this post is about why we chose Jersey cows to add to our little homestead and what we plan to do with all the milk!
We did it!
Another big bucket list item checked off this year, and I can’t believe how perfectly our new additions to the farm came to be.
I’ve wanted dairy cows for a while now, but when I first mentioned the idea to Big John last fall, he wanted to make sure I was up for the commitment. (remember, I wasn’t raised on a farm like him!) So that’s how the goats came about.
We’ve loved having the goats around so much and the kids even know how to milk now – so I know we’re up to the task of milking and caring for a few cows of our own!
Why I chose Jerseys
Well, to be honest Jersey cows weren’t my first choice! I actually tried and tried to find Guernseys for about six months, but nothing ever seemed to work out. I’d find one or two & then hit a roadblock every time. But I’ve really learned to trust those roadblocks. Especially when they happen over and over. In my past it’s usually meant there’s a better suited path available somewhere else. About a month ago I was really feeling like I should go in a different direction & started researching Jerseys. And I’m so glad!
Jerseys are pretty small but they produce a ton of milk that’s a lot higher in nutrition, and they have a really high butterfat % – which is obviously super important around our house. If you’re a giant nerd and into cow stats, check this page out! In the end, I was really excited we could be getting lots of rich milk from smaller animals that would use fewer resources, since there are already beef cattle ran here on the farm.
Plus, they’re SO cute! I’m pretty obsessed with their natural winged eyeliner and overall sweetness.
How I Found Them
Ok guys. If you know me, you know I peruse Craigslist for animals pretty regularly. And so that’s how I found these girls. I know there are lots of other ways to find livestock, but I’ve had really good luck with CL!
So, about a month ago I found these girls listed for a really good price. I called and talked to their owner and requested they be tested to see if they were A2/A2, which is what I wanted. (most Jersey cows are A2, but not all!) He agreed and said he’d call back in a couple of weeks. And he did to say they were A2/A2!
So, with the boys in tow (Viv wasn’t feeling good & stayed with grandma) we made the trip to see them Friday & it could not have gone better. I mean, let’s be real – when we’re dealing with craigslist finds things can be sketchy. But I’m never really worried when Big John is with me.
However, their owners could not have been nicer. And the crazy part is, they run a completely non-gmo, organic farm and use all the same practices I want to – so we basically got to see my dream farm in action!
They drove us around their farm on their ranger and showed us their herd of milking mommas, their bulls, sheep, and inside of their barn (which was BEAUTIFUL). They also had three huge LGDs – we’ve been thinking about getting a couple so seeing them in action was really cool.
Plus, they took time to explain how they finished their pork on milk from their cows and how you could really tell in the meat – so I’m excited to do that too with our future pigs.
And then, to top it off, they wouldn’t accept full price for them and we walked away paying a lot less than we planned. So in the end, I feel like it was meant to be!
Sally & Mary
On the loooooong drive to pick them up, Little John told me he’d thought of the perfect names for our new girls – Sally….and Mary. We always let the kids name the animals and he did such a good job! Their names definitely fit.
Sally has some white markings, so it’s easy to tell them apart.
And Mary – she’s definitely the most tame & friendly of the two, although they’re both as sweet as can be, which is another Godsend! I have NO experience with cows, so tame is good because I basically treat every animal like a dog and pet them a bunch and spoil them.
Mary & Hankerz have already become buds.
Plans for the girls
They’re both just shy of a year old. So it will be a couple of months before we breed them. They do have some mini Jersey in them and will likely be smaller so I may breed them to a mini Jersey bull & have cute little mini calves about a year from now!
We got two so we can somewhat alternate their lactation cycles and give them a rest in-between calving, while still having fresh milk year round.
I’ll calf share with them just like I kid share with the goats. So their calves will stay on and be able to self-wean when they’re ready. I’ll just separate them overnight when the calf is old enough and still get 2-3 gallons in the morning. Which is more than enough for us! The extra milk will go to the chickens, pigs, and our families. If we ever have any more than that, I’ll probably let the kids sell it. But as far as having an actual dairy farm and selling big amounts of raw milk, that’s not in the plans for now.
What Jersey cows eat
We will just continue to feed them what they’ve been raised on. Lots of open pasture, some alfalfa, and a bit of non-gmo grain mix. The pasture part doesn’t cost anything. John can save some hay back from what he and his dad bale. And the grain we will have to buy – which BTW it’s REALLY hard to find organic, non-gmo grain!
There’s actually a granary here on the farm that hasn’t been used in decades. It would be awesome to see that up and running again and be able to grow our own feed. But with John working and commuting into the city everyday, it would be tough! However, I do think it will happen. I always have faith that good things work out in the end. Even if you don’t know how they will – just trusting that they will makes a difference.
What’s next on the homestead bucket list?
I’m actually going to look at an LGD puppy this week! If you’ve been following for a while, you’ll know we took in two lab/aussie puppies that we found in the pasture last fall. We’ve spoiled them and loved them so much. But even with a ton of work and training – they kept getting ahold of our chickens. And having free range chickens is really important to me, plus our chickens were here first. Thankfully, we found an amazing home for them (another farm!) where they’ll be just as loved and spoiled. And not have any chickens to tempt them, just some horses and donkeys which they will love!
I was worried the kids would be upset to see them go. But honestly, they’ve been more upset to lose chickens. And they understood that we can’t have any of our farm animals hurting the others. It was a hard lesson for us (I think mostly me). But from now on, I won’t be taking in any animal without making sure its a good fit long term.
So, up next: we do really need something to protect our flock & an LGD is the perfect fit. After that – its almost harvest season and I’ll just be in the garden working and in the kitchen preserving! Then….maybe some bees. Fresh honey would be a game changer in the kitchen.