On this episode of Homesteady, Kendra and Aust pack up the family and record on location at Local Farm-, a dairy farm in Cornwall, Connecticut. The reason for the trip?
Kendra and Aust are interviewing cows and farmers to figure out for themselves: Is a family cow a good fit for our homestead?
Debra Tyler, the dairy farmer of Local Farm, compares a relationship with a cow to a marriage.
“Somebody I used to milk with said milking cows is worse than being married…and I say, there are good marriages out there, and a lot of advantages to good marriages. And there are a lot of advantages to the needs of a cow.”
As Aust concurs, it makes sense to “court” a cow, the way you would court a partner, as becoming the owner of a cow affects every aspect of daily life on the homestead.
Deb shares with us,“My main focus is getting people and cows together.” With this mission, Deb has opened her farm to interested cow owners. Twice yearly, she runs workshops on what the lifestyle of a family cow is like. She also offers other opportunities to individuals and groups on her farm, such as milking and tours, by appointment.
Not ready for a family cow? Even buying milk from a local farm can facilitate a lifestyle change. Deb has noticed amongst her customers, picking up weekly gallons of raw milk leads to the creation of family rituals; separating the cream, making butter, and spending time on the farm each week.
She says she finds families spending more time together, and more time at home, when they embrace any part of the “cow lifestyle.”
Aust and Kendra are particularly interested in a Miniature Jersey Cow. This is the type of cow Deb breeds on her farm. These cows are more expensive to purchase, as they are a specialty breed, but they hold several advantages over a full-sized cow. As they are five to ten inches shorter than the standard Jersey cow, they take up less space, and require less feed.
They produce, on average, one to one and half gallons of milk per day, which is a useable amount for a family of four or more people. It is possible to feed them exclusively on grass and hay, which saves on the cost of purchasing grain for a larger cow.
While owning a cow is a big time and financial commitment, Debra, Kendra, and Aust are quick to note the priceless intangibles of cow ownership.
Taking care of an animal such as a cow necessitates a family to develop a rhythm, as cows need to be milked regularly both to maintain their milk production and for their own comfort. In families with children, cows provide “meaningful” chores, as it is immediately evident to children the effect care taking has a on a cow.
“The family cow” could really be a part of the family. But cow ownership comes with numerous questions. How much is a family cow really going to cost? How much is a cow really going to give back?
To find the hard answers, we turn to Chris Hopkins of Stonewall Dairy Farm is where Aust and Kendra buy local raw milk for their family. An accidental dairy farmer, Chris has been working the farm for over ten years. Following his father’s death, Chris got a call from the person who formerly owned his farm, asking for help milking cows. Chris decided it was where he needed to be; he took his inheritance from his father and invested it into his farm. His goal? To help his community, looking to make the farm sustainable, and pass it on. With this in mind, Chris is working with the organization Land for Good to create a transition plan for passing his farm on to a young farmer when he is ready.
One of the biggest questions facing the industry today is: is small scale agriculture actually sustainable? Will the income exceed the cost? Large scale farms have received government subsidies since the 1930s. in the great production. Back then, 25% of Americans lived on farms, and drop in prices for farm goods led to Henry Wallace calling for subsidies as a “temporary solution” to protect the livelihood of what was then one quarter of Americans.
Sustainability goes beyond money, however. How do you allocate quality of life? What do you do to create sustainable income when our food practices have been specifically developed to make the food we eat very, very cheap? A rich dialogue including diverse voices such as Rudolf Steiner, the founder of biodynamic farming, modern small farmers like Gene Logsdon and naturopathic doctors like Dr. Ron Schmid have created a dialogue about small farming, the quality of the food we eat, and its effect on both our lifestyles on our health.
When people cut corners, the end result washes into our plate.
Accountant Mike: does he think cows make financial sense? In this financial breakdown, Accountant Mike weighs the costs of buying milk with the costs of owning a cow. Do the numbers work? Listen to find out.
Exciting News for Homesteady!
Homesteady is going to go weekly for the next two months! More of the content you love on all your favorite homesteading topics delivered to your podcast feed weekly. Love it? Your support will make continuing weekly episodes possible.
Mike and Aust are going to start doing LIVE financial breakdowns of the show topics on the web! We will be broadcasting every Tuesday night, at 9:00 PM, next two months, with Aust and Mike live on the Homesteady YouTube Channel, and on the Prepper Broadcasting Network at 9:00 PM, with a special Pioneer Q & A after the general webinar. Our next two topics will be meat birds, with our friends from the Growing Farms Podcast, and then The Family Cow: a Re-match. We encourage any of you with family cows to join us and bring your data on costs and benefits.
Will Aust and Kendra commit to a family cow? It appears they are still in the courting stage.
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