COL Holy cow! Land of more milk

Several years ago, with two small boys, I decided having a milk cow would be much more cost-effective than buying milk at the store.

We waited with great anticipation for Louisa, our Holstein heifer to have her first calf. She was bred to a neighbor's Simmental bull, so as well as producing all the milk we would need, she would raise our beef.

She calved one early spring morning, and we were in business. But the trouble with milk cows is they have to be milked. They expect it on a timely basis and take no days off.

Being tied down by one milk cow is a nuisance. I can not imagine the work and commitment of running a dairy operation as a business. At a milking, Louisa would produce enough for the calf and two or three gallons for the house. She did this twice a day, every day.

We were getting more milk than we could use, and I was getting tired of milking every morning and every night. I suggested that my wife milk in the mornings so I wouldn't have that chore before I went to work. She explained she didn't milk cows, and that was the end of that. She had adapted well to life in the country, but there were limits to becoming a farm wife.


The pig, dog and cat were getting fat from drinking all the whole milk they could hold. At any given time, we had four or five gallons of milk in the refrigerator. We made butter, cottage cheese and ice cream. We tried everything to use up all that excess milk.

Finally, with a stroke of genius, I bought another calf for Louisa. This plan worked wonderfully.

When we needed milk for the house, I would lock the calves in a pen for a few hours. The rest of the time, the calves could have all they wanted. I bought a little Hereford that had been orphaned.

It is nice to see a well-thought out plan come together. Louisa loved the new calf like her own. Her own Simmental calf enjoyed the playmate, and I only had to milk when we needed the milk. When we were getting down to a gallon or two of milk for our own use, I would lock the calves in their pen in the morning before going to work.

In the evening, at my leisure, I could milk the cow for as much as we needed, and turn the calves loose. It even became possible to leave the farm for a weekend. Louisa and the calves could be turned out into the pasture.

With all the fresh milk they could drink, the calves grew like weeds as did our boys. When the calves got so large they looked silly nursing their mother, I put them on feed to be fattened for the freezer. I sold one calf to pay the expenses for feed and processing and had the other for a year's supply of meat.

We repeated this general arrangement for several years. Each time Louisa had a calf, I would hurry out and buy another. I think she approved as much as did I because she no longer had to rely on me to show up and do the milking.

And to this day, my wife still refuses to milk a cow.


Walter Scott, of Bloomfield, Iowa, is an outdoors writer whose columns appear in newspapers throughout the Midwest.

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