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10 economic reasons - and a few more - for choosing a cow.

In contrast to Nancy Nickel, I must say I am amazed that people choose goats over cows! ("Why I Prefer Goats," 77/3:33.)

Here's my version of Nancy's ten economic reasons, plus some others, to own a family milk cow.

1. A cow, though 10 times larger, is a very efficient feed utilizer. COB meal with a little soybean meal added and good hay (in the winter), fresh grass and clean water, will result in five to six gallons of good rich milk per day for the average family cow.

2. It is true goats mature earlier and therefore produce earlier than a cow, but l have two cows that are 13-14 years old and still going strong! Goats don't normally milk past five years of age and don't live much longer than six years.

3. Housing for your cow doesn't have to be a problem. Cows, like goats, like a dry, clean bed to sleep in. A stall or shed big enough to lie in is all that's necessary. Cows prefer shelter from hot sun and rain but don't seem to mind cold weather.

4. Nancy's goats are easier on fences but - it takes a miracle to keep a bunch of goats in a single strand of electric fence. This one strand will keep the worst wandering cow in her place. Cows are very efficient foragers, requiring not much more grazing area than two to three goats. They also aren't as finicky an eater as a goat.

5. Skip to #6 - I can't deny that goats don't compact the soil as much as cows! After all we're talking a 1,000 pound cow versus a 100 pound goat.

6. Yes, I agree with Nancy on this one: goats are, due to their small size, easier to butcher. But in order to obtain enough meat to last a year (one cow) you would have to kill several goats. Therefore the amount of labor is about the same.

7. Okay, we will give this one to Nancy again. Goats do have lower-cholesterol meat.

8. While there is less initial investment with a goat purchase, a good calf can be bought for about the same amount as a good milking doe. Transportation can be a problem with an adult cow, but we have hauled many calves in the back seat of the car or cab of the truck.

9. I have owned both dairy goats and dairy cows. My experience is that cows are on the whole, hardier critters. I have cows in their teens that have never laid eyes on a vet.

10. On this one point I have to totally disagree! Goats are not easier to milk than a cow. It just takes longer to milk a cow because she is giving five times as much milk as a goat. I do most of my thinking, planning and daydreaming with my head resting against the warm flank of a nice clean cow. A good cow will stand quietly to be milked and seems to enjoy milk time. I've often wondered what she's daydreaming about while she stands there with that sleepy look, chewing her cud, and I am slowly but surely filling my bucket with her fine liquid gift. This milk is not homogenized, that is true, but the cream from this milk is what makes it all worth it.

11. TB and brucellosis are very rare now thanks to the strict government guidelines for controlling these diseases. Some states have been totally free of both for many years. The testing is inexpensive and both goats and cows should be tested.

12. Cows normally milk 305 days straight. If you have two cows you will always have plenty of milk. Nancy mentions the glut of milk from cows as a problem. Not on my farm! Extra milk will raise a pig, chickens, dogs and cats. I don't buy any dog or cat food as long as I have fresh milk to give them. They stay healthy and have the shiniest coats. Chickens love milk and will drink it and leave their grain if given access to both. My hens always lay better when they have milk to drink. just try giving a pig milk, scraps, or corn. You will soon find out which he prefers. I have had pigs that set up a terrible squealing racket when they saw me carrying that bucket of milk from the barn. Hogs grow faster when fed milk and can be butchered sooner than when grain fed. All this can be done with one cow and you'll still have plenty for the family to drink.

13. Once again I have to concede that goat milk is better for orphaned animals. But we have enjoyed camaraderie with friends and neighbors many times when homemade ice cream is on the menu made with fresh cow milk or cream!

14. A cow will stay clean given the opportunity to do so. My cows sleep in dry bedded free stalls. Most of the manure is deposited on a concrete alley way behind them. These stalls are designed so the cow cannot turn in them, she has to back out. Cows adjust to this type of housing easily and it is inexpensive to build. Bigger animals means more manure of course, but cow manure is a wonderful all-purpose fertilizer.

15. Nancy, my cows love me! They are very companionable. If I walk out where they are grazing, one of them always comes over requesting a good scratching or will follow me like a dog, waiting for me to stop and nudging my hand for that delightful bit of petting. After all, I can reach the places they can't. My cows are anything but dull! Each has a very distinct personality. Just let a stranger walk in among them. They won't have anything to do with them.

15. Granted, a cow is not physically capable of jumping into the back of a pick-up but a cow that is taught to lead can be taken anywhere.

All in all, as you can tell, I respect and admire cows. I have Brown Swiss and a few Jerseys. At this farm, we all become very attached to our bovine friends.

My children have grown up with cows and calves and many times can be seen romping and running around the yard with a calf in pursuit. Yes, calves do enjoy playing with humans. These cows and calves become a very valuable asset to any farm or homestead.

An old timer once told us "You'll never lose money owning a milk cow.' Barring illness or death, this is true. Considering everything a person can reap from the animal, the investment is very sound indeed.

The answer:

It depends on

what you like!

As with many "arguments," there are no answers to this one: some people prefer cows and some prefer goats, and that's that. (And of course, most people today won't have anything to do with either one.)

But this isn't an argument. The purpose is not to pit homesteader against homesteader, or animal against animal. Rather, it's to help those who are still thinking about a home dairy and haven't made up the minds about what to milk.

These articles bring out some of the pros and cons that should help in the decision.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Hamrick, Lou Ann
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Sep 1, 1993
Words:1222
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