Essentials You Need When Keeping A Family Milk Cow

For the last year or so I have been dreaming of buying a jersey cow. After we moved away from our hometown in 2022, I lost my source for raw milk and raw cream.

That meant no more yellow, nutritious butter. I strongly believe pasteurized milk isn’t the best for you, but that’s all that was left for my family.

Keeping a family milk cow intimidates me a lot.

Online Facebook pages and forums are a scary place to research dairy cows. It sounds like a huge learning hurdle to overcome.

I spent January of 2024 looking for the perfect fit for our farm. During the crazy cold spell we had, I found quite a few, but it wasn’t the right time for us.

One of the biggest hurdles with keeping a lactating dairy cow is the inability to leave the farm.

They are not as easy to leave in a strangers hands. A dear friend encouraged me to get one, promising she would be willing to milk her when we wanted to go on vacation.

2 more friends offered their help, and I started thinking, “Maybe we can do this.” Because we have family 600 km away, we do go away several times a year.

And those relationships are important to us.

With the possibility of help, when Spring somewhat arrived, we found our perfect jersey cow.

I had some requirements that I needed as a new milkmaid. She needed to be bred, she needed to have had a calf before, and she needed to have an ok temperament.

Originally I would have loved a guernsey cow, but they are close to impossible to find in Canada. A jersey was a great second option.

I get intimidated with large animals, and I don’t need a nasty one. Bonus if we could find one within an hour from our farm.

The one that we bought covered all 3.

Not only was she a bred jersey, she is expecting right after our trip to the west coast. We can take our vacation, and come back and start milking.

Another huge bonus was how willing the previous owner was with answering my questions. She was happy to answer all of my questions (and I had a few).

One of my main concerns is Milk Fever (or Mastitis). Especially with purebred dairy cows, mastitis can be a problem.

Because they have been bred to produce as much milk as possible, their systems are more susceptible to milk fever.

A down dairy cow is never a good thing. I wanted to be prepared as much as possible for what could potentially happen.

These were the things the previous owner recommended every new dairy cow owner have on hand in case of emergencies.

You don’t want to have to scramble if your cow gets milk fever after she calves.

Having these essentials on hand will keep the learning curve from being too costly.

Essentials For Keeping A Family Milk Cow

These were the things I was told are important to have in your vet kit when keeping a dairy cow.

Mastitis Tubes (Spectramast)

Spectramast is a broad spectrum antibiotic that treats clinical mastitis. We got this from the vet.

Long Acting Antibiotic: Duplocillin LA

We had Oxyvert 200 LA in our vet kit from previous farming ventures. This is another longacting antibiotic that does the same thing. Another item you need from the vet.

Oxytocin

This is for retained placenta or trouble letting down with an engorge udder after calving.

This is mostly a complication in heifers that are having their first calf. Sheep and goats are also more prone to retained placenta than cows in general.

Anti-inflammatory: Metacam or Dexamethasone

Metacam is what the vet gave us several years ago. It’s mostly a pain reliever, and can help with engorged udders. Another option is Dexamethasone.

Ivermectin

All farm animals are susceptible to parasites. Ivermectin is for internal and external parasites.

Electrolytes

Electrolytes are used to replenish fluids and electrolytes that are lost in cases of scours or diarrhea. Most often calves struggle with this, especially bottle calves.

Calcium/Magnesium/Phosphorus Dextrose

This is essential for keeping a dairy cow. It is milk fever medication, and is recommended to keep 2 just in case. You can buy this at Farmers Depot. You can also find this in liquid drench forms, as well as bolus.

California Mastitis Test Kit

Also available on Farmersdepot.com, a CMT kit allows you to test for a high cell count right at the udder. It will tell you what quadrants are at risk, allowing you to see of their is the beginning of an infection.

Good Udder Cream

A cows teats can become chapped and sore, making milking an unpleasant and painful job. A cow with sores will get mastitis more easily, because of the pain of being milked.

I’m hoping to be able to make my own, but there are several good ones to be found at your local farm store. You will need this every day.

Several of these items you will probably have to get at your local vet. In Alberta they are unwilling to give certain medications without an on farm visit.

I understand the policy, but makes it difficult sometimes. We had several medications from several years ago, when we first started a sheep farm.

There are more things that you need when keeping a dairy cow. Things like shelter, a stanchion, the right feed, and a good source of water.

These are the essentials you need in your first aid kit when keeping a family milk cow.

Timely action can save you an expensive vet bill, and save your cows’ life.