Raise Small-breed Milk Cows

If you want fresh milk and cows that are easier for beginners to handle, these small breeds of cattle are just the right size for a homestead.

| Aug. 3, 2009

In 2006, Pat Schout and his wife, Elia, began homesteading in east-central Illinois. They wanted to raise their own food, including dairy products. They considered a milk cow, but didn’t know if they’d have enough pasture for a full-size cow and weren’t sure if they could manage all the milk a single cow can produce. A neighbor had discussed the option of small-breed beef cattle, and that gave the Schouts the idea to raise their own small-breed dairy cattle. They started with Jerseys (because of the high butterfat content of their milk) and are now working toward breeding miniature Holsteins.

Miniature cows cost $1,800 to $3,500 depending on the size, markings and color. (A good standard Jersey sold as a family milk cow will cost $1,400 to $1,800.) Although small-breed cattle may cost more initially, they have some interesting advantages. To learn more, we talked with Pat Schout.

How small are small-breed Jerseys? What about miniature Holsteins?

Miniature cattle are classified in three categories as measured by height at the hip. These three categories are (1) midsize miniature, 42 to 48 inches; (2) standard miniature, 36 to 42 inches; and (3) micro-miniature, 36 inches and under. Small-breed cattle range in weight from 500 to 800 pounds. In general, a miniature milk cow is a third to half the size of the standard milk cow. I find that the 42- to 44-inch height is the most ideal for a family small-breed milk cow. Smaller cows may present logistical problems — you might have to sit on the floor to milk them.

How much milk do they give? Is it the same quality as from a standard cow?

A standard-size milk cow in peak production can give 6 to 10 gallons of milk per day. What do you do with that much milk? That’s the great thing about small-breed Jerseys. My cows give 1 to 1 1/2 gallons per milking. This level of production provides enough milk for drinking as well as for making some cheese and butter on a weekly basis, plus a little left over to give to a neighbor or friend. The quality of the milk is excellent, with butterfat content of about 4.9 percent. I store milk in gallon Mason jars. Each jar of milk will have about 3 inches of cream at the top.

9/12/2017 10:27:19 AM

Faye Sept 10, 2017 Thank you, I am planning on starting a homestead in Florida, this information is very helpful.

12/3/2015 12:19:56 PM

Thank you soooooooo.... much article is amazing!!!! This helped me clear up some very important questions on how to go about getting the right cow for beginning homesteaders :)

8/13/2013 10:43:23 PM

Sorry for double post???, but just to add, our vet is a female, but she wears a glove size of large, and she had trouble preg checking the Herfords, so She walked me through it, and now I also do the pregnancy checking. Just thought I'd add that.


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