Keeping a Family Milk Cow

Learn about the benefits and responsibilities of raising a farm cow for fresh milk.


| March/April 1970



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A millk-producing cow can be a wonderful asset for any homestead.


PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

Keeping a cow is a lot like marriage: It's a confining and responsible relationship not to be entered into lightly. Flirtation, study, an engagement, even trial marriages are advocated.

Like marriage, too, keeping a family cow is a great institution. In fact, American agricultural writers often refer to the cow as "The Foster Mother of the Human Race." This is undoubtedly a little over-enthusiastic for in many parts of Europe 80 percent of the milk is goat milk.

The first time you squat on your brand-new, insignificant three-legged milk stool and your cow towers above you, a thousand pounds of the Lord-Only-Knows-What combination of unknown evil, wickedness, and danger and you see her big, horned head turn at the fumbling indignities you are attempting under her hind-quarters, you're bound to experience a sinking in the pit of your stomach and an intense feeling that a cow is too gigantic an undertaking for you. Anyway, if this feeling doesn't come over you at the beginning of your first milking, then it will unquestionably at the end when it dawns on you that all that milk, that big pail of milk, is going to be duplicated night and morning every day for the next ten months.

Actually, a cow isn't large or dangerous. In fact, compared with your car she's less than one-third the weight — and when you realize that the auto is responsible for some 30,000 deaths a year, not including some hundreds of thousand injuries, then you'll have to agree that a cow isn't dangerous. A family cow, particularly a Jersey, becomes the gentlest of pets.

As for the super abundance of milk — it's none too much when translated into terms of milk for the family, cream, skim-milk for chickens, pigs, and a calf, and particularly if you want to make ice cream, butter and cheese. If yours is an average, decently fed family, you are already using one cow's entire milk supply. There are in the United States, according to the census, something like 26,000,000 producing cows. That is at least one cow for each American family enjoying a sufficient amount of milk and milk products. In short, the point is: Are you going to keep a cow or go on paying somebody else to do it for you?

I know it's hard to believe that a family accustomed to buying one or a couple of quarts of milk a day can easily use 10 or 12 quarts. It was that way with us when we started getting six or seven quarts of milk from our two milking goats. Honestly though, if you're going to have a productive homestead, you'll find it simple to use the milk effectively without setting up a milk route. For example, you'll be able to have plenty of real, heavy cream — for coffee, for cereal, for berries, for ice-cream, for cooking, for butter-making. Remember, it takes 10 quarts of milk to produce one quart of cream. And a quart of cream makes only a pound of butter . . . or a quart-and-a-half of ice cream . . . and just ask your wife how much butter and cream she'd like to use in cooking if she could use all she wanted!





dairy goat

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