We Got a Milk Cow!

Last time I went to the grocery store, I got angry.

Though our real food transformation has greatly decreased the amount of food I purchase at a conventional grocery store, there are still some items for which I don’t have local or homemade sources.

Last shopping trip I went to grab a package of butter and was shocked to see that the prices had risen nearly a dollar since last month. Butter and cheese are 2 things that we use a lot of, and I don’t quite have the capabilities to make them at home yet.

My irritation in the store that day got me to thinking about how much I really dislike being a “consumer.” I’ve become spoiled on the things we are able to produce ourselves (eggs, goat milk, vegetables, etc) and I get a bad attitude when I feel like I have to be dependant on a store to provide me with necessities. We just assume that the food will always be there and will always be the same price, but that is not a guarantee.

Then my thoughts went even further… What would happen if the price of food really skyrocketed or there become a shortage? What then? I can tell you one thing, I don’t want to be the one standing in line for a government handout of margarine (or anything else for that matter)!

So what was my solution to the problem? Clip coupons? Buy in bulk? Start collecting newspaper ad inserts?

Well, I suppose all of those ideas would have been feasible, but instead we decided to go buy one of these:

Meet Oakley, a Brown Swiss/Guernsey heifer. Don’t worry, I still love my goats, but my husband and I decided we needed a larger quantity of milk as well as CREAM. She’s due to calve in July, so I have several months to get her gentle and prepare for this new venture.

Yes, it most definitely was an investment. But, not only will she benefit our grocery budget right now, she also makes us more self-sufficient in the event of crazy food prices or a disaster liked we discussed last week. Once we start milking her, I plan to make all of our cheese, butter, yogurt, cream cheese, sour cream, cottage cheese, and buttermilk at home. Plus, we can feed the excess milk or whey to the other animals we have, further reducing our feed bill.

So, even though this preparedness step doesn’t exactly fit into a 5 gallon bucket, I believe it’s a important part of our family being prepared.

And also because, dang it, nothing is going to come between me and my butter.

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  1. says

    Do you have instructions for how ot make cottage cheese? I still buy raw milk but am not drinking it as much, so I want to build up my skills in making other things with it.

    That’s so exciting to have a cow, and so frustrating to watch the prices go up.

    • Jill says

      Soli- Once we get in the swing of milking, I’m going to be taking the Cultured Dairy course at GNOWFGLINS.com. I did the sourdough one, and it is absolutely worth the small subscription fee. I’m pretty sure Wardeh has a cottage cheese recipe included in the course. Have you tried making yogurt? It’s a great way to use up extra milk.

  2. MommySetFree says

    I love it! “Nothing is going to come between me and my butter”!! :-)

    We are right behind you. Hopefully this summer we will be getting our first dairy cow (Jersey) who is due to calf in the winter (not as ideal as calfing in the summer, I admit – but it is the one available to us).

    I am excited for you and will watch your dairy adventures unfold!

  3. says

    Oakley looks like a such a gentle, peaceful cow. I’m sure whatever you make will far exceed what is available in the store for taste and value!

  4. says

    I love that you said,

    “I’ve become spoiled on the things we are able to produce ourselves (eggs, goat milk, vegetables, etc) and I get a bad attitude when I feel like I have to be dependant on a store to provide me with necessities.”

    Most of us are spoiled the other way around!

  5. CathyG says

    Hello! I’m a homesteader wanna-be and have a couple of questions about your cow purchase. Do you have any idea how much milk a cow gives daily? And how long will she give milk before you have to have her bred again? Thanks!!!

    • Jill says

      Hi Cathy-
      I think the amount of milk varies greatly depending on the cow itself and what she is eating. I was told that our cow’s grandmother was giving 6 gallons per day, but she didn’t have her calf on her. We plan on sharing this cow with her calf, which will decrease how much we will have.

      We plan on breeding her again this year for a 2012 calf. We will dry her up a few months before she calves to let her body recuperate. However, I’m fairly certain that if we chose not to breed her this year, we could continue milking through and not stop production, at least for while longer. Hope that makes sense! 😉

  6. says

    So much fun!! We are waiting for our Scottish Highlander to freshen, any day now as she has started to bag up. As soon as we have the barn fixed this spring we are going to buy a jersey and I can’t wait. I just wish cream seperators weren’t so expensive.

  7. says

    I’m not sure how I missed this post but I wanted to say congratulations! How exciting! I hope everything goes smoothly for you and I can’t wait to hear updates.

  8. says

    Oh my Jill!!! you are a girl after my own heart…I now have a place for my Jersey cow that I am going to buy and I have my husbands permission to go ahead and buy……….I’m just not that confident that I will be able to deal with all the milk she will produce and still not sure of what I need to purchase, stainless steel milk bucket, stool, containers? Are you buying an extra fridge? I wondered if I would need to buy one to put out in our garage….I just don’t know.

    I did read on one blog…can’t remember what one now, how she put her milk in a sun tea jug so all the extra cream that was still in the milk goes to the top and the milk you drink is skim It coumes out the spout from the bottom….Iv had that kind of skim milk before and it still taste better than the whole milk you buy in the store.
    I too want to make all my own butter, cheese, cream, Icecream, buttermilk and so on. I’m just afraid if I go ahead and get her(iv talked to the farmer where I will be buying her) that I might be overwhelmed and not know what to do with all the milk.
    Chicken! thats what I am, chicken! excited but chicken LOL
    I’m definatly going to keep up on your blog!!!! I sure hope you will blog the learning process but then if you have been doing goats then it might not be that big of a step for you.

    Thanks for stopping buy my blog and leaving a comment….I still need to take the time to figure out how to link back to the Barn Hope

    • Jill says

      Hi Susan! I have an extra small fridge, but am considering purchasing another large one. I will definitely have to figure out some strategy for dealing with all that milk! There will definitely be a learning curve, but we tend to fly by the seat of our pants around here, so here we go. hehe 😉
      But it sounds like you are on the right track, and having somewhere to keep a new Jersey is definitely a big step. I hope you will get the chance to get one soon! I will definitely be sharing my learning experiences, tips, and mess-ups as we go, so hope you’ll be back to see our progress. Thanks for stopping by!

  9. says

    OH I want to get a milk cow so badly! Hubby and I keep talking about it, but haven’t yet decided to definitely do it. We can get raw milk locally and plan to begin that in May, once we are moved and settled at our new little farm. We move in 2 weeks! We currently buy local, grass-fed beef and just love it!

  10. says

    Hi! I had to stop by and check out your latest addition. She’s gorgeous! I love those beautiful brown eyes. Hopefully all goes well with her and her calf for you…and thanks for stopping by Happily Married to the Cows! :)

  11. says

    Congratulations on your purchase of Oakley!
    I found you through FFF, you will have to stop over to my blog and meet Ginger!

  12. Cathy says

    I like the sun tea idea to get rid of the skim milk from the bottom and have the cream remaining, but I’ve yet to find a sun tea jar that doesn’t leak around the spout. For now I’ve been using a turkey baster to suck cream off of the top of the 1/2 gallon mason jars which our whole milk is stored. I put the cream/half & half in a quart jar, let it sit for a few hours on the counter, and then process it in a few batches through our food processor to make butter and also get the fresh buttermilk, too. This website has the best instructions on how to make butter I’ve run across: http://www.tennesseansforrawmilk.com/funstuff.html
    Just make sure to scroll down until you see the directions!

    • Jill says

      That’s pretty much the same way I collect our cream- except I just use a ladle. Will have to check out that website!

  13. Cathy says

    Jill, what is your process/set up to milk your Brown Swiss? I am trying to get prepared for this May when our cow freshens. (I bought her last summer when she already had an 8 week old calf, but we weren’t prepared to milk her at that point, although I did practice directly on the ground off and on just to make sure she was simpatico with it) Any feedback would be great, and if you have a post somewhere that details it already, just direct me that way so you don’t have to repeat yourself. :)

    • Jill says

      Well, we have been very, very fortunate so far. Oakley wasn’t even halter broke when we got her (she’s barely 3), but she has a gentle mind. I worked with her in the beginning like I would one of my horses and got her to move her hindquarters around and put her head down when I asked. When it was time to milk, I just did it, lol. I tied her up and gave her a little hay, and we’ve been doing it that way ever since. Occasionally she will kick at the bucket, especially if her teats are sore, but she is pretty slow and definitely not lethal about it. We don’t have a stanchion, and I haven’t even been tying her up lately. So, I’d like to say I have it all figured out, but I have a suspicion that I just got lucky. 😉

  14. Cathy says

    I suspect that you might have gotten lucky AND did a good job both with your cow! I WAS lucky to buy my heifer from a local horse trainer friend who had bought my heifer for her son as a 4-H project and they trained her together. As a result, she was pretty much dead tame when I bought her, including loading and trailering in my horse trailer like a dream. She’d never been milked, having just had her first calf right before I bought her, but she could care less when I did it last summer. It IS refreshing when you are used to dealing with horses; how much more mellow overall cows are- they just aren’t nearly as spooky, even comparing to my current level-headed QH. (Definitely better than the freak-a-licka Warmblood I used to have!)

  15. Coupon Cook says

    I love making my own butter. Quite honestly I flip on the kitchen aid mixer and walk away. 20 min later I have butter and butter milk. The nice thing about real butter is that you can use it in a recipe unsalted and get great results. So if you don’t want to salt it, don’t. A friend and I got in the kitchen and made some homemade mozzarella. It was okay, I’ll certainly try it again. But we live in hot humid gulf coast Alabama so even if we did learn to make real cheese we’d have to have a dedicated building with serious climate control just to make and store it.

    • Jill says

      Agreed! You can’t beat real butter!
      Keep working on that mozz– it took me several tries and a couple different recipes, but now it’s second nature. :) The first time is always the hardest.

  16. Lindsey Wehr says

    Where did you find her? We had a pair of brown swiss cows we milked when I was in high school. My husband and I have agreed to getting a milk cow but we are having a hard time finding a brown swiss. All we have been able to find are holsteins and a couple jerseys. I don’t want a holstien and a jersey is just to small. I need something I can breed to a beef bull.

    • says

      I found her on Craigslist in our area. A small raw milk dairy was selling her–it is hard to find breeds other than holsteins sometimes.

  17. Veronica says

    Now that you’ve had Oakley a while I would love to hear what you do with her milk?! I would love to have a dairy cow someday but am intimidated by the sheer quantity a good cow can produce! Do you have a system to help you efficiently use it all? What portions, do you think, go to butter, yogurt, cheese, farm animals, calf, etc? Thanks in advance!

    • says

      Well, it kinda depends on the day. :) I skim the cream first and usually make butter. Then I do lots of yogurt and mozzarella too. Ice cream and pudding are good desserts that help use it up, and if I am really drowning, then I give it to the chickens. I finally got a cheese press, so I have cheddar on my list for this year!