Well…I have exciting news.
We are getting a new cow!
A beautiful (to me anyway) Jersey heifer (a heifer is a female cow, usually younger, that has not yet given birth). She is due to calve fairly soon though we don’t have an exact date for that—-just a general idea as to the when. We have our fingers crossed for a heifer, not a bull, but we will take a live healthy either one.
Of course as you can imagine we are dreaming of milk. Well…actually cream…and lots of it. Which is one of the reasons why we chose a Jersey this time instead of going back to the Dexter as we had before. We wanted and desired a higher amount of daily milk than the smaller Dexter supplies. We also want it with a once a day milking instead of twice…hence the larger Jersey.
It took us a while to find our new girl. We searched high and low. In the Georgia Farm and Market Bulletin ad section, Craigslist, Bestfarmbuys.com, Keeping the Family cow website and a number of other farmer/livestock related sites. We called and emailed and viewed many many cows. So many that it started to get confusing since I would remember things about cow A but think the information belonged to cow B—or vice versa. Prices of course varied from very cheap to very high. Many, unfortunately, were not in good shape. And health is the most important, number one criteria, you should consider when choosing. Even before price. No matter what species you are choosing.
Many had bad feet, bad backs or bad udders. Like the older girl I drove 2 and ½ hours one way to view after speaking to her owner for quite a while long distance. Her udder was a mess. It hung low—way below her “knees” (that would be hocks in cow speak), had no boob “cleft” to speak of and her teats pointed North, South, East and West when they should all just point down at the dirt. Not only was her udder shot…but her calf didn’t look as good as he should have. The farm was very well taken care of but I think this gentlemen who professed to never milking his cows just didn’t know a good milker—or he was pulling my leg.
Some were too expensive….Like the full blood but not registered Holstein with a Jersey cross heifer at side. They wanted $2000 for both of them. That was a bit out of our price range and though I am not hung up on registrations…..for that money I would prefer it. She looked like a nice cow with a very cute heifer and from emails between the two of us it seems her owner takes excellent care of her. She also told us that she is very very docile. Docility is one thing we were looking for since we will be hand milking. Not that we were hung up on having one already halter trained and tame, but starting with an extremely friendly female would be a bonus. (By the way…that girl is still for sale in the Nashville Tennesee section of Craigslist if you are interested)
Finally we found one that seemed promising and spent most of Saturday driving to go see her and a few of her friends. We found some very nice heifers ready to calf over the next three months and had the opportunity to peruse the small group and choose the one we liked best. No they are not halter trained…nor are they handled. But over all they fit what we wanted from a cow: healthy, well cared for, in good condition, ready to calve, and with the build we were looking for.
Now our cow leans a bit, in my opinion, to the look of a beef type cow but with an awesome and well attached udder. And udder with a beautiful cleft up the middle of her udder ( or boob cleavage if you want to call it that) almost like she has on a great push up bra. She is not quite as “dairyish” in the face and build as some of the other girls though. But that is what we liked and felt would fit what we wanted and needed. And so my point, going back to the title, is that there is no perfect cow. Or sheep, or horse, or pig or chicken. What is perfect to one….may be horribly ugly to another. Or at least less pleasing. Or not even work for them.
If you ever choose to manage the procreation of livestock you will over time get a variety of body styles. You will also get a variety of personalities and genetics that influence health, looks and longevity. I know that if you read on line and in books they make it sound as if there is a “standard” look to most all of these animals. And with some there can be….especially when you start narrowing down the genetics more and more. However if you or the farm you choose to buy from breeds and then keeps their own males (and females) they, or you, will have a variety to choose from. Because no matter what they say….it is not that easy to mix up your genetics but still breed the “same” animal over and over cookie cutter style. And anyway…is that what we would want? We chose and bred our rams for a variety of reasons. One ram might be kept because he had the most awesome fleece. Another might have had a coarse fleece but been running in almost full fleece on a 90 degree day with no panting. So as you can see…two good reasons to keep two different males and breed both of them to females that might need improvement in one of those areas. However if someone was breeding for meat…they wouldn’t care about the soft fleece ram at all. And if someone lived in Canada..the running in the heat wouldn’t mean the same thing for them as it does for us here in the South. Different farms….. different needs.
Though sometimes frustrating (or intimidating) when making a purchase, especially of a breed you are not all that familiar with, having that selection allows for a range of choices. Example: When we went to view our girl a few of them were already sold. The sold girls had, in my opinion, a few faults that we would not have chosen. One “sagged” a bit in the pasterns (a pastern is like the wrist of the animals leg—right above the hoof area) which would mean more hoof trimming since they will not as easily get naturally walked off. Not a horrible issue….but we have done that before and decided that hoof trimming is one of our MOST hated chores no matter the species. One female was too narrow in the chest. Again, not a big issue…but we do look for a wider one for health and mostly: meat. Wider chest means more lung capacity for good health and more meat especially when you have males born that will be eaten. The sold ones were however going to a small hand milking cow co-op. And all of them were very friendly, licking my husband and standing with us almost the whole time. I can see why the buyers chose those animals.
So when it is time to choose your animals do a bit of research. But do realize that you may never get the “perfect” animal. There are plenty of on line guides to tell you what to look for when purchasing an animal both conformation wise and health wise. Study them…but don’t consider them the bible of your choice. Remember, you can over time breed the type of animal or breed that fits you and your farm best but then….it may not always fit another’s farm.