Fresh Homestead Milk
Once fresh eggs with stand up orange yolks appear on the menu, milk comes to mind for lots of new homesteaders. Fresh homestead milk must be better than the commercial milk in the store. That milk is cows’ milk. The homesteader has a choice.
Most people around the world use milk from goats. The U.S. relies on cows. Both are available to the homesteader.
Decision 1: Cows or Goats?
Either a cow or a few goats will provide plenty of homestead milk. This milk is produced after the cow or goat has a baby. The cow or goat will not give milk for two to three months before having that baby. It will be dry.
The dry period is very important for the mother to be. Their body is stashing away calcium and other nutrients producing milk will take away later on. The developing baby or babies take a lot of nutrition too. Cheating on the dry period will cheat you for homestead milk later.
A cow takes nine months to have a calf. A goat takes five months. A cow normally has one calf. A goat normally has twin kids, but can vary from one to three, sometimes four, rarely five to eight.
The pluses for cows is having only one. That one will produce several gallons a day for nine to ten months. Finding someone to breed the cow by AI or artificial insemination is fairly easy.
The pluses for goats is having an animal of a manageable size. A good goat will produce 3 quarts to over a gallon a day for nine to ten months. Up to six goats can be kept for the same amount of feed and hay as one cow.
Both cows and goats come in a number of breeds that vary in color, personality and milk volume, Both require adequate fencing and a building. Both will tie you to twice a day milking regardless of weather or health.
I prefer goats. I like the smaller size. I have been stepped on by both a cow and a goat. The goat is better. I prefer the milk.
Comparison 2: Cow’s milk vs. Goat’s milk
An amusing thing at a county fair is to offer goat milk samples. Many people make an assumption the milk will taste bad as soon as they read that word goat. They will make faces as they take a sip. Those willing to keep an open mind will then look surprised and remark how good the milk tastes or how it tastes like milk from the store.
That does not mean goat’s milk and cow’s milk tastes the same. It does not. Both taste good.
Cow’s milk will separate into cream and milk layers. Goat’s milk will not. Both have plenty of cream in them, the composition makes the difference so one separates and one doesn’t. The cream content varies by breed and diet.
Milk allergies come in two common forms. One is to lactose or milk sugar. Both cow’s milk and goat’s milk contain lactose. This intolerance will often produce bloating and gastric symptoms.
The other common intolerance is to bovine or cow proteins. This usually produces sinus problems. Goat milk is often tolerated well with this.
Goat milk is digested much more quickly. This let’s some lactose intolerant people drink some milk and not react. It is a reason goat milk is easy on a sick stomach as one with ulcers and for acid reflux.
Whether these are problems or not is a matter of which homesteader you talk to. One is extra milk.
Whether the homesteader chooses a cow or goats, there will probably be extra milk most of the summer. If the homesteader is like me, the thought of throwing that milk away hurts. There must be something that milk is good for.
One solution is cheese. Even the easy cheeses take time, equipment and facilities. Kefir and buttermilk are other possibilities.
Another solution is using homestead milk to produce a homestead pig or pigs. Sour milk soaked corn is relished by pigs and makes them grow fast. But pigs require a building and fencing plus a way to butcher them.
Another solution is to find people who want your extra milk. This is not always legal. Make sure you monitor your animal’s health. If you deworm or treat an animal, follow the withdrawal times carefully. The customer needs to provide the containers or you will be left scrambling for jars. Your homestead milk needs to be as clean, really cleaner than store milk.
Another problem is the responsibility. Milking is done twice a day, every day, regardless. Your day begins at the end of morning chores and ends at the beginning of evening chores. Vacations are no longer on your calendar.
One solution is to have a friend or neighbor who can milk for you from time to time. Another solution is to have a vacation while your milkers are dry although, for goats, this is normally in the winter. And the animals must still be fed and checked on daily. The other choice is to stay home or only take very short day trips.
Bull or buck service is needed every year. A homesteader with a few animals should not keep a male around. The male needs separate facilities. He will eat as much as a milking animal for use once a year. He can be aggressive and difficult to handle. A good male is expensive and a cheap one is not worth the cheap price.
It is much easier to find someone to AI a cow than a goat. A goat is easier to transport to a buck or the owner may lease out the buck. Find out about this before you need the use of a male.
Veterinarians get lots of training with cows. Goats can be ignored or barely mentioned. More vets are learning about goats so this isn’t as big a problem as it was. However, vets are not inexpensive. The homesteader needs to learn to do much of the routine vet care, get the equipment and find out how to use it correctly.
Food On the Table
Fresh homestead milk and eggs are great. They do not make a meal. That garden produce makes the meal.
Gardening can be challenging on the homestead. There are bugs, floods, droughts, good and bad soil, diseases, weeds and the list goes on. Is it worth it? The homesteader must decide.