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So you want to have a house cow?

Are you really sure that you want a house cow / goat?

Do you realise that you can't just go away for a day while she is in milk without having someone responsible to milk her? (unless she is suckling offspring) Do you know that it can cost more than the cow/goat is worth to get a vet out when she is sick or has trouble giving birth. Are you able to easily get her pregnant every year, what will you do if she has trouble getting pregnant? What will you do with the offspring, especially if it is male, will you be able to bring yourself to sell or eat it? Do you have the fencing to keep her in? Can you give her the right kinds and amount of food? Do you realise that these are creatures of habit and need to be milked at the same time every day?
There are heaps of questions you need to ask yourself, and answer honestly, before you are ready to commit to this venture. It is not good enough to think that you have a bit of grass in the back yard and a cow could fix that and give you something in return. “I will just tie her to the clothes line or fence and move her every day.” THAT IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH! Having a house cow or goat is a serious commitment in time and financially. She will reward you well if you do all the right things but there will always be problems that will try you. You can't just go away and leave her for a few days, she will tie you down. Feeding is very important, a LOT of energy and nutrients go into making milk and you have to feed her more than grass for her to keep giving you a continuous supply of milk. Todays milk cows and goats have been bred to give more milk than their offspring need with the addition of grain but if you only have grass and hay to give her she will only milk for a few months and then not nearly as much as she is genetically programmed for. Buying in grain and good hay is expensive but a good cow or goat will pay her way in quality milk, cream, cheese and yoghurt. Cow versus goat You might have you heart set on a cow or a goat but do you really know all the facts? After having cows and goats for many years, I think I can give you the facts so you can make up your own mind. I do lean towards having goats for home milk production for many reasons but I have had and enjoyed both. Whether you choose a cow or goats, there are many advantages of producing your own milk: Fresh – fresh milk is best and tastes better too, make your own cream, cheese, yoghurt, butter. It's surprisingly easy. Studies show that fresh milk is much easier to digest than pasteurised milk and children that grow up on it at the start have less milk intolerances as they grow up. Fresh milk fat/cream does not seem to add to cholesterol problems. Please note that in some countries, there is a chance that you can get serious diseases from fresh milk. Please get your cow or goat blood tested by your vet to be sure. Don't be tempted to buy a cow (rather than a goat doe) just because of the extra milk. It is great to be able to make heaps of dairy products but the novelty does wear off and it is a shame to throw out all that milk when you can't be bothered using it. You can, of course use the extra milk to rear an extra calf or some lambs but will the extra work be worth it? The amount of milk one or two does produce is usually quite enough for a small family, and you don't have as big feed bills. Goats and cows have different requirements and you must be able to fulfil these if you are going to have happy, healthy, milk-giving animals. Cows – Need plenty of lush green grass, you might be surprised at how much a cow eats. If you don't have enough grass she will need lots of grain and hay. Goats – need shelter and get bored easily. If you house them in a large yard make sure you have something for them to jump on such as a mound of large boulders or logs. A bored goat tends to get health problems. Goats are also browsers rather than grazers. They like to chew on branches so chuck in some prunings occasionally like fruit tree trimmings or anything non-poisonous. In a paddock, make sure they get branches to chew on so they don't chew on your fence posts. Don't give goats or cows lawn clippings, these can pack in their stomach and cause serious health problems.


Pros: More milk – you can expect your cow to provide you with between 10 and 30 litres of milk a day, even if you have her calf suckling on her. Cream – you don't need special equipment to separate the cream from her milk Calf – her calf is more valuable when you have to sell it as a weanling in the market, or more meat if you put it in your own freezer Fencing – needs adequate but not too expensive fencing ( Never tether cows except for short periods) Cons: Milking – she must be milked twice a day, every day to keep up her milk output. Time out – she will have two to three months time out every year before she calves again and starts producing milk again Value – if she is sick or stops producing, you have a lot of cow eating feed but giving nothing in return. If she loses her milk, it can be another 9 months before you get fresh milk again. A cow is a lot to lose and expensive to replace. Feed – she will need lots of hand feeding of grain and hay every day to keep up her milk output, up to a bucket every milking. And lots of GOOD grass. The better you feed her, the better she will produce. Over production – What are you going to do with all that extra milk, you can only use so much cheese, and if you risk milking her only once a day, you may cause her to go 'dry' (stop milking) much sooner (or you can keep her calf on her). Fatigue – Hand milking may take 15 minutes or more which is tiring on the hands.



Multiples – you will usually have two or three does so you will never be out of milk if you vary the kidding times, or you lose one. Feed – smaller so you need less feed Kids – two or three kids at a time is normal Milk – no over production, each doe should produce 2 to 4 litres per day with good feeding Value – losing a goat to sickness or losing her milk means you have others to take over, or only 5 months till you have fresh milk again Allergies – few people are allergic to goats milk. In fact is is known as a universal milk in that it can usually be used to feed most types of orphans from humans, puppies, foals, cheetahs etc. Milking times – you can milk your does once a day (they will produce less milk though) Ease of milking – Quick to milk, only 5 to 8 minutes per doe and less fatigue on the hands. Mating – A good doe will often milk for two years before she goes off her milk which eased the worry of finding a buck every year. Death – Cheaper to replace. Cons: Fencing – need good fencing to keep them in ( NEVER tether goats except for short periods). Certain types of goats are better with fences than others (Saanan). Kids- great for the freezer but not valuable to sell Cream – It is difficult to separate goats milk because it is naturally homogenised ( the cream particles are so small that they are dispersed in the milk without rising to the top). You can still make cheese easily though as that does not need to have the cream separated. Plants – Goats are browsers, not grazers which means that they will eat any tree that they can reach and even climb some fences and tree trunks to do it. Horns – Baby goats need to be dehorned as horns can be dangerous. It is usually accidental, but easy to get an eye put out with the horns while handling an adult goat. Dehorning must be done within two weeks of birth because of the large blood vessels involved. Tainted milk – If you allow a buck to run with the does while they are in milk, you may get a 'goaty' taste in the milk. Need extra shelter in winter / cold weather If you are now eager to get a milk goat or cow, read lots of smallholding books and talk to knowledgeable people. Good luck Cowfice.com Staff
If you have a few acres and looking to save some money, make your own speciality dairy products or become a little self sufficient, producing your own milk is a wonderful way of becoming a little less dependant on other people for your basic needs. It is not all grapes and roses though, you will have expenses like feed bills and probably vet bills. You are stuck to milking times unless you have someone who can, will, and has the temperament to do a milking on occasion when you are not at home. These girls like to be handled gently and a quick way to put them 'off the milk' is for you or your milker to yell or hit them. These are sensitive animals. But, it is a wonderful feeling to be able to look after yourself, even in a small way. Caring for a working animal like a cow or some does is not something to be taken lightly you will have to take on a big responsibility. I don't have room here to go into a lot of detail so here are some basics.
Know Your Cows!