How to Train a Heifer to Become a Family Milk Cow

Twyla Title Photo

Today I’m welcoming Ashley from The Browning Homestead to the blog! Not all of us are fortunate to start off with a quiet, trained milk cow (I wasn’t!), so Ashley is sharing her expertise on how to start with a heifer, and end up with a quiet family cow!

We all have that dream of having our own milk cow. She gives us gallons upon gallons of milk each day. We’ll make yogurt, sour cream, butter, mozzarella cheese, and have lots of milk for the other barnyard animals.

While that was certainly my vision when I purchased my family cow, it didn’t quite turn out that way. We had trouble getting her bred and she didn’t give much milk. But she calved easily and was a gentle cow and terrific mother. So we decided to buy a few more milk cows: HEIFERS.

Training a heifer (a young female cow) to become a family milk cow can be a bit tricky sometimes. Following these few simple guidelines can set you and your milk cow up for a long, productive relationship together!

Practices for Pre-Calving

1. Bring your heifer (or cow) to your homestead before she calves. This will help her to become familiar with YOUR set-up. She’ll become comfortable and less nervous about where she will calve and who will most likely be around (kids, dogs, chickens, and other barnyard friends)

2. Practice your milking routine (without actually milking her). Tie her up to a post or put her in your milking stanchion. Give her a flake of good hay and practice your routine. Spray her down with fly spray and brush her all over. Don’t forget to tell her sweet nothings into her ear: what a good cow she is and how she’ll be a great mama cow!… [Continue Reading]

9 Tips for Training a Goat on the Milking Stand


Tips for Training a Goat to the Milk Stand

Today I’m welcoming Heather from Green Eggs and Goats!  She’s sharing her expertise on training a goat to cooperate on the milking stand–something which, I can attest, can be a bit of a challenge sometimes! 

I’ll be honest, training a new goat to the milk stand is not the easiest homesteading task I’ve ever set out to do.  Some goats are an absolute dream, they hop trustingly onto the stand and stand politely until you finish.  Most of the time, however, you leave your first few milkings feeling like you have just completed a triathalon!

9 Tips for Training a Goat on the Milking Stand

1.  Give them what they want, food!  All goats come with different personalities and appetites.  When I’m training, I will allow them to eat more sweet feed (or even put some molasses on the feed) if they have a sweet tooth.  I have one goat who loves alfalfa, so I let her have extra at the start of milking season.  If you can distract your goat with something yummy while you are training them, things are much easier.  Once she gets the hang of things, then I slowly change out her feed for more hay or her regular ration.

2.  Talk sweetly and keep a calm atmosphere.  A kicking goat can really bring out my frustration, but I try not to show it.  Talk calmly and sweetly to the goat, and try to keep a peaceful environment.  Sometimes I even diffuse a little lavender when I’m training a goat.  I’m not sure if it calms her or me, but either way, it seems to help.

3.  Hobbles.  I hate to use them, but I will strap goat hobbles to the back legs if I have a kicker on the stand.  It isn’t foolproof, but it does help calm the kicking down a little bit.… [Continue Reading]

How to Cook an Old Rooster (or Hen!)

how to cook old chicken

 I realize this post will probably elicit a variety of reactions…

Some of you will be thrilled that I’m writing on this topic, since you have old hens or roosters that need a new “job,”

Some of you will be amused to have a post on this topic showing up in your email inbox

And some of you will probably be horrified that I would ever consider eating one of our chickens.

So allow me to explain myself…

For us a huge part of homesteading (pretty much the #1 part, in fact) is food production. Although we are animal-lovers, the main purpose behind us having cattle, chickens, pigs, and turkeys is so we can grow as much of our own food as possible.

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t relish killing animals I’ve “known.” It’s not my favorite part of homesteading, but as someone who has made the conscious decision to eat meat (and I am at peace with that decision 100%), I feel it is important I don’t shy away from being able to grow and process that meat ourselves.

As much as I enjoy having chickens, I don’t really consider them pets–more like partners, if you will, in our homesteading experience. And I do have heartburn over the trend over turning chickens over to animal shelters when they pass their point of usefulness.

If we are trying to follow in the footsteps of our homesteading ancestors, let’s be honest: Great-Grandma didn’t give her old hens to the animal shelter. Chickens past their prime were destined for the stew pot where Great-Grandma extracted every last bit of flavor out of the meat and bones. In my opinion, this is “waste not, want not” at its finest.


Enter Mr. Rooster

We got Mr.… [Continue Reading]

Can You Use Essential Oils on Livestock??

essential oils livestock

I like to post a variety of content here on The Prairie Homestead, and for the most part, we keep it pretty light and fun. But every once and a while, I like to dive in a little deeper and explore the science behind some of my crazy natural choices. I am ecstatic to be welcoming Eric Zielinski back to the blog today. He is a health coach and skilled researcher who specializes in natural topics that are right up my alley! From time to time, he’ll be joining us and helping me out by digging into research, as is the case for today’s oily livestock post!

Essential oils… for Livestock??

This past year, the Journal of Parasitology Research highlighted the findings from an interesting study that surveyed Kenyans in Bungoma County to see which essential oils they used to repel brown ear ticks (Rhipicephalus appendiculatus) on their cattle. Evidently, they use essential oils quite a bit.

Can you imagine what a survey like that would look like in the U.S.?

They’d probably get a lot of blank stares and “I don’t use oils on my livestock” kind of answers! Well, after some digging around, they uncovered that Kenyans favor these eight to keep ticks at bay:

1. Southern cone marigold (Tagetes minuta)
2. Tree marigold or “Mexican sunflower” (Tithonia diversifolia)
3. African juniper or “Kenya cedar” (Juniperus procer)
4. Solanecio mannii (no common name in English)
5. African or “popcorn” senna (Senna didymobotrya)
6. White sage or “tickberry” (Lantana camara)
7. African violet tree (Securidaca longepedunculata)
8. Orange bird berry (Hoslundia opposita)

After testing the oils further, the researchers uncovered that they were naturally rich sources of chemicals like cis-ocimene, dihydrotagetone, piperitenone and some other ones that I couldn’t pronounce if I had to. So, what’s the big deal?[Continue Reading]