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purchasing a dairy cow- would like advice

Poolville, TX

We have a small farm but haven't done anything dairy. I am considering purchasing a dairy cow and breeding her to a beef breed (such as Angus). We will keep the cow to provide milk for our family and raise the calf to put in the freezer.

As anyone sent a diary cow/ beef cow *mix* to the butcher? How was the meat? Any concerns?

Did you keep the calf on the mom? If so, was she able to produce enough milk for your family and her calf? Any concerns? I plan on home pasteurizing.

Any good sources/ farms in Texas for a dairy cow?


:) Jennifer

Paris, TN(Zone 6b)

Hi Jennifer,

I haven't actually *done* any of this, only read and planned for it in the future. From my readings, I understand that Belted Galloways, Danish Belted and Dexters are very good dairy cows that are excellent at their grass to milk-meat conversion ratios. You might want to look into those guys. Our plan (before financial reality took was to breed to an Angus, and keep the calf on the mom, as we don't need oodles of milk every day. I guess that would depend on how many in your family, how much milk ya'll drink and if you're aiming for cheesemaking or not.

Others will come along I'm sure with more actual experience than just 'book learnin', and point you in the right direction :)

Good luck!

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Unless you need an awful lot of milk every day, you probably don't need to get a dairy breed, but either a dual purpose, like the breeds Hineni mentioned, or just one of the local beef breeds. My farrier lived up in Montana--big beef country-- and he said folks up there just kept one of the beef heifers--angus or shorthorn-- for milk. One of them will still give you a couple of gallons of milk a day. Around here we've got red angus, and they'd work fine.

Hineni, you forgot to mention the teat discussion we all had... LOL Whatever you get, make sure you can get your hand around the teat comfortably. Some of the dairy breeds now have pretty small teats because they're not milked by hand anymore, but by machine and it makes for a better vacuum seal for the machine.

A friend of mine has a holstein and he kept the calf with it during the day, separated them at night and milked in the morning only. He bred to one of the local angus and the calf looks good. He's planning on grain finishing it and butchering it for his own family. With a family of 5--3 boys over 12--butter and cheese making, he was still giving milk away.

Hope that's a help...
=0) Jay

Poolville, TX

Thanks for the replies :)

This might be a silly question, but does the milk from a nondairy cow taste different? I have heard different milk goats have different tasting milk... so I am wondering about cow milk?

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

I think it's true for all cows, dairy or beef... some individuals don't have good tasting milk and all are susceptible to what they eat... wild onions will give an off flavor. I think mustard will too.

Here's where we need the dairy folk to jump in.

Panama, NY(Zone 5a)

The flavor of milk has a lot to do with what the animal is being fed and fat content . Our milk tastes different every time the feed changes - not better or worse, unless you get into something nasty like wild leeks or some other heavily flavored forage. You can usually smell the difference, especially when they are out on pasture. If you're used to low fat processed milk or fat free, raw whole milk will be a unique and wonderful taste experience for you.

I don't know where Jay is getting the 'dairy breeds have small teats' lol, I was going to take my camera out, but I haven't had time.

Panama, NY(Zone 5a)

I was going to add, we have purebred Holsteins and eat dairy beef. When a cow fails to breed back, is disappointing in the milk pail or too nasty to keep and young and healthy enough to consider for beef, she is dubbed 'Hamburger' and we pull her off grain - to expensive to feed to a beefer. Our meat is generally leaner than that from a beef animal and grassfed, which alters the flavor some, but is not in any way unpleasing.

Waddy, KY

There are quite a few very good Jersey dairies in TX if that breed interests you. You can either do a search of your own to locate some of them or contact the American Jersey Cattle Club and I'm sure they'd be glad to give you some leads.

Dairy breeds usually have more bone to meat ratio than beef breeds and you'll see that their fat usually has a yellower color. We always ate Jersey steers and I never knew beef fat was anything but yellow until I got married and started eating Angus/Simmental crosses. But, good beef is good beef regardless of what color the hide was before it was skinned. That's my opinion.

Poolville, TX

thanks for the replies! :)

Panama, NY(Zone 5a)

I think the yellow fat has more to do with hide color than with dairy or beef. Our black and whites have very white fat, but I've been told (we haven't eaten one yet) that the red and whites have yellow fat. It's all cosmetic.

Waddy, KY

I'd always heard that the fat was yellow because of more carotene in the fat. Never changed how good the meat tasted though!

Panama, NY(Zone 5a)


southeast, NE

So since I eat a lot of chocolate - do you think my fat is brown?

Hey it's Friday!!!!!!!!!

Waddy, KY

No, and that little brown cow never gives chocolate milk either! LOL!

Grand Saline, TX(Zone 7b)

Hey ya'll are talking cows over here. I wanna talk cows too. I love my milk cow. In fact... I wake up in the morning and say to myself, "I loooove my milk cow". Don't blame the cow, I wasn't sane before I got her ;0)

We found our girls in the Auction forum at It's great site with lots of jersey and jerseyX owners among other dairy breeds. Craigslist is another place to look. I think Dave may have mentioned the dairy auction in Sulpher Springs every Thursday. I had a list of commercial jersey dairymen in Texas, but can't find it now (i'll keep looking).

I searched the family cow forum for jersey x angus info and found it's suggested to breed an angus bull to a mature 3+ jersey, or make sure the angus bull has low birth weight genetics.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Well, cocoa, maybe it's just me, but if you're going to grab somebody's teats first thing in the morning, I would certainly hope you would have some affection for them! LOL

Great info on the ways to find a cow and breeding. Does anybody here know how to do that sticky thing like they have over on Poultry and Livestock? Family milkcows have come up before and it would be nice to save these sites for reference.

Have a happy...
Jay =0)

Grand Saline, TX(Zone 7b)

HA! I'd like to think the affection goes both ways. If someone grabbed me with cold hands while I was nursing, I would have kicked them in the face too. Truth is, I think she's extremely tolerant. But I'll go on thinking it's

Here is the link to some of the jersey dairies in Texas I never called a dairy to inquire about cows. I hate to bug people while they're working and not sure how they feel about selling to individuals.

Kathleen, would you chime in on this. How would you feel getting calls from people looking for a family cow?

Panama, NY(Zone 5a)

Most people don't want a Holstein for a family cow - too darn much milk, and they eat a lot.
We've never had a call for one that I can remember. We'd probably tell them to try someone who has Jerseys.

I don't know what we're going to do when we quit, Stan and I go through about a gallon of milk a day. Oy.

Waddy, KY

I think you'll find that most dairy farmers that milk under probably 200 cows wouldn't mind selling an individual cow to someone for a family cow. They usually have at least one cow in the herd that 's not producing enough to stay in the milking string. She can be a good typy cow with correct feet and legs but as my Daddy used to say, good looks don't put milk in the weigh jar! I would think they'd just as soon sell to you because they'll get more for her that way than if they put her on the truck to go to the yard. Besides, what do you have to loose? And to me getting a cow straight off the farm is always better than getting one from the yard that's been exposed to goodness knows how many diseases. Pick one up from the yard and you don't know when or if she was vaccinated or wormed, when she was bred or even how old she is. Buy from any farmer with decent records and he should be able to tell you all of that.

Biggs, KY(Zone 6a)

I would love to have a milk cow but I think I'd go for a smaller breed like a dexter maybe, or those hairy scottish cows. I think I read they only give a couple of gallons a day which would be plenty for us and we would have some left to feed to the animals. I think I also read that they eat less and being smaller I wouldn't need as much room for one. I'll have to do a lot more reading and studying on the subject before I actually get one. We had 2 when I was a kid but we lived on a big farm then.

Poolville, TX

Thanks for the additional replies- I really do appreciate each of you taking the time to share your knowledge! :)

I looked into Dexters- I liked the fact they produce milk (but not huge quantities) and that they can be fed out for the freezer. Unfortunately, they are a bit pricey around here.

I also decided I want something that is used to being milked and is halter trained. One of us needs to know what the heck we are doing. :)

I found a milking shorthorn for sale. Family cow, 5 years, fresh, expected to calf late Oct. She is around $1800. What do you think? Price? Breed? The owners seem real nice, honest, experienced. They are downsizing as they have 2 other cows that produce more milk. I think they said she is giving around 5 gallons a day.

Looking forward to your responses :)

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Well, shorthorns are what they're milking up in Montana, according to my farrier. And my dad grew up with shorthorns as the family cow near Amarillo, TX. And I've never heard him say a sorry word about those cows, which is something from him. =0)

Poolville, TX

I am making a list of things I need to get before I get a cow. Did I miss anything? Do I have something on the list I don't really need?

halter (fixed nylon) and lead (I plan on tying to cross ties)
mineral block (in addition to feed/ round bale)
latex milking gloves
teat dip cup
bag balm/ udder balm
stainless steel bucket with lid (are these really around $115?)

Do I need special wash to wash out my pail each day?

Panama, NY(Zone 5a)

"I also decided I want something that is used to being milked and is halter trained. One of us needs to know what the heck we are doing. :)"

I had a cousin who decided to go "back to the land" in the '70s. She married a guy from NYC, who didn't have a clue and the two of them decided to get a cow. They bought a place in Arkansas, and went to a neighbor's who very kindly sold them a cow. Now, you have to understand that my cousin lived on a dairy farm until she was 8 and spent copious amounts of time on our farm when we were growing up. One evening, the neighbor stopped over to see how they were doing and caught them at milking time. There stands the cow, swinging her head back and forth, back and forth with one of those 'what the heck is going on here' looks. My cousin was on one side milking away, her husband on the other side! The poor cow didn't know which way to kick. The poor farmer had to sit down he was laughing so hard. After that evening, my cousin milked the cow by herself.

Grand Saline, TX(Zone 7b)

Ha ha, Kathleen, one way to cut the milking time in half. lol

Jennifer, we have a Round up in Arlington in April too!!! That would be closer, I really hope you can come. I'll be at that one as well.
If the shorthorn your talking about is that gal around San Antonio... GET HER! She's had her for sale for awhile now and I can not for the life of me understand why she hasn't sold. We seriously considered buying her, but she was so far away from us and a tad high in price for us. She has a nice udder. Being a duel purpose breed, ask if and how much she gives late into lactation. Does she keep on producing milk after 8 months or start to dry herself off. Not usual, but can happen.

What I've heard of halter trainer is when purchasing a cow make sure she comes with a halter (not the chin chain type) and long sturdy lead. Tie her in the trailer, leave enough rope where she can't stand on it, but can't turn around either. When turning her loose leave the lead on for a week. She'll step on it and hold herself back. She'll believe the halter is boss for the rest of her life. Our girl never had a halter in her life, we did the above and by golly it worked!! I can lead her anywhere.

brush, yes

mineral block, yes. We use loose minerals, I think it's called Emerald seasonal minerals. You need a salt block too. Best round bales you can find. grass=milk :0)

milking gloves, no. the only time I've ever heard of the being used is when dealing with a difficult case of mastitis and where great care is needed to prevent bacteria from spreading from one teat to another. I can't imagine milking with gloves on, i think it would be a huge pain.

udder cleaner, I use apple cider vinegar/soap, never used the above or a teat dip, sorry

bag balm, I like it. I use just a small amount on the inside of my index finger knuckle. Helps my fingers slide while milking. I make sure I clean it off after milking with my vinegar/soap solution as well. Left on it attracted a lot of dirt and worried me.

stainless steel bucket , I use a SS kitchen stock pot, I'm

milking stool, yes. After a few months, if yours hasn't broken, let me know where you got it. LOL I've been through two...I guess I could stand to loose some weight :0)

I'm sooo excited for you!!!

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

As Official Spokesperson for the Milkcows United Union (MUU) I'd like to remind you that your cow is due all proper remuneration, which includes not only all the hay a cow can eat, but Hazard Duty Pay... feed bucket and tempting, highly nutritious Bribes.

Also, our highly esteemed MUU members may demand periodic pedicures lest ambling, trotting and kicking up heels be impaired. The approaching Very Annoying Pesky Insect Droves (VAPID) of summer also necessitates that all operator-slaves become acquainted with relevant chemical warfare procedures.

=0) Jay

PS The fact that I am the official spokesperson for MUU just shows that the less you know about something, the more qualified you are to hold the job.

This message was edited Mar 4, 2009 7:01 AM

Biggs, KY(Zone 6a)

Knowing too much can slow down the process.

Carrollton, OH(Zone 6a)

My grandpap had a dairy farm and I was always told to have a herd of Holsteins with a few Jersey or Guernsey in.The Holsteins are large milk producers and the Jersey and Guernsey add the heavy cream.So you then have a high quality milk in large volume.

Biggs, KY(Zone 6a)

I had a cousin who had a dairy when I was a kid and when I went to college he was still milking. At that time the price of the milk depended on the butterfat content so he kept jerseys in with his holsteins for that reason. It was also illegal to have a goat on the dairy farm because goat milk is very high in butterfat and they didn't want farmers mixing in goat milk with the cow's milk to run up the price. I imagine today's dairy business is far past that kind of stuff.

Panama, NY(Zone 5a)

The butterfat premium has become component pricing - butterfat is actually worth less than the protein content in our new and wonderful world of milk pricing. Sometimes they pay us for what is listed as 'other solids', which differs from solids-not-fat in some mysterious way, sometimes they charge us for those same components. Really, I think you only understand milk pricing if you practice Voodoo and read the entrails of small creatures caught in the dark of the moon on an east facing slope overlooking clear water.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

"Really, I think you only understand milk pricing if you practice Voodoo and read the entrails of small creatures caught in the dark of the moon on an east facing slope overlooking clear water."

Hmmm, maybe I oughta apply for a job. Sounds like another thing I know nothing about. LOL

All the info on milk pricing has been a real eye opener; thanks folks! The lower price for butterfat makes a kind of sense in today's low-fat world... rather manufacture oil/fat from plants than use something as natural as butterfat or lard. {{snort}}

Where in the world does non-fat half & half come from? How is that even possible?

Poolville, TX

lol Jay

cocoa- thanks for sharing in my enthusiasm :)
That is the cow. It is far for me too and pricey...but there isn't anything closer, nicer, for less money. I plan on picking her up on Thursday. This is going to be such a busy week.

Grand Saline, TX(Zone 7b)

OMGosh! I'm so happy for you and the cow!

I really love that girl, if you decide you don't like her....well, you know who to contact first before selling.LOL

If you don't mind, I'm going to post her photo so everyone can see what pretty girl she is :0)

Thumbnail by cocoa_lulu
Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Woooo-Hoooo! Congrats Jennifer! You'll have to chronicle your adventures... and just remember, we're not laughing at you, we're laughing with you. LOL

I know with horses and donkeys, I've done cheap and I've done steep, and by and large, if the lady's honest, I've NEVER regretted steep the way I have cheap.


This message was edited Mar 2, 2009 8:34 AM

Grand Saline, TX(Zone 7b)

That girl is also registered, which for our area, Jennifer is getting a great price!

Poolville, TX

Isn't she purty?! :)

Do you think cross ties in the pasture will work for milking her?

Humansville, MO(Zone 6a)

Kathleen I need a good laugh today and milk pricing did just that. The cow looks like she should be good as for milking her I seen very few shorthorn that you can't just drop down beside and go to milking they are generally gentle cattle for there size I have meant a couple that would kick you to the next county two of which were great cows as long as there wasn't a milking machine around

Biggs, KY(Zone 6a)

There are many reasons I could not be a dairy farmer and not being able to figure out milk pricing is another to add to my list. LOL Dairy farming is very work intensive and my hat is off to you and all the dairy farmers of the world. I jusy want one little cow for my own milk consumption and satisfaction.

Grand Saline, TX(Zone 7b)

No kidding, one little cow is fun, anymore and it's work!

Jennifer, how are you using the cross ties?

Poolville, TX

I was going to use it like you do a horse- hook up ties on each side of her halter and let her eat while I milked.

I go to get her tomorrow. The owners called last night to give all the info on her (shot record birth date, etc.). They told me where they bought her and how many times she had calved. they even gave me the date she was bred this year. They also said 3 years ago she tested + for lepto. They treated her and she has never tested + again. Should I be concerned?

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