We believe the Jersey cow is the perfect family milk cow. While there are many reasons for our opinion, a couple of the more important ones are:
- 100% grass fed (no grains or concentrates)
- Quality of the milk, especially the cream, protein, and fat
- Ease of breeding and calving
Jersey cows, especially those handled daily from birth, are very docile and gentle. So much so, we have never considered dehorning any of our calves.
We understand that a gentle animal is a result of constant and consistent handling from birth, but the Jersey breed seems to be very comfortable around people. We make it a point to spend time with the newborn calves; getting the calf comfortable with humans, used to being handled, and used to being lead. All of our milk cows have worn a collar so we could attach a lead rope if necessary.
100% grass fed (no grains or concentrates)
We prefer our beef and milk to come from 100% grass fed cattle. Jerseys, at least for our needs, are able to produce milk on grass without grains or concentrates; we have never needed to supplement our cow’s diet.
We understand that we could receive more milk if we supplemented the cow’s diet, but we aren’t looking to maximize production. Rather, we prefer the nutrient rich milk produced by a grass fed cow over the extra quantity produced by a cow who is fed cereals, especially soy.
However, we certainly recognize the challenges of keeping a dairy cow on grass alone. The pastures need to be plentiful, healthy, and contain the right nutrients. In addition to good pasture, our cows have free access to Redmond salt and kelp.
If we ever have a cow that isn’t able to keep her condition then we will do whatever we can to help her. This could include supplementing her diet.
Quality of the milk, especially the cream, protein, and fat
Jersey milk is second to none.
Admittedly other breeds have positive characteristics; more production (Holstein), Vitamin A – Beta Carotene (Guernsey), all purpose – milk, meat, work (American Milking Devon), but no other breed exceeds a Jersey when it comes to butterfat (4.6%) and protein (3.6%).
We believe fat is an important part of our healthy diet, especially if the fat is natural fat. One great source for natural fat comes from unprocessed milk, especially if the cow is 100% grass fed like ours. While this position is controversial, we stand fast in our belief.
There are many sources for information on both sides of this issue, but one we recommend is EatWild. They have a lot of information on the benefits of 100% grass fed animals, including the health benefits of whole milk from grass fed cows (scroll down the page).
Most importantly, the Jersey’s milk provides us with:
- Flavorful and healthy milk
- Fabulous cream to make butter
- Rich yogurts
- Amazing cheeses
Ease of breeding and calving
Milk cows need to be bread every year. When they calve they also come into milk; this is called freshening. We do not keep a bull so we need to artificially breed our cow every year.
This process requires a good amount of attention so we know when the cow is in heat (ready to be breed). When we see the signs of heat we call someone over to artificially inseminate (AI) her. This is not a scientific process, at least not for us, and having a cow that breeds easily is important to us.
Being able to breed the cow at the right time of the year will ensure the calf will be born in the spring, when the weather is warm and the pasture is flush. As you may image, a freshened cow needs a lot of nourishment to sustain her and her calf. Also, being able to breed the cow on the first attempt will reduce both the time and money involved in the process.
Ease of calving is more important to us than ease of breeding.
Our animals have free access to shelter and the pasture; we do not confine their movement even if an animal is close to birthing. This means that the cow is able to, and will certainly prefer to, give birth in the field. We have never had a cow give birth in the barn or shelter nor have we ever witnessed a calf being born.
Since the cow could give birth anywhere, not to mention anytime, ease of calving is important to us. With this said, we certainly do keep an eye on the cow when she is due to calve. We need to make sure the cow and the calf are fine and that the calf is nursing and thriving.