Keeping a house cow

Have you ever thought about owning a house cow but don’t know where to start? Do you dream of unlimited raw milk, manure and beef to complement your small farm activities? Or maybe you’ve never given it a thought. Here’s why I think you need a house cow on your farm.

In Australia, due to food safety regulations, all milk sold in the shop must be pasteurised, which means it is heated to a certain temperature, for a certain time, in order to kill any bacteria in the milk. There is both anecdotal evidence and a limited number of published scientific studies that demonstrate the nutritional benefits of raw milk compared to pasteurised milk. The fact is that the vitamin, enzyme and probiotic bacteria content is all destroyed by pasteurisation and the structure of the proteins and fats is further damaged by homogenisation. Many people would like to drink raw milk, but are unable to buy it. By getting a cow, you secure yourself access to the nutritional benefits of raw milk, and you control the conditions, so you know it’s safe to drink. You also have plenty left over for making cheese, butter, yoghurt and ice cream.

Keeping a house cow

Milk is probably the obvious reason why you might want a house cow, but don’t underestimate the value of your cow’s manure. A 450 kg cow produces, on average, 27 kg of manure per day. During summer, most of this is spread over our pasture by dung beetles and our chickens scratching around to find the fly larvae. In winter, I collect it by the wheel-barrow load and put it either straight on the garden or into the compost.

The manure has improved the fertility of our vegetable garden soil so much that it is now full of earthworms. With a little extra work, your house cow will not only produce milk, but will also help you to produce organic vegetables to feed your family.  

For your cow to continue producing milk, you need her to produce a calf every couple of years (if not every year). This gives you the option of raising the calves for homekill beef or to sell. We raise male calves until about two years-old and then get them butchered by an on-farm butcher. This provides us with more than enough beef each year.

We also use our cows for mowing the house yard in summer! If you have an area of green grass that needs mowing, all you need is an electric fence, and your cow will be happy to help, and provide the fertiliser while she’s there.

Cattle are beautiful animals. They are generally very calm once they get used to you, and if you’re stressed, just watching your house cow in the paddock, or even better, stroking her as she stands there chewing her cud, can be incredibly relaxing.  

I wanted to share my love of house cows, so I wrote an eBook called “Our experience with House Cows”. The eBook is written for Australian conditions, particularly sub-tropical Queensland, but much of the information is applicable to cows and cow owners all over the world. This eBook covers the basics of buying a cow, getting her in calf, milking her and caring for her calf, all using natural methods. The final sections explain how to use all that milk to create delicious dairy products! The eBook references several other cow, cattle and dairy books which are useful to the new cow owner and
explain some aspects in more detail. 

Our experience with house cows

More information is available at www.eight-acres.com.au

About the author

Liz lives on eight acres in south east Queensland, Australia, with her husband Peter and two dogs. They have a passion for small-scale organic farming and producing and eating real food. They keep chickens, beef steers, two jersey cows and a big vegetable garden. Liz writes a blog about their farm to both inspire and help others who are interested in self-sufficiency, sustainability and permaculture.  
 
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