Dexter as family milker.

Moody

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We have a new dexter yearling. However old that is, around one, I guess. I want to do AI in July or so. I'm working with her daily to get her familiar with me. She is our only cow. I feed her in a bin over a fence and try to pet her a bit. I have approached her and actually touched all over and thought maybe milking her won't be too difficult to train her to do. A few other times she has tossed her head at me. I take that as a threat and back off. I'm new to this. I've never worked with large animals. I have the goats mainly for milk (and just got them too) but was hoping for cream from her for butter and such.

Also she is eating Sudan along with two donkeys and she comes up daily for grain. I get about 3/4 5 lb coffee can and give her about half and the donkeys the other half. She also has ten acres of whatever else she can find and a mineral block that I put out for donkeys.

Any hints on handling that I need to know, esp to make her easy to milk train? Is the diet ok?
 

Baymule

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Good questions, I don't have the answers, but I am sure some one here does!
 

Moody

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I've read that dexters do well with no grain. I'm feeding some all stock pellets just to get her used to coming down to the barn area twice a day. I'm not sure how much would be too much. She looks like a good weight to me but I am unsure of what a fat cow looks like :)
 

mysunwolf

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I have never milked Dexters, but we have friends who use them for beef and they get fat on just pasture. But they take a little longer than typical grass-fed beef cattle to finish and fill out properly (think 24-36 months instead of 18-24, and the steaks are still tiny and cute). I bet they would do fine on just pasture, but they certainly won't give a whole lot of milk. All the Dexter breed pages say 1/2 to 1 gallon daily range for a Dexter cow on just grass, up to 2 gallons (or more in rare cases) with a good amount of grain. I'd be interested to hear from people who have actually milked them.

Try not to feed more than 1% grain weight in body weight, and start with just a little. Dexters are in general a lean, muscled breed by nature, but you can still feel the hip bones to get a sense of how much fat they're carrying and if you need to increase feed or cut back.
 

WildRoseBeef

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Since she is a heifer, try not to fatten her up too quickly because it could be detrimental to her reproductive system and her chance of getting pregnant and being a good milker due to fat deposits developing around the ovaries and in the mammary glands. Mysunwolf is right, you should be feeding her at around 1% of her bodyweight in grain per day, no more than that. Are you also feeding her some protein/calcium feeds like some legume hay mixes, and feeding her a mineral tub or block? And what kind of grain is it that you're feeding?

Personally, I really believe that by backing off when she tosses her head that you are teaching her that every time she tosses her head she can get you to move away from her. You need to ignore this behaviour and firmly tell her "no!" when she does this to you, and continue trying to milk her. This way you are teaching her you are the boss and not to be trifled with nor bossed around. And this will be the first step in getting her to respect you.

Is she halter broke? Have you tried haltering her and leading and tying her for a bit at all?
 

Moody

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I don't know about halter broke. I was going to get one and try but I have to wait until I can get her separated from the donkeys. She is overly concerned about what they are up to and won't focus on me.

There is a brown mineral block out by the feeding area for the donkeys and her. I am feeding all stock pellets. Around 7 dollars a bag from ranch store. I don't know what to get so that is what I got to start with. There seemed to be many choices.

I'm guessing she is around 400 pounds. I give maybe 1.5 pounds each time so it is less than one percent. I have alfalfa for the goats and toss maybe 1/3 flake or a little less, that stuff is expensive, over for 2 donkeys and the one heifer. Also a flake of grass hay (coastal) for all to share.
 

Moody

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Here is a pic. I think she looks good on weight now. So I'm not trying to add any. Just keep her where she is. I know she is still growing.
 

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Baymule

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For your donkeys, alfalfa is probably too rich. For all you want to know about donkeys, here's a web site for you.
http://www.lovelongears.com/

If you overfeed a donkey (not saying that is what you are doing) they will get fat deposits on their butt, that spot between the hip bone and tail. They also deposit fat on the crest of their neck, which is very hard to lose and will cause the crest of their neck to fall over. A good grass hay is best for your donkeys, and will give your pocket a break. Are they standard size or mini's? Are they halter broke and can you separate them from the heifer instead of trying to separate the heifer?
 

Moody

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I was thinking she was a pregnant donkey but now I'm not so sure. I thought just a handful of alfalfa would be helpful to a pregnant donkey.

I read about over feeding and it could cause them to founder as well. I just have a hard time knowing if I am over feeding them. I just had a bale of Sudan delivered (hay guy said his horses eat it so I figured it would be ok) and was previously giving them 2-3 flakes of coastal a day. With the Sudan out I just toss out some coastal now since I still have square bales. I wouldn't give them any of the grain (or the cow since I know she would be fine with hay) but to keep her showing up twice a day I give just a bit to the cow and the donkeys too since I would feel bad not giving them just a bit, too.

They are minis, not likely halter broke and I can't separate them cause the main field is 10 acres or so. They will all need to graze it. They come to me easily and are friendly enough. I have another 3-4 acres in wooded area but that would be best suited to the goats.
 

Moody

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Once I get a gate into the goat area from the 10 acre field directly, I can separate the cow for the feedings and just give her a bit of grain, oats or alfalfa for the training and trust development. She actually seems to do better getting to know me when I just go out to pet her randomly instead of her already expected snacks dawn and dusk.
 
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