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Who's making their own dairy feed/ration?

 
Kevin MacBearach
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I want to stop buying commercial feed so looking for ideas from others to know what works to supply the sufficient nutrition without spending too much money unnecessarily. I'm located a couple good sources for organic grains already but would like to know what others have tried.
 
Kelly Smith
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how large of a scale do you plan on doing?

when a nearby farm (pigs/chickens/csa) and us (dairy cows/chickens) looked into mixing our own feed, we found it was cheaper to buy the rations premixed - unless you live in grain country, the shipping was what killed it for us.
we planned to buy organic grains and the mineral premix separately and so small scale batches for ourselves and sell some additional.

what kinda of feed are you needing for dairy cows?
we have had good luck with modesto millings soy free dairy pellets. (http://www.modestomilling.com/livestock.html #5046) we only feed a handful of pellets as a treat in the stanchion, and have found it easier to buy a bunch of bags at a time.

sorry im not more help.
i also sent you a PM.
 
Kevin MacBearach
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Yes! Modesto Milling is who I talked to at his booth at the Mother Earth News Fair in Oregon yesterday. That's who I want to use as a source. Small world.

So you're just buying premixed?
 
Kelly Smith
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Kevin MacBearach wrote:
So you're just buying premixed?


we buy their non soy dairy pellets from modesto, and feed them as a treat (and as a way to ensure the cows get micro nutrients) when milking. we only give a handful when we milk, once a day. we buy this by the 40-50lb bag at a local homestead store. we dont feed our cows any other feed, but we keep kelp, soda and salt all free choice.

we buy our chicken (both layer and broiler) feed by the ton from the link i PM'd you.
there are/should be others who are doing the same things as fehringer - they buy/grow organic grains, and mix those with the mineral premixes.

when we looked into mixing our own feed, the price to ship whole grains was higher than it was to ship premixes feed rations.
the premixes can be found pretty easily, its the grains that we had problems sourcing for a decent price.

hope that helps.







 
R Scott
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Scale matters. are we talking a couple bags a month or a couple tons?

You can sprout grain into fodder to stretch it, but there is a price in time and infrastructure.

You can buy all the raw grains and supplements and mix them yourself in a cement mixer.

You could look for a localish feed company that does custom orders or delivery routes. I have one that is maybe 3 hours away, but once a month they do a delivery route my direction and their delivery charge is less than my fuel to go pick it up. Non GMO's or organic grain, premixed ration, or will custom mix for a one ton minimum.
 
Kevin MacBearach
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Kelly Smith wrote:
Kevin MacBearach wrote:
So you're just buying premixed?


we buy their non soy dairy pellets from modesto, and feed them as a treat (and as a way to ensure the cows get micro nutrients) when milking. we only give a handful when we milk, once a day. we buy this by the 40-50lb bag at a local homestead store. we dont feed our cows any other feed, but we keep kelp, soda and salt all free choice.


Kelly, may I ask what breed of dairy cows you have? And how much milk do they give? Twice a day milking?

I would be happy to be able to give them just a handful of feed during milking. I give roughly 4lbs (a locally milled commercial feed) twice a day at milkings, just to ensure they keep their condition. The next step is that I want to go non-GMO at least, and maybe ferment some ingredients and/or sprout other ingredients, add trace minerals, etc., and through that be able to feed a little less and thus spend about the same money with similar milk results.

I have a Guernsey cow in milk and a Brown Swiss due to calve next month. We sell milk so I'd like to be able to offer my clients the best possible product I can.
 
Kevin MacBearach
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R Scott wrote:Scale matters. are we talking a couple bags a month or a couple tons?

You can sprout grain into fodder to stretch it, but there is a price in time and infrastructure.

You can buy all the raw grains and supplements and mix them yourself in a cement mixer.


Granted I don't really know much about mixing feeds but since I only have one cow in milk usually, or too max, I thought I would just add scoops of what I need at milking time. Maybe I could order a ton and just use a few bags at a time.

Same with fodder. I don't think it would be a huge production but just a few trays going, but I can't say for sure since this is all new to me.
 
Kelly Smith
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Kevin MacBearach wrote:
Kelly Smith wrote:
Kevin MacBearach wrote:
So you're just buying premixed?


we buy their non soy dairy pellets from modesto, and feed them as a treat (and as a way to ensure the cows get micro nutrients) when milking. we only give a handful when we milk, once a day. we buy this by the 40-50lb bag at a local homestead store. we dont feed our cows any other feed, but we keep kelp, soda and salt all free choice.


Kelly, may I ask what breed of dairy cows you have? And how much milk do they give? Twice a day milking?

I would be happy to be able to give them just a handful of feed during milking. I give roughly 4lbs (a locally milled commercial feed) twice a day at milkings, just to ensure they keep their condition. The next step is that I want to go non-GMO at least, and maybe ferment some ingredients and/or sprout other ingredients, add trace minerals, etc., and through that be able to feed a little less and thus spend about the same money with similar milk results.

I have a Guernsey cow in milk and a Brown Swiss due to calve next month. We sell milk so I'd like to be able to offer my clients the best possible product I can.


we have brown swiss/jersey crosses, as well as a full jersey. We only milk once a day, and we only milk seasonally (Mar-Nov-ish). We currently still have calves on the cows, and we are getting 3+ gallons from the swiss, and just over 3 from the jersey.
i generally weigh tape the cows shortly after calving as well as every few weeks to make sure they arent loosing to much weight. if we ever had a cow that could not keep condition on pasture alone, she wouldnt live on our farm for long. i also believe once a day milking is less stressful on our cows, and helps them maintain condition without excess grain.


How many cows do you have?
How much pasture?
 
Kevin MacBearach
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[we have brown swiss/jersey crosses, as well as a full jersey. We only milk once a day, and we only milk seasonally (Mar-Nov-ish). We currently still have calves on the cows, and we are getting 3+ gallons from the swiss, and just over 3 from the jersey.
i generally weigh tape the cows shortly after calving as well as every few weeks to make sure they arent loosing to much weight. if we ever had a cow that could not keep condition on pasture alone, she wouldnt live on our farm for long. i also believe once a day milking is less stressful on our cows, and helps them maintain condition without excess grain.


How many cows do you have?
How much pasture? ]




I just have two cows, the guernsey and the brown swiss. Total amount of pasture are they have access to is maybe a little over an acre. I do a rotational grazing system with the electric fencing so there's been no shortage of grass, at least not till it's starts getting near winter. I sell the milk so it's a business for me having the cows and twice a day milking is not causing much problem for the cows, though it's pretty rough on me.

 
Adam Klaus
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Kelly Smith wrote:if we ever had a cow that could not keep condition on pasture alone, she wouldnt live on our farm for long. i also believe once a day milking is less stressful on our cows, and helps them maintain condition without excess grain.


This is the gold right here. Cows are grazers, and don't need feed rations in a natural farming system. Once a day milking is so important for balancing the nutritional needs with the production requirements, in a way that both benefits the cow and the farmer.
 
Kevin MacBearach
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Adam Klaus wrote:

This is the gold right here. Cows are grazers, and don't need feed rations in a natural farming system. Once a day milking is so important for balancing the nutritional needs with the production requirements, in a way that both benefits the cow and the farmer.



What's the study that shows "Once a day milking is so important for balancing the nutritional needs with the production requirements"? Is that a "one size fits all" regardless of cow breeds, or regardless of season, or quality of pasture? What about the fact that early on most dairy cows produces way more milk than a new calf can consume? We've bred cows to the point where if we as farmers in this relationship, don't step in and milk out the extra milk, the cow will be in bad shape. After all, twice a day milking is the traditional norm throughout history. In the middle-ages, farmers could hardly afford to injure, or lose a cow through neglect, yet twice a day milking was practiced throughout the season. And the milking season was extended into winter with certain cows that they kept away from the bulls. Ninth century Irish legal commentary refers to a cow with constant milk (bó bithblicht) every month of the year. Likewise there are a number of references to winter-milk (lacht geimrid).

It seems to me that if we say that once a day milking is best for the cow, period, it narrows down any potential farming ventures for the small farmers by narrowing them down to less milk, less business, and less opportunity to make ends meet as a farmer who wants to keep things small, sustainable, yet be able to survive economically. For example, in Oregon the law says for raw milk dairies one can have no more than 3 cows. In order to stick to the once a day milking with my two cows, I would need to buy 4 cows, which I could not have legally, nor do I want 4 cows.

If dairy cows have been bred to be slightly pushed, and have been slightly pushed since antiquity to give us more milk than the "natural" untouched herbivore, then we as farmers should not feel in anyway guilty for continuing in this age old tradition in a healthy and respectful way.
 
Judi Anne
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Is that once a day milking plus leaving the calves on from freshening in Mar until oct-nov when you wean and dry off?
 
Judi Anne
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We mix our own feeds and keep grain/seed feeding minimal for all the livestock and have done so for 10 years now with good success. But our dairy animals are goats, not cows so I don't think our ration would crossover well.
 
Kevin MacBearach
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Judi Anne wrote:We mix our own feeds and keep grain/seed feeding minimal for all the livestock and have done so for 10 years now with good success. But our dairy animals are goats, not cows so I don't think our ration would crossover well.



Yes, cows are quite a bit trickier to keep balanced.
 
Kelly Smith
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Hi Kevin,
I filled in some more info below, i can really only give you my experiences and the things i have learned - hopefully it helps.


Kevin MacBearach wrote:What about the fact that early on most dairy cows produces way more milk than a new calf can consume?

it is possible to milk the cows twice a day for the first few weeks to keep the cow comfortable. other than that, a cow can hold more milk than i ever thought possible.
for instance, currently, our brown swiss cow (fresh on May 25th) is giving just under 5 gallons of milk. she is only on pasture and milked once a day.

Kevin MacBearach wrote:
We've bred cows to the point where if we as farmers in this relationship, don't step in and milk out the extra milk, the cow will be in bad shape.

i wouldnt say the cow WILL be in bad shape, but the cow CAN be in bad shape. ideally you will find/breed animals that fit your farm conditions.

Kevin MacBearach wrote:
It seems to me that if we say that once a day milking is best for the cow, period, it narrows down any potential farming ventures for the small farmers by narrowing them down to less milk, less business, and less opportunity to make ends meet as a farmer who wants to keep things small, sustainable, yet be able to survive economically.

your entire reply assumes that dairy farming is the only possibility, does it not? i see it as giving he farmer more time to diversify into other income producing ventures.
is it possible to limit the dairy portion of the business and add in another? lambs? chickens?

Kevin MacBearach wrote:For example, in Oregon the law says for raw milk dairies one can have no more than 3 cows. In order to stick to the once a day milking with my two cows, I would need to buy 4 cows, which I could not have legally, nor do I want 4 cows.

see my reply above.
seems it you are set on dairy cows on low acreage as well as wanting to milk twice a day - then you are essentially trying to mimic a commercial dairy.
my suggestion is to take stock in what forage you have available and tailor your animal count to match that. not max out the animals based on state law and figure out how to make it work.

can you custom raise calves as another option or something similar?

Kevin MacBearach wrote:
If dairy cows have been bred to be slightly pushed, and have been slightly pushed since antiquity to give us more milk than the "natural" untouched herbivore, then we as farmers should not feel in anyway guilty for continuing in this age old tradition in a healthy and respectful way.


the breed selection has been focused solely on milk production since the 50s, they have disregarded things like longevity and body condition. holsteins went from averaging 5000lbs of milk a year in the 50s to 22000lbs of milk today. the average age of a dairy cow in my area when she i no longer of use to the dairy is about 5-6 years old (so only 4-5 milking cycles).

while im not trying to be absolutist, i have no desire to mimic a large portion of the commercial dairy industry.
if that is your goal, my suggestion would be to try to find an animal nutritionist and start talking with them. there are entire fields of study into this and they would be able to likely point you in the right direction.

last thing i will add:
please get some "rumen buffer" or "natural soda" and keep it out for your cows. this is a "baking soda" type product that the cows can use to lower/raise their rumen PH based on their diet. as i am sure you know, feeding cows grain will lower their rumen pH and that low pH can lead to other problems.

hope this helps a bit
 
Kevin MacBearach
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Hi Kelly. Sorry about the delay in replying to your post, just found this thread again.

When you say your "cow is always on pasture," what does that mean exactly? Is the cow out there in winter? Is the pasture it's only source of food?

I would love to milk once a day but we're selling the milk and though once a day milking wouldn't cut down the amount greatly, it would still be maybe 25% less milk a day. Last time I switched to once a day the cow's milk dropped really a lot. Plus everyone I know around here with micro dairies have tried the once a day and they weren't happy with the amount the milk dropped.

Sure, diversifying the farm is good to do, but in the mean time I'll be milking twice a day because if I didn't, we couldn't afford to keep the cows right now. So other projects are in the works to spread the in flow of money but who knows how long that can take.

Nothing as far as the cows go is done to fit state laws. I have between 2 and 3 cows because that seems to be a good fit labor wise. I don't see how you think I would, or could mimic a commercial dairy. In Oregon it seems 2

I have a cow that 9 nine years old and she's in her prime. I know quite a few people around here that are doing the same as me with young and older cows and it doesn't seem to be as you say with cows keeling over at 5 years old. Are you referring to massive dairies with horrible conditions?

The amount of grain I give them (actually a 15% protein feed) is only about 2.5 lbs per milking. Hardly going to through off the rumen that much.

I think what you're proposing is a way of keeping dairy cows that's only for family use. So apples and oranges.
 
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Kevin MacBearach wrote:
I think what you're proposing is a way of keeping dairy cows that's only for family use. So apples and oranges.


I dont think that is at all a fair assessment of how Kelly manages his cows. There are a lot of ways to run a commercial (as in makes profit for owner) dairy. I operated a 100% grass fed micro dairy for a decade, making money the whole time.

It seems like you have a system that works for you, and that you are committed to. Thats great! But it is not the only way to run a commercial dairy, and I think that folks like Kelly sharing their experience should not be ridiculed.

There are a lot of ways to farm smart, and we should work together to learn from one another, rather than to argue our differences.

And again, I must restate, 100% grass fed micro dairy IS profitable!
 
Kevin MacBearach
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Obviously a "100% grass fed" dairy would be very profitable, because grass is free. But I don't understand what you, or Kelly mean when you're saying "100% grass fed" which is a legal term that I only hear in reference to beef cows. I don't think anyone is leaving their cows on pasture during the winter and rainy months, so I assume you're just feeding them hay and lots, and lots of high quality alfalfa when the grasses are dormant. Since you just milk once a day, the cow is less likely to use up too many calories producing milk so no need, or less of a need for calorie rich grain in the diet. That makes more sense than if I hear someone say that their cow is *only* on pasture. What does that mean? In Oregon, it rains all winter. So nobody will be doing that with dairy cows here.
 
Kelly Smith
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Kevin MacBearach wrote:Hi Kelly. Sorry about the delay in replying to your post, just found this thread again.

When you say your "cow is always on pasture," what does that mean exactly? Is the cow out there in winter? Is the pasture it's only source of food?


our cow (and sheep) are rotated through the pasture from ~ Mar/Apr - Nov/Dec, depending on the year/irrigation.
during the growing season, we graze about half our land, and hay the other half. we use that hay to get us through the winter (we also lease another pasture that we make hay on). this is the closest i can get to "going hayless" based on our context. we havent bought hay for our animals since EARLY 2014.
in the winter the animals are in a "dry lot" and fed hay (you can see a feeder by the #1, plus they have access to the laneway). I should also note, that typically we dont milk in the winter, so the feed requirements are much lower then - thus we are able to sell some of out higher quality alfalfa bales to fund other projects on the farm.

here is a photo from above that might give you a better idea of what we are working with:


personally, when i look around at nature in my area, i do not see ruminants nursing young in the winter - thus we have tried to mimic that and only milk with the grass is green.
i understand that isnt always possible - my suggestion is not to milk year around - it is to find other incomes to fill in where there will be [what i consider to be] natural voids in production.

also - fwiw - i thought "grass-fed" milk only had to be on pasture 120 days a year? (maybe i thinking of the federal labeling, not state?)


i think we (you and i) are seeing this question from different angles.
i ask "what do i grow, and how can i manage my animals in a way that most effectively harvests what i grow" - i dont set out to be a dairy farm or a pig farm or a sheep farm. i think once you have your heart set on being a diary farm, it will force your hand further down the line on some things you may not normally being willing to compromise on.
fwiw - we scaled up our dairy this year and found our context wouldnt/couldnt handle it. we had to sell cows and have moved onto sheep for the time being. our forage didnt really change as much as the change in the people managing the land.
my point is, just because you start down one path, doesnt mean you cant diverge for a while - you may find a new/better path, or you may just learn a bunch more and end up back where you wanted to be anyway.
 
Kevin MacBearach
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Well it's nice idea, that seems to mimic a "pre-human contact" era for cows. The problem I would have with it is that because I have a raw-milk business, I cannot take a 5 month break from milking and selling milk to people who want it. If I did, I wouldn't have anyone to sell to once the cow's in milk again. People I have found, at least those in Oregon will not wait for me for 5 months if they need to feed their families the milk. They will simply find another raw-milk provider and I'll be stuck in April with no milk clients and lots of milk. What's the point of the business then? Sure, I won't be expending energy milking 2 cows twice a day, but I'll still be feeding and buying them hay and cleaning their barn through the winter, but there will be no income from milk. And *no guarantee* of milk clients when spring comes.

And say that I adopt this method you're talking about. I've found it not too reliable to time the cow's calving to coincide with the seasons. I don't own a bull so like many people I rely on AI for breeding the cow. And lately, especially with these Guernseys it's more often a miss then a hit, so only unless you have a bull, or access to a bull, this "calving in the spring, resting in the winter" scenario is unrealistic. Cause all it takes is for the pregnancy to not take for 2 or 3 cycles and all of a sudden you have a cow calving in early winter, an excess of milk, and a cow that needs high quality feed but a dormant pasture. And keeping a bull is another work load and expense in feed year round that will further take away from my profits from milk.

How do you overcome these issues?
 
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Cows aren't really my thing, but when I was at the Welsh Agricultural College many moons ago, they had an experimental herd of organic dairy cows, and at the time it was impossible to source organic grains. They dealt with the situation by making silage to feed them during the winter, which meant that at the time pretty well all organic milk produced in Wales was also totally grass-fed. I can't remember all the details, but I think overall yields were lower but the health of the cows was better and with a lower incidence of mastitis and other diseases as the cows were less stressed. Cows will milk better on silage than they will on hay, as far as I'm aware.
 
Kelly Smith
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Kevin MacBearach wrote:Well it's nice idea, that seems to mimic a "pre-human contact" era for cows. The problem I would have with it is that because I have a raw-milk business, I cannot take a 5 month break from milking and selling milk to people who want it. If I did, I wouldn't have anyone to sell to once the cow's in milk again. People I have found, at least those in Oregon will not wait for me for 5 months if they need to feed their families the milk. They will simply find another raw-milk provider and I'll be stuck in April with no milk clients and lots of milk. What's the point of the business then? Sure, I won't be expending energy milking 2 cows twice a day, but I'll still be feeding and buying them hay and cleaning their barn through the winter, but there will be no income from milk. And *no guarantee* of milk clients when spring comes.


we have explained to our customer WHY we do not milk in the winter - and the ones that understand and stick with us are the ones we want as customers. I am not interested in a customer that claims to want to eat seasonally, yet wants milk year around. i also understand that is specific to my context.
whats next? wanting corn in january?
edited to add - that we are not a dairy - we are a farm. this allows us to take some time off from milking, while still offering other products (eggs, chicken, lamb). just something to think about.

Kevin MacBearach wrote:
And say that I adopt this method you're talking about. I've found it not too reliable to time the cow's calving to coincide with the seasons. I don't own a bull so like many people I rely on AI for breeding the cow. And lately, especially with these Guernseys it's more often a miss then a hit, so only unless you have a bull, or access to a bull, this "calving in the spring, resting in the winter" scenario is unrealistic. Cause all it takes is for the pregnancy to not take for 2 or 3 cycles and all of a sudden you have a cow calving in early winter, an excess of milk, and a cow that needs high quality feed but a dormant pasture. And keeping a bull is another work load and expense in feed year round that will further take away from my profits from milk.

How do you overcome these issues?


i never understood why people say it is hard to get a cow pregnant with AI.
we see our cows daily, it is pretty obvious when one is in heat. she is usually moo'ing her head off and the other cows are jumping on her and she is allowing them to mount her (called "standing heat).
we also know our main cow cycles are 23ish days. we generally have the trailer ready a few days before and take her in. we just call the vet in our area and they can noramlly get us in that same day (it only take ~ 15 mins) it has only taken us twice a few times - so even with buying semen ($25 a straw) and having the vet do the AI ($40) we are far cheaper than keeping a bull. even if we have to slide our milking window 3-6 weeks because we missed a cycle or 2, it still cheaper than a bull.
we also dont own cows that require high quality feed - they must produce on the feed we produce, so having to feed for a few weeks either way isnt a huge deal for us. we are actually in a situation where we will be calving on memorial day next year - not 100% ideal, so we will milk a little longer into the winter.


it sounds like you need to be more specific with your context.
you are interested in making your own dairy ration - so you can feed/supplement 2 cows milking all year on 1 acre.
i think anyone giving you advice on this over the internet is doing your cows a disservice. my suggestion would be to find someone that specializing in dairy cow nutrition and work with them. are there any larger dairies around? any large dairy worth their weight in bream should have a nutritionist on staff. see if they can come to your farm and work with you on a ration or 2. i would suspect you need a summer and a winter ration - might need to tweak both of those depending on in milk or dry. there is literally an entire course of study on this type of thing.

hope that helps.
 
Kelly Smith
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i also wanted to make sure you know im not trying to talk down to you or sound like i have it all figured out. thats not it at all.
imo, farming should be about using the feed/forage you have available and not forcing a certain enterprise onto a piece of land.


also - i totally stole your idea of writing the date on the milk bottles with dry erase a year or so ago, thanks
 
Kevin MacBearach
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Not a problem. It's actually 2 acres of pasture that they're on. I'm able to graze them the same amount of time that anyone in Oregon with 10--20 acres can during the spring and summer when the grass is fast growing. Most of of the time I'm mowing the pasture be cause 2 cows can't keep up with the growing grass.

Again, I can't narrow down the client base like that, mainly because we're almost an hour outside of Portland and it's everything I can do to market my product to get people to make the drive. Even the herd-share drop off I do closer to town is a more a drive for some. I get your analogy with "year round corn" but it's true that what you're doing with the winter lay off is not something found in traditional dairies, or farms. People always were able to extend milking through winter, and for thousands of years it didn't seem to be a problem for them, or the cows. So my question is, who's example are you following? Or are you using the seasons as a guide?

According to the "AI guy," who does all the dairy cows in this part of Oregon, some of the heritage breeds are trickier than Jerseys and Holsteins. And Guernseys (I'm phasing out of that breed now because of this) are notorious for not getting bred. My cows are very easy to detect when in heat and I've had him come out early in the heat, late in it, back to back, multiple samples going in at once, etc.. And currently I have one cow that's he's been inseminating for 8 consecutive cycles. Now how is that going to fit into a seasonally in tuned milking schedule? It's not. This very question came up at a series of raw-milk workshops at a micro-dairy here in Oregon given by Tim Wightman http://www.realmilk.com/bios/tim-wightman/ . When asked about trying to coordinate the breeding in order to calve in the spring, Tim said that you "breed cows, when you can breed them." Basically there's such amount of uncertainty with getting the pregnancy to take, that people have found that it's best to get the cow pregnant when the opportunity arises. And if we look at history, it seems people who had dairy cows thought the same thing.
 
Kevin MacBearach
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I hope you guys don't think I'm trying to be a jerk. I'm just looking for answers to situations I'm dealing with ultimately. I do think about what you and Adam are saying, and I'm not on here just giving my opinion for nothing. Like you guys, I'm up every morning at 6:00 dealing with animals (and kids!) barely without a break till nighttime. Do I like to have to milk twice a day, no. Do I like to milk year round, no. Do I like to have to sell the calves a week after they're born, no. And do I like to have to supplement with grain, definitely not! So if I come off a little testy, I'm sorry.
 
Adam Klaus
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I hear ya Kevin. I would say though that if you don't like what you're doing, then do it different!

Reading through all your posts, it seems that you are frustrated with your present system, and looking for some modifications that would improve your quality of life as a farmer. That is commendable. I think though that you might need to be more open-minded to making changes to your system. It seems like you are not happy with the present situation, but are highly reluctant to make changes to it.

the answer is not easy, but it sounds like your situation is not sustainable on a personal level, working too much for too little pay. I feel you, believe me. I have no ego in this, but I honestly wrote the book I did to help people find a viable and sustainable way to manage dairy cows on small farms. Take it for what it's worth. I hope you find a way forward that works for you, your cows, your land, and most importantly your family.

good luck!
 
Kevin MacBearach
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I'm certainly open to make changes with how I do the milk business. The problem is, I have one cow (brown swiss) that just calved one month ago, so I would have to wait to breed her for at least 8 months to get her on a seasonal breeding schedule. My other cow (guernsey) seem to have an infertility issue so we might be eating her. So I would have to find a cow to buy that's due to calve in, or around July. I don't know if that's tricky to find or not, having never done it.

The other part is learning how to keep and raise the calf by doing milk sharing with the mother during the crucial spring and summer months.

So if I can get through those two hurdles, I might be ok.
 
Kelly Smith
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Kevin MacBearach wrote:
The other part is learning how to keep and raise the calf by doing milk sharing with the mother during the crucial spring and summer months.


fwiw - i leave the calf on momma full time for the first week - then start separating the calf off at night until 2-3 months old. (our cows generally peak in lactation ~3 months fresh) after 3 months (or so) we wean and sell the calf.
when the calf is separated at night, i have found it is best to keep the calf separated for ~ a hour after youve milked momma. we found that , when we released the calf right after milking - momma would hold up milk up in anticipation of the calf coming to nurse.

i am not 100% sure how this would work with milking twice a day though.... it might be possible to bottle feed and keep the calf on momma for a short period as well.

im not sure what the cow prices in your area are, but we generally sell the calves for ~$1000-1500 once they are weaned. so it is possible to develop an income stream from the calves as well.


like adam says, neither of us are trying to talk down or put you out of business.
i know i have been in a very similar situation (unable to change, but not farming like i want) earlier this year. it was hard but we finally made the decision to sell/butcher 2/3 of our herd to get us back into "balance"
never underestimate the mental strain that farming takes on you and your family.

good luck - and keep us updated.

 
Kevin MacBearach
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Keeping the calf from the mom for an hour after milking seems like a good idea. I've had a lot of trouble with cows letting down while the calf is around, or nearby.

And I've decided to start a once a day milking schedule. Not doing it now since I've got a different situation at the moment with a newly freshened cow and no calf around. But I want to implement it as soon as I can, along with letting the cows dry up for the winter months. Mainly because It's just taking up too much time and I've had more milk than I can sell at the moment. I do need to figure out a few more ideas for farm incomes to rely on when this happens.

I don't think I could get $1000 - 1500 for a weaned calf here in Oregon. I have been getting $400 for a week old calf pretty easy. I there a reason a 3 month old weaned calf is so valuable where you are? If it was feasible, I would raise a calf till it could be bred, but trying to keep a calf away from it's mom that long would be almost impossible for me.
 
Kelly Smith
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Kevin MacBearach wrote:
I don't think I could get $1000 - 1500 for a weaned calf here in Oregon. I have been getting $400 for a week old calf pretty easy. I there a reason a 3 month old weaned calf is so valuable where you are? If it was feasible, I would raise a calf till it could be bred, but trying to keep a calf away from it's mom that long would be almost impossible for me.


i think part of the reason calves are so expensive, has to do with the overall prices of cattle going up (there arent many cows left in the US after the last [2011-2013] drought).
a few years ago, week old calves were selling for ~$200-250 at auction - now they are going for $400 and up.

there is also a good amount of interest in keeping a family cow. we market our cows specifically to these people.
our calves are also very friendly, which seems to help with the sale (we havent had anyone come look at any animal and not buy one)

we have thought about raising calves to breeding age, but our problem is that would force us to feed the heifer over winter which we try not to do - fwiw a springer dairy cow only sells for ~$1700-2000, so all those extra months dont really add up for us.
we have even thought about getting day/week old calves and raising them to sell. while i am sure there is a limitation to this but it might be something to look into - especially if you are trying to shift the milking window to the growing season.


keep us updated - im sure there are others who are watching/reading this thread
 
Kevin MacBearach
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Is it any particular breed of calf that you're selling? Dairy, meat, or a cross? Do you have a bull, or do AI? Our last calf born here was a brown swiss/guernsey cross. I'm really regretting selling her after along one week of working with her and the mom. I should have gave it more time to see if I could have set up a system of milk sharing and just milked once a day for the first three months. I still have more milk than I can sell, so I should have kept the calf and sold her down the road a bit for more money. Now I'm losing money, and working harder.....


The people who bought her from me are doing just that, buying calfs and selling them either bred, or close to it. I think they're making decent money doing this on the side.

I ordered Adam's book on Amazon. But it's going to be hard to make any big changes at this point unless I sell these cows and buy new ones, or wait till July to breed my one cow that's newly freshened. It might be more economical to find and buy a new cow that's due in April. But it could be tricky to find such a cow. Especially one that's a heritage breed.
 
Kelly Smith
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Kevin MacBearach wrote:Is it any particular breed of calf that you're selling? Dairy, meat, or a cross? Do you have a bull, or do AI? Our last calf born here was a brown swiss/guernsey cross. I'm really regretting selling her after along one week of working with her and the mom. I should have gave it more time to see if I could have set up a system of milk sharing and just milked once a day for the first three months. I still have more milk than I can sell, so I should have kept the calf and sold her down the road a bit for more money. Now I'm losing money, and working harder.....

we have sold brown swiss/jersey cross calves as well as full jersey calves. oddly we havent had a male born on our farm yet (i think i may have just jinxed myself)
we dont keep a bull - mainly because we only need him for ~30 mins a year - we AI instead. there are a few commercial dairies in our area, so our vet is familiar with all things dairy. they actually keep jersey and holstein semen in stock.


Kevin MacBearach wrote:
The people who bought her from me are doing just that, buying calfs and selling them either bred, or close to it. I think they're making decent money doing this on the side.

how old are the breeding them? i know most people start them at 15 months or so - but we like to wait 9-12 months longer then that - especially if we plan to keep the cow (imo just because a cow can get pregnant doesnt mean she should... similar to humans)


you may also look into a local dairy that doesnt keep their calves on momma. if you could put 2 calves on momma cow for 3-4 months then sell them - you may be abel to make more money that way then selling the milk - even if it is just a hold over until you can work out the seasonal (semi-seasonal) milking.

Kevin MacBearach wrote:
I ordered Adam's book on Amazon. But it's going to be hard to make any big changes at this point unless I sell these cows and buy new ones, or wait till July to breed my one cow that's newly freshened. It might be more economical to find and buy a new cow that's due in April. But it could be tricky to find such a cow. Especially one that's a heritage breed.


i agree-
i would make the smallest change which would give you the largest impact -- sadly, that may mean getting rid of a cow.
i also think that marketing will/should be a big part of the transition. we were able to explain why we were doing what we are doing to our customers and most got it.

you may also looking raising some broiler chickens while you have extra milk. we were mixing skimmed milk with the leftover chicken feed and it really helped save feed for us this year. again - it may only be temporary, but it is another way to cycle milk to money.
 
Kevin MacBearach
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richard valley
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Location: Sierra Nevada mountain valley CA, & Nevada high desert
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Greetings, We very seldom feed grain. Milk cows, it seems for us do well on hay, with a bit of Alfalfa. We feed hay in the form of bales, pellets and cubes. In winter cubes because of so little waste.


richard



 
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