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House cow recommendations?

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    We just bought a little block and are looking for a house cow…what would ALSers’ recommendations be? :shrug: Ideally I would like a quiet mannered cow who is a good mother and easy to milk. A dairy/beef cow would be good so we can raise the calves up for the freezer. I have a family of 6 and have many friends who would be DELIGHTED to share REAL milk with us. 😛 What breeds/ age etc? We have three acres that would be hers alone (well to share with the chooks and the geese), a dam, good fencing and a shed/ yards for shelter and milking.

    I remember our house cow when I was a kid was a hereford x dairy breed and she was a good cow and gave us plenty of milk.

    Apologies if this post sounds funny but I am a complete newbie :woohoo: when it comes to cows other than what I remember from being a kid (which seems like AGES ago!)


    With 3 acres I would be going jersey or dexter. Apparently buying a cow who is already used to being milked and handled is the way to go. Naturally i bought a 3 day old calf instead and handraised her… then the perils of pregnancy and going o/s..haven’t got her in calf yet. lol


    gypsyoak post=327783 wrote: With 3 acres I would be going jersey or dexter. Apparently buying a cow who is already used to being milked and handled is the way to go. Naturally i bought a 3 day old calf instead and handraised her… then the perils of pregnancy and going o/s..haven’t got her in calf yet. lol

    Oh Gypsyoak, I’ve got a horribly twisted mind. I was going to make some smart alec comment about you not being able to get her in calf…… :whistle: :whistle: :whistle:




    Hi Gypsyoak,

    We have a 3/4 jersey and 1/4 angus house cow who does very well. Being jersey, a smaller breed, they require less feed but you would need to be aware of not putting a larger breed bull over this type of cow or she may have difficulty calving. We had a Dexter bull cover our girl which has resulted in a very nice calf. I also agree that a Jersey or Dexter would be good for 3 acres. One other thing to be aware of is that the cow may not eat where the geese have soiled (depending on numbers).

    As a beginner, I would recommend a cow that is quiet and has been hand milked and handled well as like most young animals, they can get a bit naughty at times and develop bad habits easily. That is also true of an older cow that has not been well handled and has already developed bad habits.


    Hi Mauzi!

    I think your post is directed at girlfriday. 🙂

    I already have a



    Oops!! sorry Gypsyoak you are quite right, it was meant for girlfriday and it is a lovely jersey you have as well 😆


    hahahaha no worries mauzi! I dreamt my cow was a killer the other night! She was going around attacking everybody and then getting annoyed because nobody would pat her. lol


    Mad cow disease?



    Given the area of pasture available (dependent on quality of course), a Jersey or a Dexter is your best choice.

    Dexters are marketed as “dual purpose” cattle, ie. beef and milk, however, these days, you may find that you will get dexters bred along “beef” lines (ie. bred selectively for their beef characteristics) or “milky” lines, (bred selectively for their milk characteristics). IF you were to go for a dexter, and your main purpose is for milk, then you need to enquire what her breeding is, did she come from milkers etc. Dexters do do better on poorer pasture, but they are definitely cows that need pasture, not manicured lawns! Dexter milk is whiter and sweeter than Jersey milk, and is more homogenised than Jersey milk, and thus takes a while longer for the cream to naturally separate out from the milk. Dexters, although small can be cantankerous.

    Jersey’s on the other hand are small too, but are pure dairy. They give a greater volume of milk, and their milk is creamier, separating out much quicker. They do need more feed than a dexter, simply because they will put their food into making milk, at the expense of making beef! Generally Jersey’s are even tempered. If you have a high producing Jersey, they are more subject to metabolic disorders, which can be life threatening, particularly after calving.

    Both these breeds, being small, need to be bred to low birth weight bulls, such as Jersey, Dexter or Angus, at least until they are seasoned calvers, and even then, you would need to ensure that the bull doesn’t throw too bigger calves. You don’t want to have to go through the trauma of pulling calves.

    Okay, now things to look for as a novice house cow buyer, regardless of breed…

    1. Previously hand milked (and machine milked if that is what you intend doing)

    2. Either in calf or calf at foot (or both if you’re fortunate)

    3. Halter trained (not just has had a halter on her, you want to be able to lead her around… saves SO MUCH ANGST believe me!)

    4. Good milk production for your needs. No point having a super producer if you won’t be using it all, as you need to feed her the same amount, even if you don’t want ALL that milk. (PS.. illegal to sell raw milk in Australia).

    5. Disease free and known history (Q Fever, Pink Eye, Mastitis, Ketosis)

    6. Four functioning quarters, of even size and placement. If the cow is in milk, ask to see a milking demonstration (you may have to get there at milking time), or if not in milk, have a feel of the udder. You should not feel hard fibrous tissue, or other abnormalities in the teats.

    7. Your “hand sized” teats. Jersey’s can have small teats, ie. if some men can’t milk Jersey’s by hand simply because the teats aren’t long enough to fit their palms on them, and rather have to milk with two fingers and a thumb.

    8. Has a good let down reflex, that doesn’t need to be triggered by a calf suckling.

    9. Has previously share milked, if your intention is to keep the calf on her as a share milker.

    10. Is good with children. Not all cows are. Some HATE children, some HATE dogs. Some won’t take change well, and will only let down for one milker.

    11. Is trained to head bails or can be milked just tied up, or better yet, freestanding in the pasture.

    12. Be wary of dairy culls (cows culled from commercial dairy operations). They may have simply been culled because they weren’t high enough producers for a commercial operation, fine for a family house cow. However, more often they are culled because there is a real reason they can’t continue. They may continue to be “open” (can’t get them pregnant after several attempts), they may have a high Somatic Cell Count (SCC) indicating a current mastitis or chronic subclinical mastitis. Modern dairy cows, may not have been handled by humans very much, as much of dairy operations is mechanised. Some cows take to the change, some cows won’t, ever.

    And some other thoughts…

    Brown Swiss are beautiful, but they are HUGE cows, as are Friesians (or Holsteins).

    You will need to have some sort of shelter and some form of restraint to do routine cattle husbandry. Some things are unpleasant to do, and any cow won’t stay still for it. So, a set of head bails is a necessity, even if they don’t need to be milked in it. Examples of procedures… treatment for pinkeye, annual immunisations if you chose to immunise, application of worming medication, pregnancy testing/drawing bloods, artificial insemination… the list goes on.

    Consider how you will keep the cow in calf. Ideal spacing is 12 months apart. Will you use natural cover, ie. a bull or AI. How much will each of these cost you?

    What is your pasture like in winter? How is your budget for buying in lucerne hay and concentrates as 3 acres, even carefully managed and rotated, will still require supplementation, in order to keep the cow in good condition, and produce a reasonable volume of milk for your family and/or friends.

    How is your fencing? Is it good enough to keep cattle in and out? Good fences make good neighbours.

    Cow’s cycle every 21 days. If you keep your cow open, then she will be generally very loud and noisy for 2 days or so, and be looking for a bull, or a bull might come looking for her!

    Are you capable of milking once or twice a day? Do you have time to do so, rain, hail or shine?

    If your land is flood prone, where will you put her during floods and if she’s in milk, how will you get to her to milk?

    Crosses can make good milkers, however, don’t expect them to stay in lactation the same length of time as a pure dairy breed. They will produce lovely milk, but whereas a dairy breed may continue to produce a good quantity of milk long after calving. A cross breed will taper off sooner rather than later, as genetically, their calves grow quicker and are less dependent on milk sooner.

    Owning your own cow is wonderful. Remember though, unless you share milk, or have a reliable relief milker, then it seriously inhibits your ability to go away for more than a day trip when she is in milk.

    Goodluck, lots more to type, but too tired to go on now! I hope this helps.



    hahahahahah she has that in real life! 🙂 She is just like a puppy!


    Awww too cute! What breed is she?


    she is a jersey. She is very beautiful and has a lovely nature. We all adore her!


    Many thanks for the recomendations MuddyFeet. We had a house cow when I was a kid so I do remember some of the things involved, including milking rain, ice or stinking hot. We have three sheds and yards for her but no head bail as yet. I understand we will have to supplement feed her (like chooks really if you want a good egg supply). Fencing is good- we have a hotwire as well because we plan to plant a heap of native trees and dont want them munched 😉

    So WHERE do we find such a beauty? I cant imagine people are too keen to part with their lovely milkers.

    I think if i went to the sales I would end up with a dejected bag of bones because I am a sucker for sad stories…


    Hi Girlfriday,

    Try googling “farmstock” and it will bring you onto a site that sells poultry, cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and alpacas, all under separate sections.

    People across Australia advertise on here, so you just wait for something to come up thats within travelling distance, and its mainly hobby farmers, rather than commercial farmers. I’ve purchase quite a bit of livestock through this site, including my Jersey, who has now given me two lovely heifers calves, who are in turn in calf with their first calves, as is the Jersey again.

    Patience, ultimately is the order of the day. Don’t buy something just because its close and is available at a good price. A good house cow is worth waiting for, because she’ll be around for a while, and you will have a very CLOSE relationship with her whether you want to or not!

    I notice you live in QLD. There is a nice Dexter stud, that regularly advertises on the Farmstock site, and there are often Jersey’s up that way too.



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