Dexters - The Best Family Milk Cows for Small Homesteads
Photo courtesy of Amber Boekweg Pipes. Posted with permission by the contributor. This is a very simple milking setup that anyone can build! The contributor stated they would extend the triangular piece by her head so she can't stick her head under the bar, but very ingenious and simple!
The training continues on this first time mama. Notice there is no stanchion or halter. She stands to be milked without issue and this is her first time being milked! She is not a veteran by any means, but well on her way. The conditioning and training prior to this has worked!
Dexter Liquid Gold! This milk was obtained from one of our first time freshener at one milking. Not too bad!
At Quakie Lane Farms, we start training our heifers to be family milk cows virtually from the time of birth. We handle all of our calves almost daily by brushing, desensitizing, rubbing them all over, mock milking, and building trust. At around six months of age, we start the weaning process. It is at this time that we begin halter and lead training. We put halters on at the start of each training session and remove the halters at the end of each session so they get accustomed to being haltered. This training will continue throughout their lives. Heifers will have their first calf around two years of age. About one to two weeks after calving, we start milking them. All the training previous to this has prepared them to be accepting of this and most accept being milked readily. Occasionally, we have to spend a little time working out any "kinks" to ensure they will make a good family milk cow. All in all, we spend approximately two and half to three years training our milk cows.
Assuming your family drinks a gallon of milk per day like we do, you could save $3.00/day for 300 days or $900/year. A Dexter can produce well into their teens and even twenties. Assuming a lifespan of 15 years, a Dexter milk cow can save a family over $13,500 in milk alone. This does not take into consideration the cost savings if you also made cheese, sour cream, ice cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, buttermilk, etc.
In order for a cow to produce milk they must have a calf each year. The calf can be sold or processed as beef for the freezer. For the sake of this example, let's say the value of either is approximately $2,000 in income or savings. Over the lifetime of a Dexter, this equates to $30,000.
One Dexter can save a family in excess of $43,500 over 15 years or $2,900/year.
Halter Training, Lead Training, and Time spent training a Dexter to milk for two to three years = priceless.
In short, a Dexter milk cow can pay for itself in less than a year while providing it's human family with nutritious milk, milk products and beef!
The Dexter cow has much to offer as a family milk cow. Virtually no other cow (or goat) can compare. Be sure to check out the video below entitled, "Video: A Dexter Milker in the Making" featuring our 5-1/2 month old heifer "Ginger" in training. Notice how calm she is. She was approached in the pasture for the making of this video.
Dexters have been dubbed the "Modern Milk Cow," making them the ideal family milk cow. Here's why:
Dexters are small, clever, easy to handle, friendly and easily trained;
Due to their smaller size, Dexters require less feed and acreage than their larger cousins making them ideal for small acreages and homesteads;
Calf sharing is easy! Milk two quarters for the family and leave two quarters for the calf at each milking. As the calf gets older, you can separate mama from the calf for longer periods of time, typically overnight if you milk in the morning. It is best to keep them on a schedule, but if you are unable to milk for a period of time just leave the calf with mama. No twice-a-day commitment to milking and no fuss! A great cow for the busy modern family.
A Dexter cow can produce from 1-3 gallons of creamy high quality milk per day at the height of lactation. This is a very manageable amount of milk for a family when compared to larger dairy breeds that can produce an over abundance of milk;
Dexter milk contains approximately 4-5% butterfat content and protein levels similar to that of a Jersey - perfect for making butter, cheese and yogurt;
We believe raw milk is better for your health if the milking process is sanitary. It is said the fat globules in Dexter milk are very small, making the milk more easily digested;
There is a lot of controversy surrounding the health benefits of A2/A2 milk. Claims have not been substantiated and more research is needed. At Quakie Lane Farms, we breed and test for the A2/A2 Beta Casein for those who feel this is important.
Dexters have been used successfully as "nurse cows," providing milk to two or three calves. It is not uncommon for Dexter cows to share their milk with unrelated calves in the herd.
If you have never milked a cow or trained a cow to milk, it is best to bite the bullet and spend the money to purchase a well-trained milk cow. Dexters are good mothers and their first instinct is to keep all the milk for her growing baby. For this reason, it can take time, patience and a dedicated schedule to gain her trust for milking. At Quakie Lane Farms, we start this training at an early age (view the video below). After they have their first calf, the real training begins. When we milk them the first time, there are no surprises. We have had very good luck with this method and can often milk them where they stand with no stanchion or halter as in the photo above.
If milking more than one Dexter, we recommend obtaining a milking machine!
Dexters can have both good and bad udders. We breed for the best udders possible. Become familiar with what a good udder looks like before purchasing a milk cow. We have provided graphics below from the ADCA Dexter Conformation Guide for reference.