How to Buy a Safe Raw Milk Cow

IF you are looking for safe raw milk to drink you want to be sure to buy a safe milk cow. Many cows today are sold as “family milk cows” when they actually come right off a non tested, non-raw milk dairy. Brokers sometimes make a deal with dairies to take their cull dairy cows that the dairy would otherwise sell at a auction yard, or the brokers buys cattle at an auction yard; puts a “story” on the cows and sell to unsuspecting families. I have known too many families who have purchased cattle like this only to have their family member get very ill. I myself bought a “tested” dairy cow from a RAWMI listed diary only to test again ourselves and find the cow to be positive for Q fever. I have been sick for 3 years, in and out of the hospital every few months with respiratory distress; and will always be disabled from this disease. Yes, most people get over q fever with no ill affects. My husband and daughter both caught it from this same cow at the same time and have had no issues other than a sever “flu” like cold for a few weeks. With our dairies being such petri dishes of disease; most of the dairy cows in the US now and in deed most of the world are now affected. Bob and I having both been vet techs, and having a vet tech daughter; we knew enough to quarantine all cattle coming onto the farm. NONE of our cattle caught Q fever because the minute we take them out of the trailer they get tested, EVEN if the owner gives us vet paperwork. they go into a Q pen isolated from all other cattle until all the tests come back clean. DO IT. This particular cow had a cut teat and we doctored her every day, I wore gloves but not a mask. This is an airborne bacteria and it infected my lungs.

Do your self a favor and test!

ASK A MINIMUM OF THESE QUESTIONS:

  1. What is her date of birth. Sire? Dam?
  2. What has she been tested for and can I see hard copies of the results
  3. Has her milk every been tested by an independent lab and do you have hard copy results?
  4. Milked once a day or twice a day?
  5. Hand or machine milked?
  6. What have you been feeding her for the past year?
  7. Can i get a video of her being milked? In the pasture? With people?

Most sellers will not get past question 2, it’s ok. Move on.

We have found the best place to buy cows is from other breeders/milkers. We look for a farm with less than 20 cows, and always close enough for a drive up to see the cows, check herd health. look at records together. Here is teh protocol we use when selecting a new cow.

We have often found the best cow is the cow that does NOT LOOK like a dairy cow. They are healthy with shiny coats, bright eyes, well attached udders . Why aren’t they Jersey’s or Holsteins? That is because in most countries, dairy cows have been bred for generations to produce milk from grain. The gut biome of these cattle have completely changed so that they are less fertile, more likely to come down with Milk fever or Acidosis, and have trouble with reproduction and liver problems. Did you know the average lifespan of a dairy cow in the US is 5 years? Not five years of production, but 5 years of age? The number one reason for this is that they will not rebreed.  Second is milk fever and third, mastitis. So why are you looking at a dairy cow that was raised on a dairy and expected to be culled when she is 5?

What you should be looking for are cows that produce good rich milk on grass alone. In other words, the perfect HOMESTEAD cow. Not so easy to find any more. Experts in fact will tell you it takes 17 generations to take the gut biome back to where the cows can produce milk from a grass fed diet alone. We will have to change our attitudes and accept the fact that we are NOT looking for a cow that produces 14 gallons a day; but a small, fertile dairy cow that produces 7 to 8 gallons a day over 5 to 16 years of production.

If you don’t test, don’t buy a cow in this condition.
Shiny coat, bright eye, alert. This cow has good flesh for a grass only cow. Many times the cross bred cow is the much better buy

So let’s list what you should be looking at BEFORE you go look at cows.

  1. What are my feed conditions? A milk cow will need 30 to 40 pounds of grass a day to produce milk.
  2. What should the cow be tested for?    First and foremost clean cows! Never buy a cow that has not been tested for e. coli 0157H7 . At a minimum, you should look at that first, then do an SCC (Portacheck) and only consider if under 100,000. She should be BANGS vaccinated or have a bangs tag if it is a requirement in your state. TB tests are a must, as are testing for BLV and BVD, Johnes, Q fever, Brucellosis, Neospora if in your area (API and UBRL). If she is in milk, get a mastitis test (API).
  3. What should a good quality milk cow look like? Well, there are as many opinions on this as there are cattle breeds, however a healthy cow will always LOOK healthy. She will have a bright eye, be curious and have a shiny coat. For a cow that will be a grass only cow, she MUST have good condition, too many Jersey’s or other straight bred dairy breeds can not hold up on grass alone, so if that is your goal, pass up those sorrowful eyes! With a cross bred cow you get hybrid vigor; something missing in most purebreds so do not discount the cross bred cow. Purebreds will generally cost more and be harder to find.
  4. What should I pass up?  We NEVER buy horns, only takes one head swing to put an eye out, and horned cattle can be dangerous to other livestock as well. Dry cows that are open should also be passed up, don’t believe the “I don’t own a bull”, while that may be true, it is the number one excuse the cattle broker uses. Swinging udders cause problems while milking. Hard udders that feel hot, never buy them as you will not likely get rid of the mastitis. Cows that have not been tested, you are taking a huge chance on. Cows without a history generally indicate a cow that came straight from an auction. Cows with an unexplained low milk production; this is a hard one for a beginner. If a cow just freshened and is only giving a gallon or two a day, may be just fine but MAY be staph a. Staph a can be tested for early now, so many dairies are dumping these cute little heifers on unsuspecting family farms. These cows are dangerous to you as they can pass this to your herd. ALWAYS test for staph a, and the CMT will not do it, only API or a similar lab can test for this. Lastly, never buy a heifer that is not pregnant. It is very common for brokers to try and pass off a twin heifer to an unsuspecting buyer. These twins (bull and heifer) are called “freemartins” and few can get bred. They are generally infertile. You can, with a practiced eye, determine if a heifer is a freemartin; but best to leave that to vets. IF you do buy a young heifer, get it in writing that she is NOT a freemartin. IF they won’t do that, then go someplace else.
  5. What should I look for at the farm where my cow is? What are the condition of the cattle? What are they eating? Is it a complete diet? Is there mastitis in the herd? Broken tails usually mean the cattle have been mishandled. Bobbed tails or switches mean the cow is off a dairy (never buy off a dairy, why would they sell a good cow?)
  6. What should I look for in a seller? I look for passion and commitment to clean healthy cattle. Are they willing to talk with you? Are they willing to test, this is HUGE. I have been told too many times “I will not test because if she is A1 I have to drop the price.” If I pay for the tests, the results are MINE and I do not share with the seller. IF they really wanted to know they would test. Costs $25 to test for A2, about $50 to test for mastitis indicators, I have the SCC kit I take with me, a health certificate is also a must. I run a blood test for BLV and BVD carriers (not always obvious), Q fever, brucellosis and Johne’s. All in all about $200 worth of testing; but can save my entire herd so it gets done, no excuses.

Our Family Cow Lines: Gallant Bess

Like all diaries you should look into family lines. Look at three traits you MUST have and all the others can fall in line behind them. Cows that do not pass the blood and milk test are eliminated first, don’t look back. Bringing home ONE cow with Q fever will infect your entire herd and you will loose everything.

  1. First must always be fertility. Without that you loose your line. High milk production and fertility are often at odds. Remember MOST dairy cows are culled by 5 years of age because they can’t get bred back. Do not be afraid of the 8 year old cow, she has proven she can produce more milk in her litetime than most cows already. I rather have a cow that milks a minimum of 4 gallons a day and produces for 14 years. You want her daughters.
  2. pounds of milk per day. Once a day milkers produce 30% less so keep that in mind when you look at cows being milked once a day. How much milk do you NEED? Try and find two cows that can do this rather than 4 cows, remembering that too much can mean fertility issues in the future.
  3. mastitis history. Mastitis is usually something that comes back and back in cows.
  4. butterfat. Butterfat is genetic, ask for the butterfat records. Walk away from anyone that tells you there cows gives 50% butterfat. I see this all the time, not real.

Galant Bess:

Bess we bought when the herdshare first started. She is from an A2A2 breeder in OR, and is sired by a New Zealand Friesian bull (not the same as a Holstein.) Out of a purebred Jersey cow. This breeder was the first dairy we found that offered tested heifers.

The NZ Friesian is usually all or mostly all black, horned and a good milk producer on grass alone. It is my understanding that the bull semen came from NZ and she used it on her Jersey’s or bought the cross bred heifers from the Tillamook valley from Jersey dairies.

Bess’s Daughter LOLA:

Out of Bess and by a Normandie/Jersey cross bull. Freshening as a first calf heifer she produced over 7 gallons a day on once a day milking. She like most of Bess’s daughter are not super friendly, however they are a joy to milk because they are very respectful.

Lola’s sister Mo

Mo on pasture with Bess and Penny. This year (2020) was her first freshening and she surprised us with topping over 7 gallons of milk in the bucket on OAD. Her sire is  No. 1 sire, 7JE1067 GR Oomsdale Tbone GOLDA-ET (+257). So Mo is 3/4 Jersey and 1/4 NZ Friesian. Still black as soot. Mo is due around Christmas with a Guernsey calf by the bull Latimer.

Latimer, Guernsey bull.

Mo’s daughter Dani will be bred in 2021. She is out of Mo and by the polled Jersey bull, Steph

Garlic Parmesan Pasta

Ingredients

  • 120ml (1/2 cup) butter
  • 2 tsp. dried basil, crushed
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 3/4 tsp. seasoned salt
  • 220g (8 oz.) fettuccine or angel hair pasta (cooked and drained)
  • 360ml (1 1/2 cups) broccoli floweretts (cooked tender-crisp)
  • 3 Tbsp. walnuts (chopped )
  • fresh, grated Parmesan cheese

Procedure

  1. Melt the butter in a large skillet.
  2. Add the basil, lemon juice, garlic powder and seasoned salt, blending well.
  3. Add the fettuccine, broccoli, walnuts.
  4. Blend well and toss to coat the fettuccine.
  5. After tossing, add fresh grated Parmesan cheese to top off the dish.

This article uses material from the Wikibooks article “Cookbook:Garlic Parmesan Pasta“, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 4 avocados
  • 2 tablespoons of pico de gallo
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 2 chopped Jalapeño OR 2 tablespoons of crushed red pepper OR 1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 4 teaspoons of olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon of chopped garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 1 minced jalapeño OR 2 minced serrano chiles OR 2 tablespoon minced of any chile pepper like (adjust for spiciness)

Procedure

  1. Pit the avocados.
  2. Score avocado without cutting through the skin.
  3. Scoop out one avocado with a large spoon and place in mixing bowl.
  4. Add the lime juice and stir to evenly coat the avocados.
  5. Stir in the Pico de Gallo, garlic, oil, jalapeño, salt, red pepper, and black pepper, mashing and tossing the avocado pieces until thoroughly mixed.
  6. Then scoop out the other avocados and gently mix and toss in the larger pieces.
  7. The guacamole is the right consistency when more large pieces than mashed parts remain.
  8. Garnish with a sprig of cilantro.

This article uses material from the Wikibooks article “Cookbook:Guacamole“, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

Spiced Pumpkin Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 cup peeled and cubed sweet potato
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 14-oz cans of nonfat and low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable stock
  • 1 15-oz can of pumpkin
  • 1 cup 1% milk
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice

Procedure

  1. Melt butter in a Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute onion for 3-4 minutes then add flour, curry, cumin and nutmeg and saute for 1 minute.
  2. Add sweet potato, salt, chicken broth and pumpkin and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered for about 20-25 minutes or until sweet potatoes are cooked through and softened. Remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes to cool.
  3. Place half of the pumpkin mixture in a blender and process until smooth. Using a strainer, pour soup back into pan. Repeat with rest of soup.
  4. Raise heat to medium then stir in milk and cook for 5 minutes or until soup is heated through.
  5. Remove from heat and add lime juice.

This article uses material from the Wikibooks article “Cookbook:Spiced Pumpkin Soup“, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.