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July 25, 2013
Going out to make more milk

Heading out to make more milk

On our farm I pretty much have to say that the family milk cow is the Mother Ship.  The Great Provider, who gives enough milk to keep us in dairy products, raise her calf, a couple of pigs, and bestowing on us enough manure to fertilize our gardens.

the land of milk and potatoes

the land of milk and potatoes

A collaboration of different folks, if you will.  Me, the cow, her calf, and the pigs and garden following up the rear.  Part of our goal here on the farmstead is to raise a high percentage of our own food and that of the animals that live here.  By choosing cattle for our farm we have more than half the battle taken care of.  Cows thrive on grass, and while Jane gets a small amount of purchased grain, her diet year round is 90%+ from here, the beef cows 100% if you don’t count things like minerals.  The area gets a little grayer when you figure in the omnivores like pigs and chickens.

Is that clabber in your bucket or are you just glad to see me?

Is that clabber for me?

Dickie B.

Dickie B.

'nuf said

‘nuf said

Making all this mesh, is a system.  Our main goals with a family cow are fresh milk, and a stockpile of grass fed butter.  First I need a cow, I prefer a full dairy animal that will produce enough for us and her calf.  If you figure my beef calves are getting about 2 gallons of milk a day, the cow has to produce that much for her calf, and balance would be ours for house use.  This week at 40 days post-calving, Jane is producing about 7 gallons of milk a day, which leaves me with 4 to 5 gallons of milk a day to play with.

With hand skimming, I need 4 gallons of milk to make a pound a butter, so theoretically each day I can add a pound of butter to my freezer stash.  Of course, I have to be honest, being a deliberate foodie, if I want a pint of cream for whipped cream, I have no trouble visualizing that we just slurped up the equivalent of a cube of butter.  A cube of butter that would fry up quite a few breakfast hash browns come winter, or sauté a mess of greens.  Keeping that picture in mind is the governor on me as far as whipped cream or ice cream goes. Every squirt of milk in my bucket is hard-won by hand.  Every churn crank is too.  So dessert is a luxury when it comes by hand.  To date, we’ve churned enough cream to add 33 pounds to the winter stores.  I’ve yet to make ice cream but will cop to a few pints for whipped cream, the raspberry shortcake was just crying out for some dairy.

Finding the highest and best use of the waste products  involved in home food production is the name of the frugality game.  If I’m bringing 4 to 5 gallons of milk to the house every day for butter and household use, I need to find a home for the skim milk.  Enter the pigs.  Pigs are great for eating the spoils from household food production, with that amount of milk each day I can add in some grain and minerals to balance out their diet, this is a win-win for me.  The pigs are happy and I have a guilt-free plan for my skim milk.  In a month they have consumed one 50 pound bag of rolled barley (ground would be better according to my pig expert friend)  in addition to the excess milk from churning, which is roughly 4 gallons a day.  A daily addition to the pig pen is usually a wheelbarrow load of vegetable scraps or weeds from the gardens.  As the season progresses, that vegetable portion will have fruit added also from drops and spoils.  As they grow, I know I will be adding more grain to their diet, but I am still seeing quite a savings in purchased feed.

I could feed just liquid milk, but I think the pigs do better on clabber so I try to have a bucket of clabber for them each day.  At Jane’s production rate, and Dickie’s age right now, that is pretty easy.  I skim the milk for butter making, pour the skim milk into the pig buckets (food-grade with tight-fitting lids) and add any cultured buttermilk from the previous churning that hasn’t been used yet.  Remember, I am churning every other day so I have lots of cultured buttermilk on hand.  Set the buckets to clabber, and with the buttermilk addition this happens fast, and the pigs are crazy for it.  Oink, Oink, Squee!

dueling rear baggers

dueling rear baggers

Being the house cow has its advantages, too.  I really dislike cutting the grass, so Jane is usually on garden headland detail, with us neatening up behind her with a lawn mower, or the hog mower depending on the area.  Keeping Jane close at hand cuts down on the time it takes to milk too.

Obviously, this is only one way to manage a family cow, and while this works well for us it may not for other folks who want to graze their pigs, or feed them in a different way.  But by integrating the house cow into the whole food plan for the farmstead, the cow becomes more than just the milk donor and the pigs become helpmeets for the garden and house scraps.

28 Comments leave one →
  1. July 25, 2013 12:17 pm

    Do you put any skim milk out on the pastures?

    • July 25, 2013 1:09 pm

      Yeah right, in my spare time…no, actually but lots of whey on the blueberries and raspberries before pig arrival. I’ve read lots about that, but in my time crunch I have to concentrate on just moving the cows and reading them and the land. No time for spraying. 😦

  2. A.A. permalink
    July 25, 2013 12:41 pm

    I don’t recall, do you have a particular reason for keeping Dickie? For milking relief and meat, or were there other reasons?

    How’s Jane been doing?

    • July 25, 2013 1:10 pm

      Milking relief and then meat. If he was a heifer he would be a future beef cow candidate. My half dairy cows raise some awesome calves.

  3. July 25, 2013 1:35 pm

    This is exactly how i love to have the farm. Though miserably this year Daisy has finally dried up and I have SEVEN baby piglets to raise for meat for the various tables. However next year I will get all my ducks in a row and they will have milk as well as eggs and veges. I soak my rolled oats in vinegar water to aid digestion if that is any help. My pig man says quarter, oats, barley,corn and wheat is the perfect mix. Your little piggies look like they are in excellent nick and thank you for the clabber tip. I shall do that next year as well. Have a lovely week.. your photos are beautiful today too!! c

    • July 25, 2013 2:39 pm

      C, I know…been there done that. I had pigs in place when Jane was born, and then mama didn’t make it. That was some expensive bacon, not to mention Jane had to have formula. Your piggies are lovely, especially the color 🙂 Thanks for the vinegar tip! Jane gets vinegar in her grain mix, so piggies have got it by default, but I will add it to their ration as well.

  4. July 25, 2013 1:38 pm

    I was impressed that you culture the milk for your pigs! Few people seem to realize that most adult mammals can’t digest uncultured milk, your pigs get way more benefits by you culturing it. I have been following your blog for about a month and always enjoy reading your posts, I just don’t usually have anything to add.

  5. Chris permalink
    July 25, 2013 2:04 pm


    • July 25, 2013 2:41 pm

      Chris, I can’t take credit for doing things the old-fashioned frugal way. It used to be that you didn’t keep animals that didn’t earn their keep. Now pet status is applied to lots of livestock 😦

  6. July 25, 2013 5:49 pm

    Love your butter churn – mine is made in the food processor. The calf is looking wonderful. I am suffering through an excess of milk at the moment as our 2 pigs are now in the freezer – I really need to time this better next year.

    • July 25, 2013 6:31 pm

      Shocking isn’t it how fast it piles up! My cow is in heat today so a got a small respite in the production, but she is a crazy lady so we have to be on our toes until morning!

      • July 25, 2013 6:52 pm

        Yes! Our chickens are getting a lot of ricotta at the moment. Our jersey loves to play up during milking when she’s on heat (particularly if it falls on the one day a week my husband milks!) At least now that she is in calf again we don’t have to worry about that for a while 🙂

  7. July 25, 2013 7:18 pm

    Just found your blog. A life much like our own. You would think I might instead read some inner city blog but no, I read about pigs and cows even though my life is already full of pigs and cows. But at least yours look different! Anyway very most excellent blogging.

  8. Bee permalink
    July 26, 2013 5:13 am

    I envy you, Nita! Maybelle got anaplasmosis and was deathly ill. I was sure every morning I was going out to find a dead milk cow. Luckily she pulled through, although it was touch and go. And boy, was Mama unpopular for giving her those 40cc-at-a-crack antibiotic injections! So no calf, no milk until next year. I have most of the piglets sold, thank goodness, but the ones we’ll raise for ourselves aren’t going to get any milk this year — as you say, pretty expensive pork. Ah, well, that’s the way it goes in the ranching business. Some years you’re in clover and some years it’s star thistle…

    • July 26, 2013 5:39 am

      Bee, that’s terrible, I’m glad she pulled through. It adds up fast when you have to purchase all the feed 😦 But they’ll still be better than what you can purchase.

      I’m hoping this drying trend doesn’t bring ticks here, but I am sure it will. We’re kind of in a pocket that they don’t like. Fingers crossed.

      Next year is the mantra for sure in the ranching business!

  9. July 26, 2013 6:15 am

    I love reading your blog. It touches me that you’re so in-tune with the symbiotic relationships on your property. I try to do the same, and although I’m often successful it seems I often fall short. I love this life we live and I want to be as gentle and natural on our little piece of paradise as I can. Thank you so much for sharing this post!

    ~Taylor-Made Ranch~
    Wolfe City, Texas

    • July 26, 2013 7:32 am

      Thanks for that Thelma, it will come, and remember even the best laid plans can go awry, it’s always a work in progress 🙂

  10. July 26, 2013 8:02 am

    Oh my, Jane is beautiful! And the piggies are awful cute, too. But, seriously, you haven’t made ICE CREAM yet?? 😉

    • July 26, 2013 8:36 am

      Thanks! Maybe this weekend, stuff is coming in from the garden so fast I am having a hard time finding time to churn!

  11. Charlotte permalink
    July 27, 2013 6:48 am

    MoH, you’re the only farmer I know that can make even a darn pigsty look cozy, they look like contented little piggies! You’re writing is quite prolific to say the least and I’d love to hear your thoughts on their life cycle, perhaps even Dickie’s as well. Is there any specific reason why this fraction is excluded from your blog? (No inquisition here, just a mixture of curiosity and wild abandonment)

    You manage to philosophically connect so many dots therefore I can only imagine how you would put this into perspective as well. You speak volume and even when you don’t i.e. Wordless Wednesday, you convey a sense of contextual variables that “brings it home” for the reader. I’m curious to know if you’ll consider writing about the final stage of their lives and how you process them?

    • July 27, 2013 8:09 am

      Charlotte, thank you…I think. I’m pretty simple folk I guess, I like animals and I like to eat them too. It only goes to reason that I would want to make their short lives as pleasant as possible because a happy animal is enjoyable to be around. I like the shenanigans that the pigs bring into my life, or the sweetness and consternation that Dickie brings to the daily chore ritual. However, from birth their fate is determined whether by my hand, or the breeder I buy from in the case of the pigs. I don’t write about the killing much, because unlike a factory processing facility, we only participate in that ritual a few times a year as opposed to daily or even weekly, whereas I garden or milk daily. As for Dickie if he was a heifer he would probably grow up to be one of our cows, but he is male and therefore we will eat him as it would be too expensive to keep him as a pet.

      I do write about such things as they come up, here is one about a particular exasperating steer, Blackie.

      • Charlotte permalink
        July 29, 2013 10:03 am

        I stand correct Moh, and judging by the nearly 45+ replies under that link, they too, echo my sentiment. You bring about a sense of wholeness and parlay what has essentially become the lost art of American farming and for that I thank you. I also read Gene Logsdon’s blog, The Contrary Farmer, and given the success he’s achieved with his essays and novels on agrarianism, wonder why you shouldn’t do the same (irrespective of your busy schedule). Perhaps you underestimate your talents. I look forward to you paying homage to your other animals when the time comes -should you decide to do so. My words were and are complimentary – nothing less. I admire your humbleness.
        Take care,

  12. Racquel permalink
    July 31, 2013 5:30 pm

    MOH, I love the title. You can be quite the punster. In my family that is a great compliment.

    Do you ever feed old hay to your pigs? We keep a breed that is a grazer and they love oat hay. If it is wet or covered with some wet kitchen waste it is that much better. Whey or clabbered milk seems like a great whey(:p) to wet the hay. If you can get old hay for cheap it really make an inexpensive way to feed those pigs. We recently found a farmer with an abundance of round bails that are too old to sell at the regular fee and we got them for $5 each. With 400 lb bails that makes for some cheap pork chops and ham.

    You might also want to look into getting guinie hens for control the ticks.

    • July 31, 2013 7:02 pm

      Racquel, that’s a great idea. I know that Walter at Sugar Mountain feeds a lot of hay. Man, you can’t beat that price of $5 for hay! You’re spot on about the whey, I have been giving the pigs the weeds and quack grass from the gardens and greenhouses, etc, and dumping the house compost on it. They are in seventh heaven on that pile, if I add more they carefully (or not) mix it all together and have grand time. Thumbs down on zucchini though, so that has been going to the chickens, who peck away merrily.

      We don’t have ticks…you have to go east or south to find them around here.

  13. January 3, 2014 6:11 pm

    We just bought our farm in February 2013 and so far have raised/butchered ducks, turkeys, chickens, and hogs. We had zero farm experience before coming here. This winter we are busy planning all the critters and ways to feed them. I’ve been looking into getting a milking cow to feed us and pigs, so this was a great read! I’ll have to do some more perusing through your blog. Great job!

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