Meet Emma, our new (one-horned) Jersey cow.

We bought her last week from a friend of ours, the same friend who is loaning us the milker. This is her second pregnancy (the first time, she raised her birth calf, plus one more) and she’s due mid-May. Our friend says she has a sweet and gentle temperament, and she’s A2-A2 — some people say the milk of an A2-A2 is easier to digest, so I’m curious to see if my husband does better with her milk. (He still uses store-bought lactose-free milk on his cereal and takes a lactose pill whenever he eats dairy.)

When my daughter and husband drove in with Emma, Daisy went absolutely berserk.

Frantic with excitement, she bellowed and ran back and forth, slipping and falling and frothing at the mouth. She even tried to stick her head through the gate. (Can you imagine if she’d gotten stuck?!)

She was so aggressive and desperate that we started to worry she might try to jump over the fence, or else trample Emma when we let her into the field. 

She didn’t, though. Butterscotch and Daisy both chased Emma around for a bit, but things soon settled. Daisy’s even a little scared of Emma now — when Emma’s eating, Daisy hangs back, which is hilarious considering how Daisy towers over Emma.

So, what’s our plan, you ask? 

Well….we’re not exactly sure, but the general outline goes like so: We’ll milk Daisy until we’re established with Emma’s milk and once that’s going okay, we’ll probably sell Daisy. In the next couple months, we’ll breed Butterscotch — we’re buying her from our daughter — in hopes of a spring delivery, and then we’ll flip back and forth between the two cows, selling off their calves as we go.

One possible new development: we are considering separating Emma and her calf, switching to twice-a-day milkings, and bottle feeding the calf its portion of milk. Since mama cows hold back the cream for their calves, we’re more likely to get a lot more cream if we separate them, and I would love to start making our own butter and sour cream.

So. That’s the big picture plan, but it’s kinda loose. We know things can go sideways at any point. We might decide it’s too much, or we only want one cow, or no cow. Who knows. 

Having a family milk cow started out as an experiment, but it turns out it’s not as overwhelming or complicated as we feared. And it’s good for us! Even though my husband is adamant he’s not a farmer, I’ve noticed that getting outside every morning and completing a one-off task makes him more focused — the structure and routine seems to ground him — and for me, our mornings together in the kitchen have been one of the best things about having a cow. While he strains the milk and washes up, I make his breakfast and lunch, stir the sourdough, brine the cheese, whatever. Working together, we feel more like a team: I’m taking care of him, and he’s taking care of me. It’s nice.

There is one big problem, though: our family is dwindling. While we love everything about having a cow — the routine, the self-sufficiency, the steady supply of fresh milk, the cheesemaking — finding a balance between supply and demand is challenging. Now that I’ve experimented pretty heavily with cheesemaking, I’m ready to pull back a bit (a cheese per week sounds about right) so we’ve got to figure out a way to pace ourselves. 

Maybe we should get a couple piggies?

This same time, years previous: sunshine cakes, do you fight with your spouse?, the coronavirus diaries: week six, feeding my family, gado gado, beginner’s bread, right now, wrangling sheep, crispy almonds, fun and fiasco: chapter two, deviled eggs, on fire.


  • Sarah DB

    A second to Elva’s comments about milk letdown and cream content. Sometimes when I was share-milking with a calf and there was more milk than I needed I would milk just two quarters (fully, so as to get the cream) and then give the other two to the calf. I’d also agree that having the option to just have the calf drink the milk if you want to go away or you’re sick is very beneficial.

    Each cow is so different in ease of milking, temperament, milk flavor, cream content…it’s all very individual. I’m guessing the Emma the jersey will naturally have more cream than Daisy the holstein. When I was milking jerseys sometimes I’d get one in the stage where the creamline on the jar was the reverse of what you’d expect: cream about 3/4 of the way down, then a small amount of milk on the bottom.

  • Elva

    Mama cows do not hold back the cream for the calves. When you milk a cow, the last milk to come out has the highest concentration of butterfat (cream). That is one reason it is so important to completely milk out a cow. Personally, I think it would be best if you kept the calves on the mom cows. They will be MUCH healthier and grow faster than if raised on milk replacer. Plus, you would have the option of just leaving the calves with their mothers if you want to go away. Sometimes, as I think you already found out before, the mom cows do not want to let their milk down, but you can just let the calf drink a little bit of milk to facilitate letdown, and then take the calf away and put the machine on. If lots of cream is your goal, after you take the machine off, gently strip out any remaining cream by hand.
    I have purchased baby piglets and raised them up to processing weight for many years. I would never go through the bother of having pigs born on my farm, as it is too complicated and can be dangerous. I keep my pigs (always have at least two) in a good-sized indoor pen, and I also have an outdoor area for them, which I fence with one very hot strand of polywire and have had absolutely no trouble keeping them contained. I keep a deep bedding pack in the pen, as they like to burrow and sleep in deep hay. I would think they would be so great for you, as you can feed them everything from the rinsings from your cheese making equipment to vegetable peelings and such. I think the secret to pigs is keeping them happy. I feed mine three times a day, let them have plenty of space to move around, make sure their bedding is deep and clean, and give them clean water. I honestly never have any problems with them. When it is time for them to go, I have a trusted professional dispatch them right in their pen and then take them away to complete the processing. This is cheaper and much less stressful than taking them to a slaughterhouse.
    Good luck with your new cow!!

    • Jennifer Jo

      Oops, I think I was unclear. What I meant was: we’d be giving the calf the mother’s milk — just in the bottle. (Also, from my research, I know that taking the calf off the mother is quite controversial, not to mention a potential inconvenience. We’re still undecided…)

    • Jennifer Jo

      Yeah, farrowing sounds rough! But ours would be for meat. (We’ve had pigs before. Problem with them is, they tear up the ground something fierce, and we don’t have THAT much land…)

  • Pauline in Upstate NY

    Ahh… the livestock slippery slope. First it’s chickens, then maybe a couple sheep for meat and wool, or goats for milk, then a little cow for milk and cheese and meat, and then (when you are drowning in dairy products) the pigs start to seem like a good idea to use up the excess. And you have all that terrific manure and bedding for your garden! And the scraps from the garden help feed everyone. And… Yep. That’s pretty much how it rolls. And it all makes sense. It all fits. Hope you’ve got a back-up farmer or two so you can actually take a bit of a vacation once in a while… We discovered that it’s one thing to ask a neighbor to feed your chickens and gather the eggs and water your tomato plants, and it’s quite another to ask them to take care of your flock of sheep… I am immensely enjoying your farming adventures!

  • Becky R.

    Hooray for A2 milk! I hope your husband does well with this milk. I have IBD, and this milk really helped my gut settle down when I first started buying it. It tastes sweeter than A1 milk, IMHO, so I bet the cream will be divine. Since I have switched to making L-reuteri yogurt most of the time, my gut has calmed down a lot, so I find regular organic whole milk is OK for me if it is fermented. However, I am not lactose intolerant, so HMMV. Now you can make ALL the dairy things. It doesn’t seem that long ago that you got your first cow, and now you have 3! Pigs? Really?

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