We find that there are three keys to having a family milk cow that can graze efficiently, be healthy, and live a long full life. They are 1) genetics, 2) well developed rumen, and 3) proper diet.
Believe it or not, our American dairy cows have been bred to need high amounts of concentrates (grains) to stay in good condition. We have found a line of old style foundation registered Jerseys that are from lines that primarily graze so they have what we call grazing genetics, meaning that the cow thrives on grass and will stay in good condition with decent quality grazing and hay when needed. They are the smaller efficient size that Jerseys were before industry adopted the philosophy “bigger is better”. These registered Jerseys are from a 5th generation farm that only has the vet for pregnancy checks, routine tests, and injuries which is unheard of at typical farms. They are an organic grazing only dairy which is also very different from conventional farming practices. I have to tell you that we were practically running from any “registered” Jerseys because of the poor health and lack of grazing potential so we are extremely happy to have linked up with this farm that has preserved these traits. We count it a huge blessing and miracle! We also still offer a few foundation Jerseys crossed with heritage breeds that we have been very happy with in all three points but they do finish out larger as a rule.
2) A Well Developed Rumen
When a calf is not fed real milk and real milk LONG ENOUGH (four months is necessary, not the typical 5-8weeks), the rumen does not have a chance to properly develop which is necessary to digest cellulose in grasses and for a healthy immune system.
Recently, I spoke with a farmer that has a large dairy. They have so much disease in the herd that formula is fed to their replacement calves. Not only that, but once the cows go into production, they never graze again. Unfortunately, this is now the new normal for most farms. Is it any wonder that the average number of lactation’s in our dairy’s is 1 1/2 -3 until they have to be culled for mastitis, ketosis, milk fever, feet problems, and etc.!! That is a huge red flag that we are doing something wrong. (I did not really believe this until 4 different vets confirmed the information was correct.) Even the family cows across the nation deal with these issues quite regularly. Obviously, without the stress of the dairy environment they get more lactations but in my experience, most family cow owners deal with problems much more than they should. Again, we have found the three main reasons for this to be: 1) genetics, 2) not raising calves on real meal long enough, and 3) the wrong diet for the calf as it grows into and including adulthood, that is, entirely to much grain and not enough grazing.
My organic dairy friends by the way, get 10+ lactation’s (which is incredible when you consider the stressful situation that a dairy environment by default offers). They graze their cows and raise the babies on real milk. I’m a big “proof is in the pudding” person.
3) proper diet
Let me just say here that cows are ruminents and are the healthiest when fed primarily plants. When a ruminent is fed to much grain, their system becomes acidic allowing for a host of pathogens to survive and thrive which gives aid to a host of problems. It also causes their starch digesting bacterias to overcome the cellulose digesting bacterias so they no longer can be efficient grazers.
We have articles about this for all of our families that purchase a calf from us. Also, we will be offering two training DVD’s in the spring of 2013. This is important to have healthy cows and milk so we want to bring you more information in the future. Check back in May or June of 2013 or contact us to be notified when they are available.
We breed and raise calves for grazing genetics in our standard Jerseys as well as our Miniature Jerseys. We are looking for the cow that thrives on grass, is gentle and kind, has normal sized teats (not the typical modern American Jerseys bred for short short ones!), is raised on mama’s milk for a healthy immune system, and that is healthy and produces well into her teens. We are also breeding for A2 genetics.
We advocate a return to raising our milk and beef cows the way that God designed them to eat. On wonderful grass and herbs and legumes and SMALL amounts of grain for treats, training, and top-dressing additional supplements when needed.
We also give them several natural minerals free choice which include the cattle mineral mix from Countryside Organics, kelp, and natural trace mineral salt. We only use drugs if loss of life is indicated and every other measure has been taken. In all the babies we’ve raised, that has only been a handful of times with our steers and only one heifer, and then we aggressively gave them probiotics, herbs, and good stuff to support their immune system and restore balance to their flora.
Contact us for more informtation on our grass-fed beef, family milk cows, and training DVD’s here.