Selecting A House Cow

By: Rose Rushton

Selecting a house cow is usually a pretty personal preference. Some people want a lot of milk, so they would be looking at something like a Friesian. They give quite a lot, often more watery than creamy. Although having said that individual cows give different types of milk Me, I always liked a Jersey. Only the one bucket of milk with a very good cream content. Enough to make my own butter, have some buttermilk to use for cooking and good rich milk for the children to drink. Also had enough cream to make pure cream icecream. Kept the neighbours in milk as well. Any left over went to the pig. A housecow is a very good investment. She will give you all the milk, butter, cream you want plus she can raise a calf for meat at the same time.

Regardless of what cow you are going to buy, there are certain attributes that are the best "buys". A good straight back, the saying is a square looking cow. However, you need to think of a rectangle more than a square with four feet. The udder is very important. After all, this is what you are buying. Preferably square (that word again) meaning it hangs evenly. Four teats, I know you are saying like right they all have four teats. Not so! Some have extra teats on the udder, not that they work, but they do get in the way sometimes of milking.

The next thing to consider is who is going to be doing the milking. If it is a man, then he will normally prefer a cow with good size teats as most men have larger hands. That means a bigger cow usually than a jersey as they usually have little teats. I have small hands, so the jersey suits me down to the ground whereas the others I have trouble getting my hands around. We had an AIS (Australian Illawarra Shorthorn) that we named Dolly after the singer. She was generously endowed and had teats like toilet rolls. She could feed her own calf and two others. Now that was a lot of milk!

Now the way not to do things!

When we first started out, I enlisted the aid of an old cocky (farmer). He was a Friesan man through and through and couldn't understand why I wanted to buy "that jersey". She was quiet and would just stand there to be milked. This was true, just not in a shed. Put a bucket of dairymeal in front of her and you could milk her anywhere in a paddock. Not great on rainy days! He wanted us to put the calf up for auction at the end of the sale. I asked how old the calf was and he said about a day. My mother's instinct came to the fore. After giving birth, she was to lose her calf? No fear! We took cow and calf. This was a blessing because if you didn't want to milk you could leave her with her calf and you didn't have to worry. Good if you wanted to go away for a couple of days.

However, it was our first cow and the only ones I had seen were at the Royal Show in Sydney. They wore halters and were led around. So I gave Vic a headcollar and told him to put it on. He came back saying he didn't think she wanted it on as she had tossed her head and him at least three times. She never wore a headstall.

Okay, lets get serious again!

Now as she had only just calved we need to leave her so that the sting went out of the milk. In our area they called this beestings. This can take about 5-7 days.

After that you can start milking your cow. Some come broken in to a head bale, some are not. All our cows used to just stand there munching their dairymeal. We didn't leg rope them either. Some people tie the leg on the side you are milking back. We have had various cows and all of them have their own little habits. Quite a few would only milk on one side. After being threatened with a kick, I would try the other side to find that suited the cow. One we tied around the neck to start her, as she wasn't broken in to milk. We didn't have a bale, so we just tied her up and started milking. She messed up sometimes and put her foot in the bucket of milk but after awhile, she would keep it back. I always felt that it was better to lose a few buckets of milk than leg rope her. Interestingly enough, when we were doing some riding camps, a little lass offered to milk her for me. She was an experienced milker as they had their own cow. I said okay. Next she came back to say that Delilah (we called her that because she was so beautiful) kept putting her back leg up and moving her hands away from the udder. It wasn't me, so no one else was going to get her milk!

They are all characters and like all animals each an individual with certain preferences.

Happy milking!