We’re getting a cow. We’re actually getting two cows. Well, technically we’re getting a bull calf and a heifer or cow. The bull is coming home with us on Saturday. The heifer or cow will be arriving hopefully this spring or summer. (A heifer is a female cow that has not given birth yet.)
The bull calf is a Dexter/ Scottish Highland cross with some other dairy cow breed thrown in there too. He’s almost exactly what we want. Thanks to the Dexter side, he’s small. His parents were both under 46″ tall. Thanks to the Highland, he’s shaggy 😀
A lot of people will warn you against getting a bull to keep for breeding, stating artificial insemination (AI) is easier, safer, and more cost effective. One of the main reasons we’ve been looking at both the Dexter and the Highland cattle, is because they’re both known for their very calm demeanor, even in the bulls (We learned this after much research and talking to several breeders). As for the easier and more cost effective… We both like the idea of doing things the natural way, the way God created it to work.
Like I said, the bull will be coming home with us Saturday. We’ll be driving south to Homer, Alaska (a six or so hour drive) and picking him up. Depending on his “cowinality,” we’ll probably be naming him either “Shamus” or “Bruce.” The hubby hasn’t quite decided yet. (I get to name the girl.)
This whole idea of getting into cows came up rather quickly for us. It’s only been a couple weeks since we decided to take this leap. Now that we have snow on the frozen ground, it makes preparing for him a bit more interesting. However, starting off with just a bull is easier than getting a cow already in milk thankfully.
After talking to several cow owners around Alaska (thanks to numerous Alaskan farm groups on Facebook), we’ve come to realize all the bull really needs is a good sturdy fence (which thankfully we already have), hay, a water trough with a heater to keep it from freezing, and a three-sided shelter with a roof to give him somewhere out of the wind to stay dry. Many cattle owners here in AK just let the cows hang out under the trees, but there aren’t any in our fenced in area. Our bull calf is going to be living in our garden, but just until this spring when we can get a larger area fenced in. Just think of all that wonderful manure…
You have a whole other Must Have List When Getting Your First Cow, especially when you’re milking her. Thanks to my Alaskan Farmer friends, I’ve got a great list of things to get stocked before she joins us on the homestead.
Steel toe boots (These would be good to have for a bull or heifer!)
Minimum of a three sided roofed shelter (If you’re in a cold climate and milking, you may want more!)
Good source of hay
Water trough with heater (If you’re in a cold climate like me)
REALLY good fences. Electric is a popular choice. Barbed wire isn’t quite unheard of still too.
Good relationship with the neighbors for when the cows get out (They will. Just accept it.)
A couple of halters. Spares are always good.
Three lead ropes, because as I was told you need “One to use, one to break, and one to loose.”
Good vet’s phone number to keep on hand. Find out who everyone local recommends. (I asked around and EVERYONE said the same vet. That tells me she’s the one to go to!)
(Additionally for the dairy side of things…)
Hand sanitizer and baby wipes (You MUST keep your hands clean when milking!)
Seamless stainless steel milk bucket x2 (It’s always good to have an extra one close in case someone feels like kicking…)
Large jars to store milk (1/2 gallon wide mouth canning jars are popular)
Bag Balm or Udder Butter
Teat spray (udder wash)
Mastitis testing kit
Brush (You don’t want dirt falling into your milk, and brushing will often calm your cow, which makes for a much more pleasant milking experience for all involved.)
A way to filter your milk
Double the budget of what you originally plan (Just like every new homesteading venture you get into, or so it seems.)
Cheese making equipment, ’cause all that milk will be GLORIOUS.
Read more about our adventure with our bull calf here.
For more info when it comes to choosing a family milk cow, visit One Ash Farm and Dairy.