How to Choose Cows for a Micro or Small-Herd Dairy

| 4/7/2016 10:24:00 AM

Choosing the Right Cow for Your Micro Dairy

In a previous blog post, I made it perfectly clear that I believe Jersey cows are the best breed for a micro dairy. However, that is my opinion. Other breeds will work as well, even Holsteins, if you must.

What is more important than the breed you choose is the health, temperament and history of the individual cow you select. In a micro or a small herd dairy the cows should be easily handled, relaxed around people and not kick when they are milked. Chances are those cows will be visited and milked by inexperienced visitors or hired help and they can’t be dangerous or difficult to handle in any way.

Let me add here that people usually sell cows for a reason. If you are buying a cow from someone you aren’t well acquainted with, then ask yourself, “Why is this cow being sold?” There is always a reason. I prefer to buy cows from local farmer friends who routinely sell cows and bred heifers to control their herd size.

Determining if a cow is healthy is essential. It is critical to have the cow tested for all common bovine diseases. Don’t stop at the tests your state requires. Also, test for Johnes and Leucosis (BLV) because it is now assumed that both diseases can be spread to humans by milk and blood, as well as being fatal for cows. Most farmers are unaware of the seriousness of these diseases and rarely test their cows for it.

The infection rate in the U.S. for Bovine Leucosis Disease and BLV is well over 50%. In addition, have the cow’s milk tested for Staph Mastitis. If the cow is dry, squeeze a small amount of milk out and have it tested. Staph Aureus mastitis is highly contagious and incurable. If a cow gets infected, she has it for life. This is one good reason to sell a cow.

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