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  • Writer's pictureJ. A. Thomas

Our Miniature Jersey milk cow journey.

Farm Fresh milk and butter a staple.

What started as a side show has become a staple in our house.

'Farm Fresh milk and butter'

This was not the intended purpose when I originally looked for a jersey cow. I wanted a cow that would serve as a nurse cow to raise my mini longhorns for the purpose of taming them down and having them much calmer so my small kids could show them. Then because of the availability I decided to milk some which turned out to be an often occurrence and now we miss the milk when it is not available. As well as the butter, yogurt and other items we made.

Now, how is it possible that we have three jerseys and are not a dairy. Well it took a lot of research and thinking back to what my grandparents and great grandparent did. I began to think that they did not have the refrigeration like we do and still kept a milk cow for their dairy needs. How did they do that, and I finally came across a blog about calf sharing. (I didn't save it so can't reference it) With calf sharing it frees you up to have more flexibility in your milking schedule.

I did some more research and found that some people only milked on an 'as needed' basis. So, I used my Jersey as a nurse cow, grafting on the mini longhorns for easy halter training and when we needed milk I would separate at night and milk what we needed in the morning. After milking I would turn them back together and the calves would nurse all day long. This was great, as I was not tied down to a milking schedule that kept me from traveling or going places. The flexibility this affords is great. So now we are looking to time our breeding and keep two cows to rotate them 6 months on milking and relieve each other, yet we can have fresh milk year round. This idea I got from a youtube channel that I also forgot to save. (I'll insert reference if I remember it)

Now that I have successfully done this for a couple of years I feel confident in telling others of this way of having a jersey milk cow. If you have been on the fence and feared being tied down from doing anything else this is definitely an option for having fresh milk. Calf sharing or milking as your family needs it are two great ways and afford flexibility.

  • Calf sharing is you milking once a day by separating them at night and milking in the morning (or vice versa).

  • Milking as needed means you raise a cow with calf and 12 hours before you plan to milk, whenever that may be, you separate them.

Now there are a couple of factors for you to consider if you plan to do either of these options. If you are using a standard jersey cow, or other milk breed, they have been bred for generations to produce mass amounts of milk. Their genetic disposition to slow down production of milk has been greatly reduced because dairies milk at least twice a day and often 3 times a day with modern robotic dairy's going to 'at will milking' for the cow to come in when she feels like it. So, if you get a standard milk cow I would very much advise also getting a few extra drop calves to put on her. Drop calves are day old calves from a dairy. This can be a plus as you can either harvest the meat from these extra animals, sell them or use them to grow your herd.

The second alternative is that mini jersey's have not been as stringently bred against this and will slow production. Now the haters may explode here, but the facts are that most mini jersey's available for sale just do not have the massive production of milk like the standard dairy cattle. If you shop hard enough you can find grass fed genetic breeders that only utilize grass and although their production is good it isn't overwhelming. This coupled with feeding low protein feed can manage to keep your production of milk down to where her calf and your family will keep her milked.

Other considerations for you are how feed affects milk production and genetic purity or the pedigree.

Feed value is a major industry for the dairy with many high production dairy's staffing a full time nutritionist. Whose job it is to shop for and find the best value of protein and supplements for the cows to produce their most milk. With this in mind we can learn to adjust our cows feed to modify their production. By feeding, not lower quality hay, but lower protein content we can keep her milk production at less than her peak so we can apply one of the principles above to our milking plan. If needed to have extra milk for a time in your life then you can add the extra protein via food sources and remove it afterwards.

When it comes to genetic purity for most of us it is not a hard pass to ignore a crossbred. These crosses, though sometimes advertised as purebreds by some, make milking by the family a lot easier. Often crosses do not have the high production of the pure jersey's. So do your homework and don't think buying a Miniature jersey guarantees it is purebred. Look up what a jersey should look like. I have seen everything from a red angus cross to a very zebu looking animal advertised as jersey. Now if you like it and can use it don't run from it, but for me I want an animal that at least looks like a jersey if it's going to be called that. Also the pedigree will help to have a better clue to size of animal. I had one cow that was registered as a mini as a calf but outgrew mini size. However, be aware that with pedigree often comes price increases, and if you want a guaranteed jersey ask to see the pedigree not just the papers. Some registries will register an animal based upon the owners word and there is only the animal on the pedigree. These animals should be recorded for breeding purposes, if they are bringing value to improve the breed but should be clearly marked as breeding stock and not registered animals.

Here is an example of a crossbred mini jersey and mini longhorn. He is a steer. So, do your shopping find an animals that you can enjoy whether registered or not and I hope you found something of value in this blog post about how we use jersey's and plan to grow to two cows so we can have fresh milk year round.

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