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Importing Dairy Cows

 
Kris Arbanas
Posts: 87
Location: PNW
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My question is: Is there such a thing as too far when importing cows?

I have ran into the issue where I have chosen a particular cow breed but availability in my area is very limited. I have found only one commercial dairy willing to sell cows in my area. My wife and I made a visit to this dairy to see how they raise their animals. It was very disappointing to say the least. Although some decent pasture was available at times, the herd was fed lots of gmo corn waste, the calves didn't see grass or hay (only grain) for at least the first year of their life, and the calves were fed anti-biotic milk from dried off cows which would probably devastate their rumen/microbiome.

On the other hand, I have found a nice little dairy/breeder which has grass genetics for a few generations. The calves are raised on 100% whole milk. The problem is, they are a 48 hour drive away. My worry is that this long travel would have some lasting effect on the cow(s). Also, would I have to make the trip or are there transport companies that are trustworthy where I would know the cows are being properly fed/watered and cared for?
 
Adam Klaus
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Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
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I think there are problems with both of these options. I would look for more of a happy middle ground. There are lots and lots of dairy cows in the NW, so no need to drive 48 hours. I think one of the main things is to not get too hung up on a particular breed.

Looking at how the cows are fed and cared for is essential, whereas breed just doesn't really matter that much. So it is great to visit any potential source of cows, see how they run their operation, and then try to source your animals from a farm that raises their animals similarly to how you plan to raise yours.

Transport isn't a huge problem in and of itself. It is expensive though. I would say that finding cows within a 16 hour distance means that they can get to you in a day, so even if they are a bit neglected, they will be fine. I am pretty sure that the stress on an animal from 48 hours of highway travel is significant, to say the least.

hope that helps!
 
Kris Arbanas
Posts: 87
Location: PNW
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There definitely are plenty of dairy cows in the NW, but unfortunately every one I have contacted besides one particular larger commercial dairy is not willing to sell. With the demand of raw milk rising and sales allowed in Oregon and Washington, everyone seems to be building their herd and don't want to give up any cows.

I know you have only dealt with Brown Swiss but do you discuss breeds in your book at all Adam? I just don't feel there are that many great small dairy breeds that would suit us. If we're talking high butterfat breeds that can do well on grass only (which is extremely important to us), there are only a few choices.
 
Adam Klaus
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Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
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Hi Kris,
I can imagine that good cows are not for sale. That's always how it is, and especially so with the newfound demand for raw milk.

I do discuss breeds in my book, in the chapter on selecting the perfect dairy cow. There is a lot to consider, for sure.

As far as the butterfat consideration, it is my opinion that all breeds except Holsteins produce ample butterfat. You, me, and everyone else doesn't want Holsteins, so really there is no need to worry about the butterfat levels. What we need to worry about is pasture performance. From my understanding, the best breeds for pastured dairy are Brown Swiss, Milking Shorthorn, Devons, Ayrshire, and Guernsey. Unfortunately, because small dairies have been run out of the marketplace over the last century, these breeds are all scarce. Of them, Brown Swiss are by far the most numerous. That is why I ended up with Brown Swiss: they were available.

hope that helps!
 
Kris Arbanas
Posts: 87
Location: PNW
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I will keep on searching! Thanks.

One more thing I would like to ask regarding breeds is A1 vs A2. Is this something you test for in your cows? Cull for?
 
Adam Klaus
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Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
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Kris Arbanas wrote:I will keep on searching! Thanks.

One more thing I would like to ask regarding breeds is A1 vs A2. Is this something you test for in your cows? Cull for?


A1/A2 is kinda the next frontier for me. So right now, I don't test for it, largely due to the cost.

When I get my herd to a place where all of my breeding criteria are met, and I have both surplus animals and surplus cash, then I would like to incorporate A1 testing into my criteria for cow selection.

great question!
 
Kelly Smith
Posts: 699
Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
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we get our cows tested at the UC Davis vet lab: https://www.vgl.ucdavis.edu/services/A2Genotyping.php
20-30 tail hairs and $25.

they also offer Kappa Casein and Beta Lactoglobulin testing also.

if your cow has the A2 gene - be advised:
As a licensed laboratory, VGL is required to send A2 Corporation Limited a copy of all A2 Gene Tests and to disclose the following:
VGL is an A2 Corporation Limited (A2C) accredited and registered A2 Gene Tester. A2 Gene Tests conform to the specification and are validated to the standards of A2C.

A2C will only access information relating to you and your animals from testing carried out by the VGL for the purpose of contacting you about potential milk supply and to maintain a register of A2 gene tested animals.

A2C owns various intellectual property rights (including patent rights, trade marks, and technical and commercial know how) relating to the commercial production and sale of a2™ branded milk or milk with reduced beta casein A1.

It is possible that commercial use of test results may fall within the scope of such intellectual property rights, so if you intend to form a herd of animals used to produce a2™ branded milk or milk with reduced beta casein A1 on a commercial scale, you should contact A2C for more information.



hope this helps.

 
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