Getting a milk cow for your homestead is both very exciting, but also can be a little bit stressful. There are so many variables that can make the experience either great or horrible. Finding the right cow for your family can make the process go smoothly which will be less stressful for you and your new milk cow. If you can find a cow that is already being raised similar to how you plan on raising them it is a lot better for you and the cow. So, here is what to ask before you buy your first milk cow!
It is also important to write down what you are looking for in a cow. What are your must haves? Are there things that would be nice, but not a requirement?
What To Ask BEFORE You Even Leave to Look at a New Milk Cow
There are a set of questions we always ask before we even consider leaving to look at a new cow.
What is the cow’s current milking schedule?
Are they milked twice a day? Once a day? If once a day, is it morning milking or afternoon milking?
Where are they milked and how?
Are they milked in a stanchion? Tied to a post? Out in the pasture? Or are they in a milk parlor with other cows? Are they hand-milked, or machine milked?
Do You Test for BVD, BLV, or Johnes?
These are just some of the diseases that can cause health issues and even death for a cow. A reputable farm will have these tests done yearly and should have no problems showing you the results.
Are they vaccinated or have had to have any antibiotics?
Vaccines are always a touchy subject, some people believe cows need them, and some are adamantly against them. So make sure you ask so you know what you are getting, either way. I also always ask if they had any antibiotics within the last 90 days, and if they did, what was it for. This can give you an idea of how the overall health of a cow is.
What are they currently eating?
Is the cow strictly grass-fed? Grain-fed? Are they on a rotational grazing plan or a dry lot?
When did the cow have her calf?
This can tell you how far they are into their lactation cycle, if they calved 9 months ago, they are most likely at the end of their milk cycle and are ready to be dried up and rebred. This leads to the next question…
Is the cow halter broken?
If she is not broken, is she easy to lead?
Is the cow bred or open?
If she is bred, when is she due? What what was she bred to?
Do you worm your cattle?
Find out if they worm their cattle on a schedule, or if it is only as needed. Do they use a chemical wormer or an herbal one?
Is the cow a1 or a2?
This matters to some more than others, but knowing if your cow is A1/A1, A1/A2, or A2/A2 is important to ask, especially if you plan on selling milk because your milk customers will ask.
What is their milk production?
Are they only producing a gallon a day? Do they produce 6 gallons a day?
What to Look for When You Go to Look at Your First Milk Cow
If you are happy with all of the answers to those questions, it may be time to go and look at the cow! It is at this time you want to really look the cow over and make sure she is in good health. This is also the time you will want to verify some of the questions you have already asked.
Some breeds of dairy cows are inherently skinny, but it is possible for them to be too skinny. Look them over to make sure they are a healthy weight for their breed. Are there any injuries? Are their legs swollen? Do their hooves need to be trimmed? These can tell you if that cow has been taken care of.
Look at their backends, does it look like they have diarrhea? Cows can get what we like to call stress poo, but if they look like they are covered in it, it could be a sign of health issues, live BVL, or parasites.
You will want to make sure all the teats are working properly and that they are comfortable in length. Placement of the teats is important as well, teats that are too close or point inward can be harder to milk, and if they are rubbing, they may be more susceptible to things like mastitis. You will also want to check for signs of mastitis, are any of the udders warm to the touch or red?
Can you handle them?
If they are halter broken, will they walk with you? Do they allow you to lead them even without a halter? Are they skittish and avoid you?
As I said, finding the right cow for you is important! I have had friends run and buy a milk cow without really knowing anything about them, and it has been hard for both them and the cow. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and if a seller can’t or won’t answer them, it is a red flag and you should keep looking. Don’t settle just because you feel like you need a cow right this second, believe me, you’ll be glad you waited for the right one.
When looking for a raw milk farmer, there are a few questions that you should always ask. While raw milk is relatively safe, make sure your dairy farmer is taking the right precautions to ensure it is as safe as possible. If a farmer can’t answer these questions or chooses not to answer, that should be a red flag.
What do you feed your cows?
Our cows are pasture raised and get alfalfa pellets while on the milk stand. They also have access to free choice minerals and kelp year-round. Cows and goats both require minerals, without them the animals are more susceptible to parasites and other health problems. It also affects the taste of your milk, those animals without access to high-quality minerals can sometimes have bitter or off-tasting milk. Our cows also receive hay that has been harvested from our property to ensure it is pesticide and herbicide free.
Do you hand or machine milk? How often is equipment cleaned?
On our farm, we machine milk both our cows and our goats. They each have separate machines to prevent cross-contamination. While hand milking is perfectly fine, we find machine milking prevents a lot of unnecessary contamination of the milk. Our milking equipment is cleaned and sanitized daily with a complete disassembly of the equipment once a week for a deep clean. You can see our entire milking routine on our YouTube channel.
How is your milk chilled?
Once our milk is filtered into jars, it is packed into a small fridge packed with frozen water bottles. We strive to have our milk filtered and into the chiller in under 10 minutes from the time we are finished milking. We also ensure that it is chilled below 40 degrees within 30 minutes.
Do you worm your animals?
We give our animals plenty of pasture space and use rotational grazing to help naturally keep their parasite load low. We do run monthly fecal exams to make sure they are healthy and do not need to be dewormed. If there is a need to deworm, we use a natural herbal dewormer first, if that does not work, we will use a chemical dewormer and will pull that animal from the milking rotation.
Can I tour your farm?
Of course! We welcome people to visit the farm and see the animals and milking spaces. We do prohibit visitors from going into the pastures for bio-security reasons, but you are welcome to give them pets from the fence line.
Do you use antibiotics?
We only use antibiotics when absolutely necessary for the health of the animal. If there is a reason that we need to use them, we pull that animal from the milking rotation until they are completely out of the animal’s system.
What do you store your milk in?Is it sold in jars?
We store all milk in 1-gallon glass jars. Most of our milk customers buy one of our glass jars and bring them back each week to swap out for a newly filled one. If you have your own containers, we are happy to fill them for you. We also sell beverage bags for those wanting something that takes up a little less space.
How often does your farm test your dairy cows for Brucellosis, Tuberculosis, and Johnes?
We test our herd yearly for Brucellosis, Tuberculosis, and Johnes. If we bring a new cow to the farm, they are tested before being introduced to the rest of the herd.
How fresh is your milk?
Some farms sell their milk up to a week old. We do not. We milk our cows once a day in the evening, and that milk is sold the following day. At the end of the day, anything left over will be set aside for our family to use for cheese or ice cream.
Do you skim your milk?
Our milk is never pasteurized or skimmed. When you buy our milk, it is guaranteed to have a nice, thick cream line. Most of our customers can get over half a quart of cream by just hand-skimming it. We take pride in our thick, rich, cream!
Is your milk A2/A2?
All of our cows are tested and confirmed A2/A2. Goats are all naturally A2/A2.
Looking to buy raw milk? Learn more about our herd and milk here!
With the 2022 goat kidding season in full swing, I needed something that was quick and easy to write down information as each goat kid. I already have a goat health printable book that is available for free for download. It has a ton of pages to keep track of each goat’s health and wellness, but I needed something that was easy to keep tucked away in my kidding kit.
This kidding tracker printable is just that… A quick glance sheet to help keep you a little more organized during the crazy kidding season! It has just the basics, the dam’s name, sex of the goat, tattoo assignment, and a place to write down the colors/marking of each kid.
Pine Tar soap is a staple in our home. It has so many great benefits that it is worth keeping a few bars around all of the time. It is one of the few soaps that I make on a regular occasion because it is such a popular soap at our Farmer’s Market.
Before we get into the benefits of pine tar soap, let’s talk a little about what pine tar is and where to find it. Pine tar is an all-natural resource. It comes from burning pine trees and has been used for hundreds if not, thousands of years. It is well known for its natural antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. Now, you don’t have to go out and burn down your pine trees to get your hands on Pine tar, most farm supply stores carry it in stock, and you can usually find it in the horse section. If you do not have a farm supply near you, you can always pick it up online. Just make sure it says that is 100% Pine Tar.
Now, be warned, Pine tar can be STICKY! I mean it is thick and hard to work with. If you using it in soap, I find warming it up a bit helps to keep it more viscous.
Pine Tar Soap Benefits
Alright, so now that we know what it is and where to find it. Let’s talk about the great benefits of Pine Tar. As mentioned above, pine tar is a great natural antibacterial and anti-fungal. Pine Tar properties are passed down to the soaps that you add it to. Pine tar soap has been used to help treat skin conditions for years. So, it is great to help soothe eczema and psoriasis as well as treat dry, itchy skin. It can help ease skin irritations from bug bites, and Pine Tar soap is great to use as a treatment for poison ivy.
Between summer bug bites and dry, itchy winter skin. We keep Pine Tar Soap on hand year-round at our house. Want to learn how to make it yourself? Check out the video below.
My Pine Tar Soap Recipe:
The best thing about Pine Tar is that it can be added to pretty much any soap recipe. I have found that around 12% usage is the perfect amount, but you can always add or subtract the amount based on your needs.
With Spring finally here, the bugs have been out in full force here in Arkansas. Add to the fact that springtime projects have started means bites, scrapes, and cuts are inevitable. One of my favorite things to keep on hand for such minor injuries is my Homemade Calendula Balm. The Calendula helps to soothe the skin and has anti-bacterial properties to help cuts and scrapes heal.
Before we get into the recipe on how to make this Homemade Balm, let’s talk a bit about the benefits of Calendula.
One of the biggest risks a young goat can face is coccidia. It can hit fast and is spread through feces, so it can spread fast! One thing to note, all goats, and most livestock carry Coccidia in their intestines. Most older animals can keep the parasite load down to a manageable amount without getting sick. Younger goats though can get an overload of the parasite. This can cause very stinky, runny brown/green scoures. It can cause young goats to become very dehydrated and die. Some goat owners choose to only treat when symptoms occur, but I have found a good prevention for baby goats to be the best option.
I am NOT A VETERNARIAN. The information in this article is just that, information. Please seek medical advice or attention from your veterinarian in the case of a sick or down goat.
There are many different types of treatments and preventative for coccidia available over the counter. Some can be found at your local feed store, while some may have to be ordered online. There are also treatments that I will mention that will require a prescription from a veterinarian as well.
Albon is one of those medications that are great for treating Coccidia, my veterinarian prescribed it for my dogs when they were puppies, but it does require a prescription to get. It is given Orally and needs to be given for 5 days, for both treatment and preventative.
Corid can be found at pretty much every feed store. It comes in both a liquid form and a powdered form. It is my least favorite option. If you can avoid it, I recommend that you do because it can be very hard on a goat, especially a sick one. If this is your only option, be sure to follow up the 5-day treatment with a Thiamine or Vitamin B injection.
SlufaMed can be harder to find in stores but can be easily ordered online. It is given orally for 5 days for both a preventative and treatment.
Baycox is the medication that I prefer to use on all of my baby goats for Coccidia treatments and prevention. It is more expensive than most of the other options, but it only requires 1 dose. It kills both stages of the Coccidia parasite so you do not have to follow up for any additional doses. I give my goats one dose per month as a preventative.
I order Zuricox, which is a generic version of Baycox and is a little bit cheaper.
Want to learn more about Coccidia Prevention for Baby Goats? Check out the video below where I explain what I use and why.
Bottle Baby Goats are adorable and it can be very tempting to get one. They are small, they jump around, and are overall just fun to have around. But, if you have never had a bottle baby goat, they can be a little overwhelming. While they are cute, a lot of things can go wrong with having them, from the mess to their health, and everything in between. So, here are a few of my top things to know before you get a bottle baby goat!
BEFORE you Bring Them Home
A lot of breeders sell their new kids as bottle babies for a number of reasons. Maybe they breed for milk production and have no need for the kids after they are born. Or, they could have had a large litter and the mom can not handle multiples. Whatever the reason they are selling them for, ALWAYS ask to see the kid nurse from the bottle first. When a kid starts off nursing from mom, it could be tough to get them to take a bottle, so always be sure to verify that they can take a bottle and are willing to take one. If you have never had a bottle baby goat, be sure to check out my Bottle Feeding Goats Basic post.
If they are registered, or able to be registered, make sure that they have had their identification tattooed or their ear tags placed. Also, be sure to look over all of the registration paperwork to ensure all the important information is filled out correctly.
You will also want to verify if they have had any vaccinations, like CD&T, and annotate the date they were given in case you have to give them a booster.
They Are Time Consuming and Can Be Expensive
Depending on the age you get your bottle baby, they can require at least 5 feedings a day. As they get older, the feeding frequency will decrease, but the amount they eat will, of course, increase. If you have a doe in milk, it may not cost you anything but time to milk her. But, if you do not have goat milk on hand, store-bought milk can get pricey. For 3 bottle babies that are a week old, I can go through a gallon of milk in 24 hours easily. Our Bottle Feeding Goats Basic post has a free feeding schedule printable if you need that.
They are Trouble Makers
Depending on the time of year, and how old your bottle baby goat is, they may have to spend some time inside. If so, I would recommend getting something like a large dog kennel or pack and play for them to sleep in. While it is cute to watch them run and jump around, it is not necessarily safe, or clean. Our little Valkyrie was only 7 days old and could already jump onto the kitchen chairs and onto the table. Pair that with the fact that they have no control over bowel movements, and it is a recipe for yuck!
Because they are so young, they love to explore and chew on things. Be sure to hide away any electrical chords that they could chew on and any house plants that could cause them to get sick. Essentially you will want to baby proof your home like you are bringing home a human baby.
If they are older and the weather is warm, they can stay outdoors. But again, you will want to baby-proof the area they will be staying in. Baby goats, especially Nigerian Dwarfs are small, and they can squeeze out of the smallest holes. So be sure to walk the area and patch any places they could escape through.
Out of all of the animals I have raised, goats have to be my favorite. I have raised Nigerian Dwarf goats for 12 years, and in my opinion, are the best. As I rebuild my herd from moving, I am wanting to make sure I do it right. I have been very picky about the goats that I get, and I have become very diligent on keep track of everything. If you have ever raised goats, you will know they can be susceptible to a lot of parasites and diseases. If you are new to goats, do worry, it does get easier figuring everything out. In order to keep track of everything I made a few free goat health printables, and of course, I am sharing them with you!
There are three printables in this file, each one designed to help you keep track of medications, kidding, and all basic information about each of your goats.
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