There is much that a smallholder should consider when keeping a cow for milk.

Consider the whole process of keeping a cow in milk. The cow has to keep giving birth, in order to keep producing milk. And you have to make arrangements for this to be made possible. Would you know where to begin? How does one go about artificial insemination? Will you have to pay someone to do it for you? Or do you have a handy neighbour with a bull? If so how are you going to get your cow there and how much will you have to pay for the “service”?

keeping a cow for milk
Someone has to milk the cow twice a day.

When the birth is over you have to get to grips with milking by hand. Be ready to take on the responsibility of a milking schedule. Perhaps the traditional methods have been handed down within your family. However there is a commitment of time as well as labour. Once the calf is weaned, the cow needs to be milked twice a day, which tends to limit your social life unless you share the duties amongst family members or have knowledgeable and reliable staff. And staff costs money.

Hours A Day Spent On A Cow

Consider the time you or someone else will need to spend in keeping a cow:

Milking – once you’ve got the hang of it and providing you have a co-operative cow, 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes at night;
Feeding – you will need to put out supplementary rations, 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes at night;
Pasturing – you or someone else needs to take the cow out to the field, which will take 1 or 2 minutes, depending on the size of your land and which field you’re using;
Straining and cooling milk – 5 minutes to wash, fill and date bottles;
Washing utensils – hygiene is extremely important when dealing with milk products, 5 to 10 minutes;
Separating the cream and cleaning up – 10 to 15 minutes daily or every other day;
Making butter – 30 minutes (Add more time for making other products such as chees or yoghurt);
Cleaning the shed or kraal and removing manure – about 15 minutes;
Grooming the cow – about 5 minutes;
Watering by hand – 5 to 10 minutes.

Then you’ll have to think about working with the calf. The time required depends on who feeds it: you or the cow. You’ll also need to teach it to lead and respect the fence. Allow 5 hours or more in total.

Feeding A Cow

Providing fodder, making hay or growing other crops to feed the cow will also take time, if you’re raising the feed yourself. If you are buying in, it takes time to make regular trips to the feed store.
So you’ll need two to two and a half hours for daily chores, and more time to train the calf and cultivate or buy feed. Furthermore, both cow and calf will need to be medicated at various stages, which will take more time.

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