For most homesteaders and small farmers, cows are perhaps the black and white whale in reference to livestock: superficially out of reach but always on the mind.
Cows are generally physically larger when compared to other livestock, thus they need a bit more infrastructure and space as compared to other ruminant animals such as goats and sheep. Still, mini cows are a huge financial investment when it comes to maintenance and upfront cost. However, before we go further into the article I would recommend you seeing milk processing equipment for small farms UK.
1. Cows can be bred for milk, meat or to make offspring which will later be sold. Before you buy one, you should be aware of what you want your cow to do for you.
A cow is a big investment in terms of resources, time, and money. Being aware of how you want to make use of that cow while it’s on your homestead or farm is key to ensuring that you are utilising that investment prudently.
The state livestock expert at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Colt Knight said that the first thing that individuals should ask themselves is why they are keeping a cow, to begin with. He continued saying that it makes a world of difference in the kind of infrastructure and land one requires.
Cows can be kept for milk and meat, either for sale or personal use. One can also consider selling calves every year to increase their cash flow.
Chatham County’s field crops and livestock agent at the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Ashley Robbins, said that breeders need to have an end goal for their cow(s).
2. For small scale dairy farming, keeping cows for the purpose of milk alone can be pricey.
Cows generally start giving off milk at around two years old when they have given birth to their firstborn calf. After giving its colostrum, or milk to the calf, she’ll be considered viable for milking.
Robbins said that cows don’t necessarily need to have offspring to make milk. She continued saying that if you milk them, they’ll continue producing milk. One can generally continue milking a cow for two years before her taps run dry without necessarily giving birth again.
Also, because of the regulations that govern dairy production, selling milk can prove to be a challenge.
Knight emphasized that small-scale dairy farming won’t turn a profit.
13 states, including Pennsylvania, California, and Maine – permit retail stores to sell raw milk, while 17 other states permit farms producing raw milk to sell on their farm. 8 states permit raw milk to be sold through ‘cow-share agreements’, whereby farmers are paid to feed and milk their own cows.
3. If you are keeping cows for beef purposes, you should be aware of where the meat will get processed.
Most homesteaders and farmers buy a cow to keep for homegrown beef. Slaughtering cows is a complex process that needs a certain skill set and equipment to perform, so it’s integral you are aware of where your beef will get processed.
Robbins said that if you keep a cow for beef purposes, grain-fed ones will be ready for consumption by 15 to 16 months, while grass-fed ones will be ready at around 28 to 30 months.
Knight said that if you are looking to store a cow for yourself in a freezer, you should purchase a heifer or stocker that’s around 600 and 700 pounds. He said that it will put on weight as summer goes by and by fall, you can go to the meat processor to cut it up for you.
Knight said that if the meat is meant for consumption, you can make use of a tailored slaughter facility. However, if you want to sell some of it, the centre must be inspected and approved by relevant authorities.