Volume 12, Number 6 December 21, 2008
Owning a Dairy Cow
By Dr. Ridgely Abdul Mu’min
Dr. Ridgely recently interviewed Bro. Kelvin Muhammad, a small dairy farmer outside of Houston, TX.
Dr. Ridgely (DR)- We have many people calling the farm here in Georgia about getting a cow. Since you operate a small dairy farm in Texas, what should people know before they purchase a cow?
Bro Kelvin (BR) – The first thing you should do, if you are thinking about getting a cow, is to purchase the book "The Family Cow", which deals with all the aspects of owning a dairy cow on a small farm. They should also go to the website "realmilk.com". It deals with the laws for each state for raw milk. Everyone needs to understand the laws for individual states. This website will also give you sources for raw milk.
DR - How much room is needed for each cow and what feed is needed?
BK – You need approximately one acre for a cow. You may be able to put 2 or 3 on an acre. They need to be fed lactating dairy cow feed along with alfalfa hay, grain and hay when the cow can't graze.
DR – How much feed per cow?
BK – Feeding depends on the lactating of the cow which determines how much to feed. Normally it is about 15# per day.
DR- How often do you milk the cow?
BK- You will need to milk and feed 2 times a day on a regular schedule. My schedule is between 5 am -7 am and again between 5 pm – 7 pm. A cow needs from 8 to 10 gallons of water each day. We have water a trough with a float and cut off valve to make sure that our cows have enough water.
DR - How much milk do you get each time you milk a cow?
BK - On average you can expect about 5 gallons of milk per day per cow.
DR - What happens if you can't get rid of all 5 gallons per cow each day.
BK - Well you still have to milk the cows on schedule. You have to give it to the calf or find out how to make cheese or other products from the milk, or you just have to pore the extra milk on the ground.
DR – How long will a cow give milk?
BK – Cows have to first give birth, then they start giving milk and will give milk for 10 months. When the cow gets to the 9th month you will get less milk, so you reduce the feed.
DR – How long after giving birth will they start giving milk again?
BK – You stop milking 2 months before they give birth to build up their strength. Once they give birth you wait 60-90 days before impregnating again. This is done by using a bull or by you artificially inseminating the cow if you don’t have a bull.
DR – How do you know when to inseminate?
BK – Cows give different signs when they go into heat. They will stand still and moan and during this time you can go in and plant the semen. Then wait 28 days.
DR – What happens to the cow’s calf after giving birth?
BK – For the first 24 hours the calf must get colostrums from the mother. Then you milk the mother 24 hours later and save the colostrums in the refrigerator to feed to the calf by bottle.
DR – When do you begin milking again for personal use of the milk.
BK – At least two weeks before the cow gives birth you should began slowly began feeding her grain and alfalfa, roughly 2 pounds per day until you reach 12 pounds per day. After birth the first four days the milk the mother produces is colostrums for the calves, you should begin milking the mother the second day and save the colostrums for the calf. If the calf is a heifer you give it milk from the bottle for 30 to 60 days, then you begin feeding a high protein feed and free choice hay. You will need to keep the calf separate from the mother for at least 1 year. After 18 months you can begin to use the young heifer as a dairy cow.
DR - What do you do if it is a male calf?
BK – If it is a male calf, after feeding it for 30 days you have to get rid of them which is difficult because no one wants them. We have 4 now that we can’t seem to get rid of.
DR – Say for instance you go a day or two without milking the cow, what happens?
BK – If you do not milk on schedule the cow may get puss in the milk. It is not recommended that you miss a scheduled milking time. This throws the cow off and she can get mastitis.
DR – What is the life span of the cow giving milk?
BK- They usually can give milk for 10-15 years after they start giving birth.
DR – We would love to have you present information from your experience with dairy cows during Saviours’ Day.
BK – I can not say for sure that I will be able to make Saviours’ Day, because it is hard to get people to milk the cows. It is not like getting someone to feed your pet. It is best to have 2 people rotating the feeding schedule. We don’t milk the cows by hand, but use a milking machine, but it is still hard to get someone to come in and do it. A person must have a lot of discipline if they want to own a cow. I don't think that money will be enough motivation to do what we do here. We do it because we love our people and want to help the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan make our people healthy.
DR – For those people who are thinking about; purchasing a cow, how much will it cost to purchase and maintain a cow?
BK – You can get a milk cow starting at $1,000 depending on the area and the breed. The best breeds are Holsteins and Jerseys. A milk machine costs about $1,600. You need to add another $100 or so for cleaning equipment, storage containers and filters. We estimate that it cost about $4 per day to feed a cow. This includes alfalfa hay, mineral supplements, and molasses to make the milk sweet. If you don't have a constant supply of water, then you are going to have to put in a well which could cost $4,000 are more. And you are going to have to heat the water used to wash down the milking equipment and floor.
DR – How do you distribute the milk?
BK – In Texas you need a permit to distribute the milk and you must own the cow. I have a select group of customers from the Mosque who get the milk.
DR – What other advice would you give?
BK – You will need a shed, preferably with a concrete floor that can be washed down. The shed gives protection from the elements during milking. For containers you can call a dairy company to purchase plastic gallon containers. You need to give the cow good mineral supplements for the cow to give good milk. You give the molasses with their feed, this keeps the stomach of the cow in good condition and it also makes the milk sweet.
DR – Would you be willing to train those interesting in purchasing a dairy cow?
BK – Yes, definitely, we can house 2 people at a time and train them for a week at our farm in Texas. We will be glad to do the training free of charge. You can call us at (713) 261-6409.
DR- Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. May God (Allah) continue to bless you and your family.