5 Myths Keeping You From Living The Milk Cow Life
In this series, I’m talking you through, step-by-step-by-step, the 5 most common myths about keeping a family milk cow so you can crush those negative thoughts and set yourself up for success.
By the end of this series, you’ll see that getting a milk cow is not only totally possible, but that it is absolutely within your reach.
In the previous posts of this series, we tackled Milk Cow Myth #1: I Have To Get Up At Dawn and Milk Cow Myth #2: I Can’t Leave the Farm or Go On Vacation. Those are big concerns, I know, but totally manageable, I promise.
If you haven’t seen them yet, go have a look and then come meet me back here. I’ll wait (chuckle).
Myth #3: I Don’t Have The Right Set-Up For A Milk Cow
If you’re talking yourself out of keeping a milk cow because you don’t think you have enough land or the money to invest in a stainless steel milking parlor, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
Let me tell you what you DO need.
The Minimalist’s Guide To Keeping A Milk Cow
I love lists. Like, really love them. (chuckle) And I’ve always been drawn to those minimalist guides you see all over Pinterest. You know the ones right? Ones like “The Minimalist Guide to Having a Baby: The only 5 things you absolutely must have.”
So here’s my version of the Minimalist Guide to keeping a milk cow. These are the absolutes:
- A small pasture
- Somewhere to milk
- A pail
And that’s it, really.
But of course you know I have more to say about each of these so let’s dive in.
A small pasture
Ideally, for one milk cow, you’ll have 1-2 acres. 3-4 is even better, but not a necessity.
Frankly, you don’t even have to have acreage. I know of several people who decided to keep a milk cow in their backyard. Literally.
It means they have other challenges – like needing to buy in more hay since the cow won’t have enough pasture to meet her needs, and manure is something they have to deal with a little more proactively – but what I mean to say is: it is totally possible to keep a milk cow in your backyard.
But if you’re not quite that adventurous, a couple acres is plenty to keep a milk cow. Depending on the health and vitality of the pasture, you may need to supplement with extra hay, but that’s not such a big deal. You’ll just need to prepare for it.
Bottom line: a couple acres is plenty enough room to comfortably keep a milk cow.
I feel like this is pretty self-explanatory: you will need a fence to keep your cow safe and where she needs to be.
But before you get off in the weeds thinking you need to dish out thousands of dollars to put in a fancy fencing system, let me assure you that you can do it for a lot less.
You’ll have a gentle, sweet milk cow. She might be a little feisty, but she’s not wild or used to wide open spaces. She’ll respect a fence. As long as it’s in good condition, you don’t need anything fancy.
There are a zillion fencing options and the price tags to go with them. I actually use a pretty low-budget system of step in posts and a single strand of electric poly wire. Simple, budget-friendly, and effective.
Somewhere to milk
I deliberately chose not to name this section “The Milking Parlor” because that term seems to come loaded with visions of concrete floors, stainless steel machinery, and miles of sanitized hose snaking in and out of the walls. That may very well be true for commercial dairies, but that’s not you.
So – where can you milk?
- Out in the pasture
- Tied to a post in the barnyard
Milking right out in the pasture is a beautiful experience. The sun will be just rising over the hills, birds singing, and a soft breeze will accompany the swish swish of milk into the pail. If you want to milk right outside, by all means, go for it.
Or perhaps you’ll bring her up to the barnyard so she’s close and just tie her to a post or a fence right there and milk her outside. The chickens will swarm around you, the barn cats will vie for a squirt. It’ll be lovely.
But it won’t be warm or clear every day and so you’ll need a plan for inclement weather.
These are my favorite low-budget options:
- In a woodshed or lean-to
- Under a carport
- Under a tarp
Almost every farm/homestead has one of these. A woodshed, a lean-to, or a 3 sided shelter are plenty good to keep the rain off your back while you milk.
And a carport (or garage!) works great too. In fact, the concrete floor can make cleaning up extra easy.
And barring that, you can rig up a tarp to milk under. A tarp costs just a few dollars at the hardware or feed store. You can tack it up against the side of the house – or the green house, or shed, or outbuilding and there you go: DIY milking shelter.
It won’t be fancy, but it’ll be plenty enough to keep you dry.
And of course, if you’ve got it, you can absolutely go ahead and milk where I do:
- In the barn
When we first moved to the farm, the barn hadn’t housed animals in more than 30 years. When we were getting ready to bring Sandy home, I cleaned out all the junk and trash and old tractor parts from a corner of the barn, fixed the swinging door to the outside that had been nailed shut, and tada! Instant milking shed.
It’s not a big deal, certainly not fancy, but it’s shady in the summer and keeps out the wind in the winter. It’s perfect.
I’ll bet you can think of somewhere right now on your own place that you could repurpose as a milking shed. All you need is a roof to keep off the rain. Everything else is gravy.
This too seems a bit obvious, but you’ll need something to catch that liquid sunshine. It doesn’t matter a lot what kind of pail you use; it just needs to be clean and sturdy.
I use a stainless steel milking pail. Be sure to choose one that has no seams (seams can be difficult to clean and bacteria can get lodged there).
I have friends who use food-grade plastic buckets.
In a pinch, I’ve even milked into a stock pot.
All this to say: you’ve got options.
Just remember to bring a lid (even if it’s simply a clean towel draped over the top of the bucket). You’ll want to keep any stray bits of dust or straw from falling into your fresh milk.
You’re Closer Than You Think
And that’s it. A small fenced pasture, somewhere low-budget so you can milk out of the weather, and a pail are the only essentials you need.
Of course you can add accessories. You’ll probably want a halter and rope and a feed bin or two. You’ll want a few supplies like milking rags and udder balm, and a few essential veterinary items on hand.
But if we’re talking big-ticket infrastructure, I bet you’re closer than you think.
Keep Learning in Milk Cow 101
We go over in depth all the supplies you’ll need in Milk Cow 101 – from big-ticket infrastructure (including a lot more detail about fencing and shelter) to every day milking supplies and how and what to stock in a vet kit.
So if you’re getting more and more excited to dig in and learn what you need to bring home your very own milk cow, join the waitlist for Milk Cow 101 today.
I’ll bet that day is closer than you think and I want to help you get there.
When you join the waitlist, you’ll be the first to know when enrollment opens and you’ll be ready to learn everything you need to feel confident and prepared to make that dream happen.