The Challenges of Operating a Micro Dairy and Producing Safe and Delicious Milk and Dairy Products for your Friends Family and Community

| 3/20/2017 9:07:00 AM


Small herd or Micro Dairies can present serious challenges to their owners and operators despite and partly due to their small size.  Personally I have found that a few of the challenges only increase as the herd size decreases.  I have milked Jersey herds from 20 to 90 to 4 cows. The common wisdom of years past was that having one cow was a difficult as having 100 cows.  In reality I found that not to be true today due to advances in technology and improved management practices but managing a small herd of ten or fewer milk cows does present unique challenges.  Most are due to the impracticality of grouping cows according to their breeding and lactation status. 

With my larger farms I found it to be much easier to keep my dry cows in a separate group so I could feed them differently than I fed my milking cows.  I also kept my bred heifers as a separate group in a different barn or in a different pasture.  On of my favorite things to do 25 years ago was to visit my bred heifers in their pasture during a nice summer’s day or evening.  They were glad to see me because I was kind to them and fed them. And when they saw me in their pasture they assumed something good or exciting was about to happen.

Here is a funny little trick for getting cows to come to you in a pasture.  If you go out into a pasture where there is a group of cows or heifers and lie down in the grass they will all come over to smell and look at you.  It can be a bit intimidating if they come running, which they often do. I think they wonder why you aren't up on two feet and need to investigate. My heifers would surround me when I was lying on my back in the pasture like petals of a big flower and sniff my head and clothes and boots for half an hour before moving on.

Now my bred heifers (I usually have only one at the most) stay with my milk cows in the barn or on pasture.  I have found the best solution to grouping dry cows is to have a seasonal herd so they can be all dry and in need of the same ration at the same time rather than trying to keep separate groups for dry cows and milking cows.

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