the cows onto that spot to graze. This way, their hooves will help to press the seed into the soil, dramatically improving germination. If you sow the whole pasture at once, you will just be inviting a plague of wild birds, who will delight in their new buffet. Trust me, I've been there.

good luck!
 
Kris Arbanas
Posts: 87
Location: PNW
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks Adam! I have 'Management Intensive Grazing' and will be reading it soon.. I will put 'Quality Pasture' on my wishlist.

I have read a few sites that say red clover can interfere with the breeding/fertility of livestock because of the oestrogens:

"Produces hormone-like compounds (oestrogens) that can interfere with livestock breeding; do not use in pastures planned for grazing during the breeding season." http://forages.oregonstate.edu/php/fact_sheet_print_legume.php?SpecID=21

"Red clover contains oestrogen which causes concern to livestock breeders if red clover is fed to females at or around conception. In practise this is avoided by not grazing high clover swards or feeding red clover silage at around conception time. For further information please ring for advice."
https://www.cotswoldseeds.com/seed-info/high-yielding-red-clover-leys-produce-protein-rich-15t-dmha

Is this a legitimate concern? I'm assuming you haven't had much of an issue if you have been successfuly breeding every year.

 
Adam Klaus
author
gardener
Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
65
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
That's funny, my understanding of the role of red clover in cattle fertility was just the opposite. I read in several old farming books, written by wise old men far more sage than the numbnuts at the ag extention service, that the estrogen compounds in red clover were an acute boost to fertility. The old books (which I do not recall specific titles) suggested flushing breeding stock on red clover pastures, specifically to improve their conception rates.

It's like talking about our president. You dont know something is true until the president officially denies it.

Wait for the ag extention idiots to decry something, then you know it must be a really good idea.

Just my 2 cents, and yes, it has been working well for me for years.
good luck!
 
R Scott
Posts: 3305
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
32
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Adam Klaus wrote:
Sow just a little area at a time, right as you move the cows onto that spot to graze. This way, their hooves will help to press the seed into the soil, dramatically improving germination. If you sow the whole pasture at once, you will just be inviting a plague of wild birds, who will delight in their new buffet. Trust me, I've been there.

good luck!


That is a profoundly simple change. All the .gov guys say to seed AFTER the rotation with a $10,000+ (used) no-till drill. This takes a hand and a sack of seed, although a $20 hand seeder would be nice.
 
Adam Klaus
author
gardener
Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
65
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
First calf of the season! Happy times on a seasonal dairy farm. We ran out of frozen milk two days ago, so thankful for the fresh!

Lacey momma is a champion (in my little world). She was born and bred here on the farm, daughter of my original cow Vivian. Pure Brown Swiss.

She has delivered four calves in four years, all right on time in the spring calving windown of April-May. Her first calf was Ferdinand, our herd bull, and the finest bull I have seen. Since then, she has given us three beautiful heifers in a row. One we sold for a pretty penny just last week, Creamsicle. One is a yearling out grazing, Rosabell. And this little baby girl that still hasnt been named. What a cow!
DSC00823.JPG
[Thumbnail for DSC00823.JPG]
Momma Lacey and baby heifer calf
 
John Polk
master steward
Pie
Posts: 8018
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
269
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
First calf of the season!

Congratulations to you and Lacey. Isn't spring a wonderful time on the homestead?

 
Kelly Smith
Posts: 699
Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
18
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
adam, congrats on the new baby! glad to hear fresh milk will soon be back on the table (i know we are dreading the dry time because of this...)

you currently milking OAD, correct? separating the calf at night and milking in the morning.


if you could, would you pm me a price on a heifer? im interested in a more grass based genetics and you are a lot closer that montana.
 
Adam Klaus
author
gardener
Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
65
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Kelly Smith wrote:
you currently milking OAD, correct? separating the calf at night and milking in the morning.


Definitely. Sane for the farmer, and healthier for both the cow and the calf.

"Once a day is the only way to play"
 
Kelly Smith
Posts: 699
Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
18
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks Adam.

Can you tell us how much milk you are getting now and once the calf is gone at ~3 months or after lactation starts to taper?

i am trying to get a general idea of what a OAD [grass based genetics] cow produces vs dairy cast offs or non grass based genetics produce, fed only grass.
 
Adam Klaus
author
gardener
Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
65
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Kelly Smith wrote:Thanks Adam.

Can you tell us how much milk you are getting now and once the calf is gone at ~3 months or after lactation starts to taper?

i am trying to get a general idea of what a OAD [grass based genetics] cow produces vs dairy cast offs or non grass based genetics produce, fed only grass.


Right now, in the first week, with the calf nursing 24 hrs per day, I am getting about 3 gallons.

During the peak of lactation, months 2-3, when the calf is nursing 12 hrs per day, I will be getting 5+ gallons per day.

My long term average over the entire 7-8 month lactation is 4 gallons per day.

Good grass genetics also ensure reliable reproductive performance, in addition to the milk production. My cows breed very consistently, generally settling within 2 heats.

hope that helps!
 
Kristie Wheaton
Posts: 1406
37
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Adam, i have a couple of questions, as you know we finally got a brown swiss an she calved last weekend. Ive seen where some people after washing the cows udders with warm soapy water like to use a lubricant for milking , which is easier on the teats themselves. Do you have any recomendations? Or do you use anything at all? Also is there a good natural alternative to "bag balm" for cracked teats?
 
Adam Klaus
author
gardener
Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
65
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Kristie Wheaton wrote:Hi Adam, i have a couple of questions, as you know we finally got a brown swiss an she calved last weekend. Ive seen where some people after washing the cows udders with warm soapy water like to use a lubricant for milking , which is easier on the teats themselves. Do you have any recomendations? Or do you use anything at all? Also is there a good natural alternative to "bag balm" for cracked teats?


Hi Kristie-
I never use any water on the udder for cleaning. My understanding is that the most sanitary way to clean the udder is with a dry bristle brush, which is what I use always.

I assume you are hand milking, and I would say that lubricant is going to be counter-productive to ease of milking. You really dont want your hand sliding down the teat as you squeeze. You want your hand to remain fixed, and squeeze in a rapid sequence where you close one finger at a time, index finger first to pinky last. I hope that makes sense. Lubricant is going to make your hand slip on the teat, which IMHE, is undesirable. I like a clean dry udder with clean dry teats. The only exception is for a cow who is very swollen, then I will apply a menthol lotion to the udder to ease the swelling and encourage letdown. This lotion only goes on the udder bag, not the teats themselves.

For chapped teats, I use the same comfrey-based herbal salve that I sell to customers and use myself. I apply the salve to the teats after milking, just a little bit. FWIW, any water you apply to the udder/teats will only exacerbate the chapped skin, much like licking your lips. Just a little salve should really help.

Hope that helps!
Adam
 
Raye Beasley
Posts: 29
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I am going to muddy the water here. I hand milk six Jerseys and I use a lubricant.

I find it difficult to milk without a little slip and the cow is much more co operative. I beleive dry milking by hand is uncomfortable for the cow and the teats don't plump up as well between squeezes. When calves nurse it is a wet process. Any thing that will work into your hands a bit as well as the teats will do as a lubricant. Just a dab to moisten things up without losing your grip. I also wash the udder. The udders on some of my Jerseys are quite large and extend out past the poop chute a bit. Wet poop doesn't brush off. A scrape with a horse scraper and warm water with a little mild soap and dry with a towel. Never had a problem. Chapped teats tend to come later when the calf is older and putting in some serious nursing. The lubricant tends to treat that automatically along with my chapped hands from all the farm work.
 
  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic