Cow Productivity Depends on Cow Comfort

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACow productivity and cow comfort is something that often is pointed at dairy cattle. Beef cattle, too, are more productive when comfortable. The comfort of cattle is of primary concern among producers who not only want to maximize the care of the cattle.

Modern dairy cows are often a focus due to confinement situations that are needed from a labor standpoint. Many modern confinement systems provide shade, fans and even misters for cows in hot weather. Feed that is easily available is important as well as clean water – both make for more milk. While concrete pens are usually used for reasons of ease of cleaning, it can be hard on a cow’s feet and legs. For this reason a comfortable, dry, clean place to lie down is important.

Free stalls are designed so that cows walk in and lie down, helping to insure that the manure deposited when she stands up is in the gutter or at least at the back of the stall where it is easily scraped into the gutter to be scraped out. Sand, shavings, rubber and cow mattresses are all options that are used in dairies around the US.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile the basics of feed, water, shelter are a great deal towards cow comfort that certainly isn’t all. Dairies that dry cattle off for a rest grass based dairies and beef facilities also make use of pasture. Ground is easier on feet and legs, but more difficult to keep dry and sanitary.

Dry areas to lie down reduce the chances of mastitis and other problems. Cows will lay down in many areas and some cows are just messy and don’t seem to mind laying in manure, but most given a choice will choose a dry stall over a wet one.

Cow comfort of course goes much further. Keeping feet properly trimmed and maintained makes it easier for cows to walk without pain. If they are hesitant to stand or walk they won’t be up eating and, pasture or confinement, can lose production and condition.

Pest control is another important part of cow comfort. Cows that spend their time fighting flies aren’t eating or resting – both essential activities of a cow’s productive day. There are also diseases such as pinkeye that can be transmitted with flies. Pest control also includes controlling mice and rats around the feed supplies.

When designing barns, shelters or even feeding areas in pastures keeping the focus on cow comfort pays off whether it’s 2 cows or 2,000. Observe cattle daily for signs of soreness or injury.

Keeping up on cow care basics is important but it also is important to think from a cow’s preference, not a human one. Don’t let dominant cows keep more submissive ones from the feed – make sure there is plenty of bunk space for all to eat without harassment or fear.

Plan well for cow care and productivity. Your cows depend on you as much as you depend on them, and a good cow is too expensive to replace in rotation before her time. Take care of your cows and they’ll take care of you.

Advertisements

How to Make Goat Milk Soaps

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen you have an abundance of goat’s milk and you use it for drinking, cheese, ice cream and every recipe you can find that has milk it’s natural to want to find other ways to use it. With heavy milking Toggenburgs, Alpines, Saanens and recorded grades there was plenty of milk and soaps were a natural extension to make and sell.

Goat’s milk soaps have been credited with clearing skin conditions and milk soaps as a rule are gentler than those with harsh chemicals. Making goats milk soaps is not difficult but it is exacting.

You will need to gather supplies. These include a large stainless steel kettle for mixing the soap. Make sure this is stainless steel rather than aluminum or other materials as it not only has to stand the heat but the caustic nature of the lye reacting to make soap. A stainless steel spoon helps as well as a stick blender used just for your soap making. A wide variety of molds can be used including plastic containers providing they can handle heat. A couple of candy or meat thermometers are needed also as you’ll need to watch temperatures.

Highly recommended are plastic safety goggles and long sleeves with gloves. Keep pets and small children out of the room or confined when mixing soap for their safety and yours.

You can follow an existing recipe or as you gain experience create your own. An excellent source for soapmakers is http://www.thesage.com/calcs/l as you can plug in your type of lye, liquid, what kind of fats and it calculates how much lye to use for you.

For example to use 12 ounces of corn oil and 36 ounces soybean oil (vegetable oil) it calls for 12-18 ounces of milk and, for the medium range, 6.18 to 5.98 ounces of lye, with the lower range making a softer soap.

Measure the oils into a pan and place on low on the stove, with a thermometer attached to the pan to watch the temperature. While that is heating work on the other half of the equation.

Measure the milk into the pot and add the lye to it. Always add it this way and with milk soaps watch carefully your thermometer. I found better success by placing the pan I’m working in in a sink of cold water. As you add the lye you will find the milk heats up considerablythe cold water outside the pan helps disperse this heat somewhat. By watching the temperature try to keep it less than 140 degreesas it starts to heat up slow down pouring and keep gently stirring.

The reason for this caution is to keep the milk from curdling, a problem some soapmakers have found. By watching the heat and doing it this way I never had a problem with this issue. Once all the lye is added you’ll need to carefully balance things to bring the lye mixture and the oils to the same temperature. I used 100 degrees as my temperature. The important thing is that both are the same temperature.

Once the same temperature is reached add the oils to the lye mixture, stirring constantly. Some soapmakers use a stick blender once the oils are added while others prefer to stir by hand. Be careful not to splash it or allow pets or children to stir it. As you are stirring you are looking for “tracing” which can take more than 15 minutes but with a blender can take less. Look carefully for this which will leave a drop for several seconds or leave a pattern where you have stirred for several seconds. Once this is seen quickly pour into your prepared molds as the soap is soft but can set quickly.

Once in the molds lightly cover and cover with a blanket to regulate temperature. If the soap cools too quickly it can spoil a batch. Carefully check the soap daily to see when it is set soft but firm. If you are using a mold that requires cutting you’ll want to turn it out and cut while it’s firm but not hardened. Once your soap is cut place on a rack out of reach of pets and children to cure or harden.

As you gain experience you can add oatmeal and other things to your soaps after the oils but before tracing begins. Some even add shredded rose petals! The 48 ounce weight can make a dozen cut bars but if you pretty up’ the edges don’t throw away the peelings and pieces. You can make laundry soap and even soft soap also.

Don’t underestimate the danger of lye but don’t be afraid of it either. Treat it with respect and use it carefully. Always add the lye to liquid, not the other way around.

Soap making is a way to use some milk, although not large amounts, but is also one more thing you can produce at home. Milk soaps are not difficult to make.

Endangered Species – Dairy Cattle Need Conservation

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the early 1960s Golden Guernsey milk was prized – the Guernsey cow was second only to the Holstein. Today Guernsey numbers continue to fall despite the needed characteristics she has had all along and she is officially a “watch” breed with the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. This designation tells there are fewer than 200 annual registrations in the U.S and an estimated global population less than 2,000. According to some sites this is roughly the same numbers as wild pandas – yet pandas get much attention. The Guernsey is just a cow.

Also on that “watch” list is the Ayrshire, milking Shorthorns and Galloway cattle. Not far up the ranks is the Brown Swiss. Critically endangered is the Kerry, milking Devon, Canadienne and a beef breed, the Florida Cracker. Less than 500 of these animals remain – and they need small farms for existence…they could simply cease to exist.

This is an urgent situation and most of society is blissfully unaware of it. The modern dairy uses the common black and white Holsteins, a breed which for decades has been developed for a high confinement, high grain, high production situation. She is not one for longevity – only highly exceptional cows are 7 or 8 years in the herd. Consumers interested in purchasing milk – or meat – from animals raised on grass are less likely to find it among these confinement animals simply because that has not been a selection trait. She has not needed to walk for hours per day grazing. Even the high butterfat Jersey is often a confinement animal in today’s farm situation. The above breeds, however, CAN supply a good amount of milk on grass. Volume is not everything.

The Guernsey cow is a smaller sized animal, fawn and white or a golden and white color that is very distinctive. Often this high yellow is carried down into the fat of the animal, something that makes her less than appealing to many as a beef producer. She was developed as a grazing animal on a small island in the English Channel, and first brought to the US around September of 1840. Today, with the use of artificial insemination and an aggressive young sire program a young bull might have 1,500 offspring in up to 400 herds across the US. This provides a sound genetic base – but with that the Guernsey needs the other critical thing – demand. Only a demand for products from these less popular animals will truly make keeping them a viable option for more than purists with a love for the breed. The Guernsey is known for producing high butterfat and protein in her milk with 20-30% less feed per pound of milk than larger breeds. She also contributes a high concentration of betacarotene in the milk and adapts to warmer climates. American Guernsey Association, 7614 Slate Ridge Blvd., P.O. Box 666, Reynoldsburg, Ohio 43068-0666. Phone: (614) 864-2409.

The Milking Shorthorn breed was developed when the shorthorn breed split into milking and beef registries. It is said the milking shorthorn comprises best the characteristics for dual purpose – using for milk and meat. The first shorthorns came to the US as “Durhams” in 1783. They were actually known as a “triple purpose” – having not only meat and milk for the early pioneers but also steer calves were trained for draft use as oxen. They are a colorful breed, being red, white, red and white spotted or roan, the latter a mix of red and white that is unique to the shorthorn. The breed’s hardiness and adaptability along with efficient production made them very popular in early America. They are long lived, easy calving and economical to run especially on grass. They are easily managed and an animal that is injured or not kept for breeding is good enough to provide a good amount of meat for the family. More information can be found at the American Milking Shorthorn Society, P.O. Box 449, Beloit, Wisconsin 53512-0449. Phone: (608) 365-3332 or http://www.agdomain.com/web/usmilkingshorthorn

The Scottish developed Ayrshire cow is arguably one of the most efficient grazing cattle on the planet. Said by some to be nervous, the breed was developed to provide milk and meat to smallholders and dairies in their native Scotland. They are red and white, only – although the red varies from light to dark. Color markings vary widely from almost all red to nearly all white often with jagged, flashy spots. They were known for years for their beautiful horns – something unwanted in today’s confinement system. They are ideal for less than ideal conditions as they were developed under tough conditions with rugged terrain and varied climates. The bull calves can be raised as steers, providing meat for farm families. The overall average for the breed is over 12,000 pounds of milk with some herds as high in average as 17,000 pounds of milk. The current world record for an Ayrshire is 37,170 pounds of milk and 1592 pounds of butterfat. Overall the Ayrshire, like the other breeds, can’t compete with confinement developed Holsteins for volume. A pasture as their food source however and she’ll turn the tables on a good many confinement cows.

The Red Poll is at threatened status with the ALBC – another English native developed on tough pasture for both milk and meat. They are naturally polled – that is they do not have horns – and have been in the US since 1873. They’re a smaller breed, good for rougher less than ideal conditions.

The Dutch Belted breed was a dairy breed originally brought to the US by PT Barnum for his famous circus. There were outstanding individuals milking as the breed became better known as one of the supreme dairy producers alive in the early 1900s. A distinct white belt found only in this breed and the belted Galloway (more of a beef breed) makes them easily recognized.

The Kerry, a small breed usually black in color, were developed as a family cow, for longevity. She was expected to produce a calf every year, either females for breeding or the males not needed to breed for meat. She could still be producing at 14-15 years old. Her small size makes her no longer favored and this breed is highly endangered.

470_46717The milking Devon, like the milking shorthorn, was originally a triple purpose animal. Her calves are still used for milk, meat and oxen power. Unlike many breeds where the draft purpose was a side benefit the Devonshire cattle were known for their speed, intelligence, strength and willingness to work as well as the ability to adapt to many climates. The Devon cows provided good milk for cream and cheesemaking. Oxen are no longer a main power source and the beautiful red colored horned animals have dwindled, their characteristics of hardy ability to survive on low quality pasture no longer important in a world of high confinement. Because they were developed as working animal and often handled by children the breed is noted for their excellent docile temperament. There is more information at American Milking Devon Association 135 Old Bay Road, New Durham, NH 03855. Phone: 603-859-6611

Can we continue the specialized highly industrial pace of many modern confinement farms? What if consumers demanded something else…what if by way of disaster the qualities these breeds have are needed and they are no longer alive? Our food supply could well be saved by these animals – we must save them. Using them for food – both milk and meat – and creating a demand for them allows those raising them a means to continue to do so. There are no zoos or conservation places for cattle. Attempts to form one have been met with “great idea!!” but no donations to do so.

These breeds must be conserved. Extinction is forever.

Selecting Homestead Cattle for Beef and Dairy

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASelecting cattle for beef and milk production can be a challenge as in the mid 1900s dual purpose livestock was less valued. Breeds like the Devon and the shorthorn were prized for dual purpose uses but became just Devon (or shorthorn) and milking Devon (or milking shorthorn) due to a call for specialization.

However even the beef cattle milk heavier than some other beef breeds and dairy cattle can be slightly beefier than other dairy cattle. It’s still possible to get an animal to do both as well as those breeds long valued for dual or triple purpose Brown Swiss, Ayrshire, Charolais, Simmental and Limousin are but a few breeds.

Set show winnings aside when looking for your dual purpose characteristics unless they happen to have what you are looking for. A beef animal you want muscle. Muscling over the topline, shoulders and rump especially as this provides your beef. For a dairy animal you want a healthy udder that is symmetrical all four quarters should appear the same size. If one is greatly larger or smaller it can indicate a problem which affects production.

Additionally look for, if the cow is milking, the “milk vein” which runs along her belly. If you look at heavy producing dairy cows online or in magazines there will be a noticeable vein’ on the belly and although beef cattle don’t have this to the extent that dairy cattle do, it is a reliable indicator of good milk production. Remember even those people raising beef calves need milk production! Plenty of milk raises big, beefy calves that sell well and feed out better. The farms that have calves with heavy weaning weights on grass have cows that milk! Choose an individual that is eating eagerly. Good appetite and ‘attacking’ the pasture means more production – they weigh more from a beef standpoint as well as take more nutrition in from a milk production standpoint than the one who doesn’t eat as well.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARemember that this is your foundation cow or cows. She will be your milk producer but will also produce calves that ideally become beef or replacement milkers. More than not you will probably be buying calves which allows you to raise them your way, but do pay attention to those calves’ mothers! If you find a cow that has these traits getting a daughter increases the chances of getting the kind of cow you want. Finding a dual purpose cow can take effort but allows maximum use of your resources.

Although for home production you don’t have to have a purebred it does allow you to have a predictable look and size. If you’re purchasing from someone close to home inquire about having her serviced either by their bull or artificially this eliminates your having to keep a bull.

Along with physical characteristics temperament is important. A good temperament makes a difference between an animal that is enjoyable to work with and one who wants to hurt you. Animals can have bad days too but selecting for temperament is a high importance for a homesteader.

Another option many are going to is the smaller breeds such as Dexters that produce milk and beef but in a smaller size. This can be a good choice for smaller pastures where more limited space is a factor.

Handle her often and rub her belly and udder even as a calf when there is no developed udder. You want to teach her that this is normal – if you wait until she calves and try to milk her she may be less than agreeable and kick or walk on you. If she’s already used to being handled this is just another day. For those not wanting to bottle feed calves an easy way to milk is milking out three quarters, leaving one full then letting the calf nurse that quarter. Be sure to milk first as the calf won’t be picky!

A homestead cow for milk and beef production can take some effort to find but she does exist. Good care and handling means she will provide milk and offspring that will feed your family for years to come. Many of these dual purpose origin breeds can live well into their teens with good management so it’s a long term investment! When you find one treasure her.

Sources:

http://www.smallfarmingusa.com

http://www.smallfarmcoop.com