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Highland X as milk cow?

Discussion in 'Breeds & Breeding - Cattle' started by MiniSheep, Jun 10, 2018.

  1. Jun 10, 2018
    MiniSheep

    MiniSheep Exploring the pasture

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    I found a highland/dexter and was wondering if she would be an okay milk cow. I would only be looking for about a half gallon at most once a day milking (with calf sharing). I know that dexters make good small farm milk cows, but is it reasonable to consider this cross for milking?
     
  2. Jun 10, 2018
    farmerjan

    farmerjan Loving the herd life

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    No reason not to consider her. Several things you need to ask about. Is she tame, has she been milked before? Is she a heifer or an experienced cow? Is she used to being tied or otherwise restrained like a halter, neck chain, head catch/stanchion or something?

    Have you hand milked before? No offense, it is hard to get an animal used to being hand milked if you are doing the learning at the same time. Hand milking is not rocket science; but it takes a little coordination and a just fresh "first calf" heifer is not something a "first time" milker should be learning on. Someone needs to know what is going on....:hu:huo_O. I am not trying to discourage you, just make sure that you have an idea of some of the little things.....

    It sounds like the amount of milk you want and what she will be making as a crossbred would mesh well. They are very hardy foragers, and will produce only as much as is being "removed" after their system gets into synch; as well as the genetics that should contribute to a greater supply than just the highland as a beef animal. So, for you to say milk once a day and take 1/2 to 1 gallon, it would keep her milk supply up a bit and still leave enough for the calf. The one thing is to be consistent with the milking once a day and take about the same amount everytime so that her production stays constant. I have some nurse cows that I milk a few times a week, but they have 3 or 4 calves each, so their milk production is being "challenged" to produce at peak all the time. On the days I do milk, the calves get less because she is always milked out unless I pen the calves away from her for 12 hours before.
     
  3. Jun 10, 2018
    frustratedearthmother

    frustratedearthmother Herd Master

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    Have you considered a goat? I milk one goat right now - once a day - and get a bit more than half a gallon. Goats eat less than cows and are smaller and should be easier to handle. But, goats aren't cows and if you're set on a cow the highland/dexter mix might just work for you. Good luck!
     
  4. Jun 10, 2018
    MiniSheep

    MiniSheep Exploring the pasture

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    Thank you so much for the information! My existing fences definitely would not hold a goat, so a goat is out of the option:) As for the heifer, apparently she is naturally super friendly and calm although she has never been trained as a milk cow. I totally get the beginner milker beginner milk cow combo being a bad idea. I was thinking of that myself. There is also a highland/jersey for sale near me that is apparently a very calm trained milk cow...maybe a better option. I was looking for a small/miniature cow, and the highland/jersey is a bit bigger. Trying to weigh out the pros and cons. How much hay should I expect to feed in the winter?
     
  5. Jun 11, 2018
    farmerjan

    farmerjan Loving the herd life

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    I would go for the "trained" milk cow for the simple fact that you know what you would be getting.
    Can't answer your questions until we know a few facts. Where are you located? Like what state? Need a general area to begin to know what kind of winters you might have.
    As a very GENERAL rule of thumb; a jersey dairy cow will eat approx 1-2 square bales of hay a day if there is no other forage - like grass-. This would need to be supplemented with grain in order to get a decent milk production.

    Here is what I am feeding right now, with all the pasture they can eat. I have a jersey first calf heifer, out of good dairy stock. She has a beautiful udder. She is getting approx a 5 gallon bucket of grain a day split in 2 feedings. That is about 10 lbs grain morning and eve as a 5 gal bucket holds approx 20 - 25 lbs. She has 3 calves nursing her and could actually use a fourth. She gets about 2 leaves of alfalfa hay in the barn also when she comes in to feed the calves. Then she is out on grass the rest of the time. I bring her in to the calves to nurse them. I am pushing her production because I want to make sure she will produce all that her genetics are capable of. I am milking out what the calves don't drink, which isn't alot, sometimes only a quart or 2.

    In the winter here in the Blue Ridge mountains of Va., we can have a fair amount of cold like last year. Some years more snow, last couple we have had little but the eastern part of the state has had alot. General rule of thumb is 1 round bale per 20 head per day. We have 5 x5 and 5 x 6 round bales that weigh in the 1000 lb range. It is APPROX. 20 -25 square bales @ 50 lbs.
    Again this is all approx. We have taken a round bale and unrolled it and square baled it in the past to get a general idea of the quantity, and have weighed a few to get an idea of the weight. The type of grass has a little variance, but this will give you a general idea. So a big round bale will last one cow 15-25 days all according to the weather and temps. Not having competition to eat, like with several other cows all crowding around, the consumption might be less. There will be some waste around the outside of the bale if it's stored outside. It will make for a drier place for the cow to lay down out in the field and it will add organic matter back into the soil so is not really "waste". But it is not going to be as completely consumed as with square bales that are stored inside and fed in a more controlled way. Less labor with the round bale, and they will provide some windbreak too.

    You will not be feeding that much grain to a crossbred, and will not be pushing for as much milk as I am. But either some grain, or some real good alfalfa or other hay will be necessary to keep the cow wanting to come in, and occupy her while she is being milked. She should want to come in, be content while being milked, and quiet and easy to work around.

    Is the highland - jersey somewhere you could actually go see her, learn to milk her and get a feel for her in her current situation? It would probably be a big help to you getting started, and then when you got her home, she is getting used to a new place, but you are somewhat familiar with her. Not 10 new things all at once.
     
    Donna R. Raybon likes this.
  6. Jun 11, 2018
    Donna R. Raybon

    Donna R. Raybon Loving the herd life

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    Don't forget about getting her bred back to calve again! You may milk longer, but average is 10 month lactation, 2 month dry, and freshen again. First lactation heifer can be hard to settle second time due to energy demands of continued growth and production. I had straight Jersey and about half the time I ended up milking for 18 months, dried off for two and she calved with second calf. Just saying, something to consider.

    No more milk than you want, have you considered a cow share?
     
    farmerjan likes this.