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Where do Cows go in Winter?

 
pollinator
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Here are my three little heifers. We started them with some slipshod “progressive grazing” during the last of the warm. The day after they came home, we had a tremendous hail battle that beat down the grass and the poor wee girls. Fortunately the chickens had the sense to scramble into their bungalow. My newly planted trees were too slow. 😞 Anyway, not very good grazing after that.

DH finally persuaded me to let the Scottish girls have the whole Northeast quadrant (about 3 acres) while we worked on their shelter. (He says men can’t be bossy, but he’s wrong about that.) Anyway, the shed is finished and we’ve given them the entire east half to wander at will. I’m not sure whether this is right or not. It’s winter (or will be in a few days). Everything’s frozen. Maybe they can’t do any harm to the pasture. Except they do like to hang out in several favorite places and poop there. Would it be mean to confine them to the 16X24’ stable and a small yard and do deep bedding? Or maybe it’s harmless to let them wander about. There are so many things I don’t know yet and all the books, etc. that I read seem to assume a certain degree of extant knowledge that I simply don’t have.

Once the grass seems well established next spring, I’ll put them out wherever it’s dry enough not to get trampled into mud, and try to figure out what size paddock they need for a day. Meantime I’m kind of out to sea. What do you all think I ought to do with them for winter?
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The Cows and I (official treat goddess)
 
steward
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Howdy Cindy, I just watched a video by Joel Salatin that talks about making compost with cows in the winter then following up with pigs and chickens. I thought it was a neat idea but might not fit in your situation ?

 
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In my area the cows stay in the pastures all winter and the feeding areas are constantly switched up, which spreads the manure. Come spring they do have to brush drag the fields in order to break up the patties.

I guess I should mention that it is bitter cold and we won't have any chance of mud until spring thaw.
 
pollinator
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not to highjack the thread, but what kind of cows are those? are they full sized? can they be milked? and are they always that hairy?
 
gardener
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bernetta putnam wrote:not to highjack the thread, but what kind of cows are those? are they full sized? can they be milked? and are they always that hairy?



Those are Highland Cattle, and yes they are full grown and always that hairy. The milk from them is like the beef, extraordinarily good, they are almost always grass fed exclusively, even here in the states.
 
gardener
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Beautiful cattle.

Ours stay in the pasture for winter. After pre-winter "culling". They have a protected & covered area if they prefer that. They generally stay close to their hay & water. Assuming you will put them into the barn or other protected area during severe blizzards & snowstorms I see no reason not to let them roam freely on three acres. They have thick coats:)

 
Cindy Skillman
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Thanks, Miles. I watched it last evening and it was really helpful. Marco Banks posted it for me on my “pigerator” topic. I’d like to do that... I just have to get DH on board. He’s scared of the smell... Do you know whether it would be stinky? People there said plenty of bedding and diatomaceous earth would “help”... Help is good, but I would really need it to not stink. 😏 Not just stink a little less.

Thanks everybody for the kind comments on my pretty, pretty girls. They’re 20 months old. Their coats vary depending on the seasons. They do shed some, depending on how hot the weather gets. As Dr Redhawk said, they are a smaller cattle breed. That said, I’m not certain they’re purebreds. The lady I bought them from said they’d get to between 900 and 1100 pounds. I don’t have the context to guess their weight at present from looking at them, though. I’m having a vet to come look them over after the holidays. Maybe she can hazard a guess, or maybe she has the means to weigh them. Plus we’ll talk about A.I., that sort of thing, and handling facilities and lots of other newbie questions. There’s so much I don’t know... I’m told that they can be milked though they’re primarily considered a meat breed. I’m hoping to milk share with calves and make some cheese, etc. The milk is about 10% butterfat and naturally homogenized so, tricky to separate. The Scotts also used them as a fiber animal by brushing out their insulating undercoat when they start to shed—and, of course, for robes. They remind me of bison, only littler and sweet (mostly... they ARE cattle and need treating with respect no matter how cute and fluffy... plus they look a lot bigger when you’re getting a burst of enthusiasm from them over that fresh bale you’re bringing in!). I have to admit though: I’m in love.

Thanks for the insights Tom and Mike. That’s just what I needed to know for now. I’m overthinking I realize. I do that a lot. 🥴 Things always turn out to be simpler than I think... except when they don’t. 😉 I do appreciate your help. DH took care of things here today. Monday is my painting day. Here’s what I’m working on... it still needs some TLC. 🥰🐮



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garden master
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That is one beautiful painting! Thanks for sharing it with us.
 
gardener & author
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Beautiful cows.

I had no idea about their milk being naturally homogenised. I've been interested in Highland cattle for milking because of how they look, their hardiness, and that they will thrive on a variety of foods, but I would like to easily separate the cream so would be interested to hear if it separates after fermenting or if there are any other tricks to getting butter and cream from them, or anything at all about how they are as milking animals.
 
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Cindy, I LOVE your girls *and* your painting! That's a huge fat content! I knew their milk was rich, just not exactly how much so. Now, you've got me wondering if they would be a better investment than the goats I've been thinking of. I loved our jersey cow, when I was a kid, and am well - versed in the labor involved. I'm also well aware of just how strong the 'Houdini gene' is, in goats, and how expensive it can get, to keep the little boogers corralled. I guess it's a good thing I've got plenty of time to do my research!
Good luck with your girls, and please? Keep the pics & paintings coming! ;)
 
Cindy Skillman
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You guys are so kind and sweet to respond to my shameless plea for affirmation. 🥰 Seriously it does need some tweaking, but I’m pretty happy with it so far. I’ll put up a finished one when I’m done. 🙂

I’m told that you can separate the cream off goat milk by putting it in a wide bowl or pan in the fridge for a day or three. I never have that much room in the fridge, but it’s worth experimenting. The rich cream should make it excellent for cheese making (from my research). I guess you get a lot more cheese from rich milk. I make kefir and yogurt and I always use whole milk. It doesn’t separate doing that though of course you can drain off the whey for “cream cheese”. I just searched “milk separator” on Amazon and found several with good reviews. Pricey, at around $250 usd. I may have to start saving pennies. That would be nice to have, I think.

Fences are the big reason I decided on cows. We keep these in with one strand of equine poly rope. They don’t even consider challenging it (but they were already trained to e-fence.) We already have a perimeter fence of 4 strand barbed wire or otherwise I wouldn’t be comfortable with only the temporary fencing. I wanted the miniature Scotties but I can’t travel since I’m caregiver for my mom, and besides that, it looks like they’re around $5,000 a head. These I got from a lady in-state ($700 each) while hubby watched Mom. It was a long day, but so worth it. 🥳 Anyway the plan is to breed them with miniature bulls via AI. They were originally a smaller breed than we have in the states, but were selectively bred for larger size, so why not scale back down for homestead use? Homesteaders should not have to pay 5K for a drop-dead adorable little milk/meat maker, AND drive across the country to do it. One thing to consider... they need shade in summer though they do shed. They’re a cold climate cow.

Their horns matter because (among other things) they help regulate body temperature. Unfortunately butchers (I’m told) are not big on horned animals so unless you’re that much into diy, it may be best to dehorn your steer calves. (I may have over-reasearched....) You have to be careful. They swing those cute big bison heads around without even thinking about where you are... they like to scratch itches with their horns. I love brushing them. They don’t mind if I pull a bit... even getting burdock burrs out. Way tougher than our fluffy lab-golden. 🙄

And Yes... it is absolutely very helpful to either get them as weanlings for taming or get them from someone who has tamed them. Bottle-raised bulls otoh are often very dangerous because they think of you as part of the (their) herd and don’t understand how soft you are.

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Carla Burke
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Thanks for all the info, Cindy! I agree - $5k would be rough to justify - no matter how adorable they are! Have you thought about tennis balls, for the tips? A black eye isn't fun - but it would be a hella better than no eye. Same goes for bruised ribs vs punctured lungs...
 
Cindy Skillman
pollinator
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Carla, what a good idea! Do people do that? I’d expect they’d rub the tennis balls off on short order... maybe I’ll give it a try and find out. FWIW, the tips aren’t sharp and are more likely to bruise than puncture (unless they WANTED to hurt you). Not to say they couldn’t give a serious injury without intending it... they are horns and they’re a lot stiffer than, say, a person’s midsection. 😳
 
Carla Burke
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I think they will figure out a way to get the tennis balls off, maybe even accidentally, but even if you put them on asyou get ready to work with them, then remove them again, when you aren't, then you've a bit more safety, and they still have their tools & self defense unhindered, when they need them. Just a thought. Lol - it might even prove to be more trouble than it's worth.
 
Cindy Skillman
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I’m done with my painting... I intended to post it when finished, and someone asked, so here it is:

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Staff note (Pearl Sutton):

She has more paintings too!! Lovely work!! https://permies.com/t/122267/art/Cindy-Home-Paintings

 
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