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Jane’s Garden

May 17, 2012

Jane’s calf has dropped, her ribs are more prominent and she is getting more uncomfortable.  In other Jane news, I planted her winter roots today.   Parsnips, carrots, and mangels.

I feed roots to the milk cow as a winter supplement, in addition to a little grain.  I haven’t replaced the grain totally, but adding five pounds of roots a day to the diet is helpful for the winter diet and gives the cow something fresh.


♥  How much to plant?
I figure about 20 weeks of root feeding at 5 pounds  a day.  20 weeks x 7 = 140 days x 5 pounds = 700 pounds of roots.  Look for extension service crop yields for your area for the crops you are thinking of planting.  Row feet calculations are more helpful for the farmsteader than by the acre yield amounts.  I expect at least 100 pounds minimum per 100 row feet of each of the crops I plant.  Some yield more, but your mileage may vary.  Depending on your soil, gardening ability, critter predation, and time you have to devote to this, it’s not a small undertaking to grow root crops for a large animal.

♥  What to plant?
I plant parsnips, carrots and mangels specifically for the milk cow, cows eat other vegetables of course, but these types of roots are sweet and don’t contribute to off-flavors in the milk.  Feeds and Feeding by Morrison is a great book to have on hand, editions dated 1950 and earlier are the best for farmstead operations.

♥  Storage?
Here in the maritime Pacific Northwest I am able to store the roots in situ with just  soil for mulch to protect from freezing.  However the mangels are subject to freezing due to half the root being exposed above ground.  For my situation mangels are the least desirable of the three  root crops I plant for the cow.  I don’t have time or the storage area to store that many extra roots for the winter, so that is something to take into consideration if you live in a colder climate.

♥  Feeding?
I have a root chopper, but a knife works just fine.  Good milk cows are scarcer than hen’s teeth, so I go to the extra trouble to make sure the cow doesn’t choke.

Turga Parsnip seed and garlic.

I dryland garden for the most part, so time is of the essence to get my seeds in the ground while I have good available moisture for germination and just before the rain.  I need these plants established before we get our annual drought that lasts from July to September or October.  Root crops are experts at digging deep for available moisture and do well with dryland gardening techniques.  Non-irrigated plants also are more nutritious.  (Same for pasture…)


To conserve moisture, I mark my rows as I go and cover the seed immediately.  You can see the soil is dark and moist just below the surface.  No special tools, required – a good rake, a good attitude and some seeds and you’re good to go.

Yesterday I planted a mix of homegrown seed and purchased seed.  I’m still trialing parsnips, Jane doesn’t really care too much what I plant, but I am looking for varieties that yield well and grow easily.  I’m not a big fan of parsnips myself, but they used to be a popular fodder crop on the Isles of Guernsey and Jersey and fell from favor because of the difficulty with harvesting.  I like them for their deep-rooted tenacity, that means more minerals in the vegetable and a little hard pan abatement to boot, and they never freeze.

Parsnips:  Turga, Half Long Guernsey, Harris Model.

Carrots:  Red Cored Chantenay

Mangels:  Golden Eckendorf, Colossal Long Red

So for the most part Jane’s garden is done, and I still had time to plant our potatoes.  It’s still a little coolish to be planting any warm weather crops, and I’m still ahead of the game compared to my normal planting time.  So it’s all good.

Jane and King Apple.

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36 Comments leave one →
  1. VaGirl2 permalink
    May 17, 2012 9:13 am

    Jane is the most beautiful cow I have ever seen. Congratulations on all your hard work to help get her to this point. I’ve been reading your posts for ages now…I think this is my first time commenting…:)

    • May 17, 2012 12:29 pm

      VaGirl2, thank you! I’m pretty smitten with her too, she has a personality to match her looks :)

  2. epeavey1 permalink
    May 17, 2012 9:16 am

    Hope Jane has her calf before the hot weather, she is a beautiful milk cow and your so right good milk cows are hard to find. Ellen from Georgia

    • May 17, 2012 12:30 pm

      Ellen, no worries here – it doesn’t ever really get too hot or at least for very long, and we don’t have summer humidity :) Which is very nice. She’s due in a couple of weeks.

  3. Adele Virtue permalink
    May 17, 2012 9:20 am

    Hi, I am trying root crops for my goats, Any suggestions on the amounts since they are much smaller than Jane? I don’t think they will need 5 pounds a day like she is getting. So far I have planted a 10 x 5 section with mangels, and then a 17 x 4 with turnips, and 2 x 17 with parsnips and a 2 x 17 with carrots. Should that be enough? My dairy goat likes to eat veggies and fruits and actually does not prefer grain if the veggies are available. Just wondering your thoughts.

    • May 17, 2012 12:33 pm

      Adele, the only way to find out is to go through the season and see if that lasts through the feeding season. Sounds like a good start though. What do you think about a pound a day or one or two roots depending on size?

  4. Kay permalink
    May 17, 2012 9:29 am

    Your sweet lady is adorable. I love milk cows :)

  5. May 17, 2012 9:31 am

    Now you tell me about the parsnips. I got Mangrels and pumpkins and have been wondering how exactly I think I’m going to store them for the winter. I am surprised about parsnips not affecting milk flavor – maybe I’m not giving them a fair shake because I don’t like the way they taste.

    Great Jane shots… I forget; are you going to milk her twice a day and wean the calf, or once a day and leave them together?

    • May 17, 2012 12:40 pm

      AMF, the only thing really to stay away from would be onions or any brassica type plant. Even mild kale and cabbage come through in the taste. I like my sauerkraut separate, thank you very much. Parsnips are so sweet they don’t impart anything bad. Although I am glad to grow them for Jane, I usually pass…

      Real pumpkins (C.pepo) are a pain to store, C. maxima varieties store better but are harder to cut up. I try to use up my mangels first before I have to do much with them, I’m kinda lazy ;)

      I milk twice a day and let the calf nurse after I’m done milking. I never leave the calf with the cow, and I don’t bottle feed unless I have to. The calf is my relief milker after 3 months or so.

  6. Chris permalink
    May 17, 2012 9:50 am

    Oh thanks for these pics of Jane…she looks so healthy and beautiful….thanks to her mama for taking such good care of her AND for planting all those healthy, veggies for her!! Who does that?? No one I know!! :}

    • May 17, 2012 12:40 pm

      Chris, thank you! Only crazy cow ladies plant veggies for their cows ;p

      • Kay permalink
        May 17, 2012 1:01 pm

        I wish I was an experienced enough gardener to plant enough root veggies for my two girls…As it stands, we buy carrots and apples for our ladies. They love those things! I hope when I retire (4 more years…God willing), that I can till up a large enough area just for root veggies for our ladies. Surely by then, I will be much more experienced in my gardening skills:)

        • May 17, 2012 2:52 pm

          Kay, yes it does take experience, and luckily I have plenty of that! In due time, I didn’t start out gardening on such a big scale, and cut my teeth on growing enough for preserving. You’ll be there in no time :)

  7. May 17, 2012 9:56 am

    Loving the last pic – thanks for sharing – cow bliss! Have a Great Day:)

  8. May 17, 2012 9:56 am

    Here in Latvia the farmers grow Tuban Squash, or Turk’s squash for feeding to their animals over winter, particularly cows. They say it makes the milk very tasty, not sure how that compares to carrots and the like though.

  9. May 17, 2012 12:19 pm

    thanks for all the details! last year you advised me to master growing root vegetables for myself before I try to grow them for the cow, so I have planted turnips, swedes and carrots, just to see how I go. I’m not sure I planted them early enough, I waited until late summer because it was still so hot here (mid 80Fs most days). I guess I will find out soon if I should have started earlier! I’m glad I only planted a small amount while I’m learning, thanks for the advice.

    • May 17, 2012 12:42 pm

      Liz, you might be surprised, they may do just fine :) One thing about gardening, there is always next year!

  10. Elizabeth permalink
    May 17, 2012 12:27 pm

    Dear Matron-
    Thank you so much for this post on how you feed your animals, specifically, Jane. I know that milk cows are a “thing” right now. (There’s a good reason for that: we need to have safe food to feed our kids!) And though I’m not really one who follows the crowd, I’m looking for a milk cow for our 4 growing, monster kids, too. Now I need to know how to feed a cow successfully on what we can grow here at the farm. I don’t know anyone in our area that feeds anything but grasses and grain to lactating cows. Grass is great, but our growing season is iffy. So I need a back-up feed plan. Enter “Throwback”. (Yeay!)
    I’ve slowly been reading your back materials and love your dedication to producing clean food for you family and animals. And I really appreciate your consistent blogging. We live close enough that I can successfully adapt your farming suggestions to our area. So if you don’t mind me asking 1000’s of questions along the way, I think I can safely purchase a cow and feed her successfully. (Double yeay!)

    (If only I could find a good one. Your right…..they are as rare as hen’s teeth)
    Thanks again!
    Elizabeth

    • May 17, 2012 2:54 pm

      Elizabeth, this was an easy post, because I was already planting the root crops when you left your comment yesterday :) Always a work in progress ;)

      • Elizabeth permalink
        May 17, 2012 3:04 pm

        Could you also be so kind as to journal your cow/ calf management practices after Jane delivers? Every piece of information you could provide would be very helpful to those of us novices.
        Thanks!

        • May 17, 2012 9:13 pm

          Elizabeth, I plan to, just hoping everything goes okay. I started blogging to chronicle my family cow adventures and I have had nothing but bad luck in the dairy department ever since. Jane will be my salvation or my end to blogging depending on the outcome.

  11. May 17, 2012 4:04 pm

    Sounds like everything is going well. Congratulations!

  12. Lorna permalink
    May 17, 2012 5:12 pm

    Hi there. I’m not sure if I’ve commented before, but I have been trying to keep up with your posts and learn what I can from your experience! I’m interested in raising a couple of miniature Jerseys, but have no experience with cows (only goats). So I’m a bit hesitant to jump in–I’m still hoping to find someone to let me ‘help’ them for a year before I try. I thought it interesting that you commented “I milk twice a day and let the calf nurse after I’m done milking. I never leave the calf with the cow. . .” Just recently I spoke with a veteran farmer who has been raising minis for over a decade (and spent the prior 30 years on a Brazilian dairy farm). He said that he always lets the calf nurse first until it gets a little foamy at the mouth (indicating it’s full?); at that point he cleans the cow again and takes the remaining milk for himself. He said a calf will not nurse when the milk has ‘gone bad’ and the cow might kick at the calf if she has a problem, like a cut, both situations would be a warning to investigate the udder/teats and possibly test the milk. What do you think? Is there a reason why you always let the calf nurse second?

    • May 17, 2012 9:22 pm

      Lorna, congrats on the leap to cows. I have no idea what “gone bad” means. Actually by letting the calf nurse last, I am getting shorted – the hind milk (last milk) has a higher percentage of cream, so the calf that nurses as clean up actually is doing pretty good. It’s pretty easy to pull a two week old old calf off of a cow, but try that with a 6 or 8 month old calf, and unless you have a winch, you’re fighting a losing battle. It’s been my experience that my cows would rather kick me than their calves. I just reread your comment and think maybe he means mastitis milk? I prefer to check for cuts while cleaning the cow, and testing the milk myself. Foaming indicates the calf is starting to produce saliva and is nursing properly. It takes about a gallon to fill up a calf tummy.

      Hopefully, my friend will see this, she started out with minis and now has full sized cows. Actually she started out wanting to buy milk from me and I suggested she get a cow… It’s taken me a while, but she now has a Guernsey heifer in her pasture and she is milking a Jersey. The mini’s have been sold…maybe she’ll comment.

      • Bunny/April permalink
        May 19, 2012 11:45 am

        Hi Lorna! I had wanted raw milk and my own cow for quite some time. I had pestered my friend with questions about what to look for when buying a heifer. I decided to come up and see her cows and ask some more questions about milking and choosing a cow. When I came up to see Della and Jetta and Jetta was in heat. Both of the cows looked SO BIG and scary running around after each other that I was a bit scared of a full size cow. The woman I was currently getting milk from had bought minis from a woman in Arizona. One of the minis had a calf and she was for sale. I thought this was an excellent idea because I would get less milk and have a smaller, easier cow to handle. This mini’s name was Bunny. Bunny was a stinker. She ran after my daughter the first day we brought her home and was always kicking my milk bucket over. I bred her to a mini bull and got a beautiful mini heifer. After just a few years in the mini Jersey “world” I discovered that many of the minis are just mixes of small Jerseys and Dexters. Misrepresentation of mini Jersey pedigrees is common and arguments and heated disagreements in the mini Jersey world prevail. I don’t think they are worth the extra money. There are many small Jerseys out there that aren’t registered mini that will do wonderful for you. If you are close to Oregon, there is a woman in Cave Junction that has beautiful heifers that she raises for sale. They are usually about $1200 which I think is a steal for heifer raised properly and on milk. Another issue I ran into with a mini is that if your cow doesn’t settle with mini semen, you have to find a live bull small enough to breed her to. I now milk a smaller Jersey and have a Guernsey heifer that will be bred this summer. The larger Guernsey is actually easier to handle because she isn’t such a busy-body like the Jersey. So the size issue isn’t much of an issue anymore. I know that Matron loves Guernseys, but my advice would be to place the importance of the breed second to the health and temperament of the cow that you are looking for. Another thing you may consider is the amount of milk you really want. When I had Bunny, I got about 1 gallon of milk a day. This is enough to keep a family of four drinking milk, but not enough to make butter and sour cream and other foods. I used to stare at a quart of cream saved over a week from Bunny and deliberate about what to do with it. Now I stare at quarts of cream in the fridge and make 1-2 pounds of butter a day and have enough cream left to make sour cream and yogurt out of pure cream – yum! I hope this helps and good luck on your search for a good milk cow.

        • May 19, 2012 4:12 pm

          Thank you! Both. I’m going to read and re-read this so I can soak it all in. I actually don’t live anywhere right now :) We just moved back to the US after living in the Middle East for four years and are homestead-hunting! Currently we’re looking in VT/MA (where my husband is from) but if we don’t find something soon, we’ll head back to MN where my family lives. I get so excited when I see potential neighbors with cows! I’m really hoping to ‘intern’ for a year before I take the leap to a cow–it feels like such a huge responsibility. But the thought of home-made butter and raw milk makes it all worthwhile.

  13. Ien in the Kootenays permalink
    May 17, 2012 5:32 pm

    I am not a milk cow person, but that cow GLOWS.

  14. May 17, 2012 7:20 pm

    I LOVE the photo of Jane and the apple tree!

  15. Racquel permalink
    May 21, 2012 9:36 pm

    You are an inspiration to us all. Very informative as usual. thank you.

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