Category Archives: Dairy Cows

Vitamins for Mastitis??? Really?

We have a customer who has a Jersey cow with a chronic case of mastitis in one quarter. It almost goes away, comes back, fades… but never completely clears up. I offered him the combination that helped Cookie cow over come a bad case of mastitis a couple of years ago… vitamins!!!!

I gave Cookie some vitamin E, vitamin C and then a few multivitamins. I also used Today teat injectible in the infected quarters. Hit it from all sides!!!! From what I’d read, the Vitamin E was the greatest aid, but none of them hurt and quite honestly, I swear by the cocktail of vitamins. I haven’t had any issues with chronic mastitis this year!!!

The dosage depends on the size of the cow, and Cookie is a BIG girl. She’s half Guernsey / half Jersey, so I did 3 times the people dose and dropped a couple of extra vitamin E in for good measure. I am really hoping that our customer’s cow responds equally as well. I remember the frustration of a year with two cows taking turns battling mastitis. Here’s to healthy cows!!!!

Cheese Making 101

When folks find out I have a dairy cow, who when freshened gives me about eight gallons of milk a day, the first question I’m asked is, “What do you do with all that milk?”
My response… MAKE CHEESE!!!

Homemade cheese is probably one of my favorite abilities that comes with owning a dairy cow. The texture and flavor are unmatched, in my opinion, by any supermarket cheese.

So, how does one go about making homemade cheese???

For me, it’s all about the milk. I have a Jersey / Guernsey cross dairy cow… yes, Cookie cow… she’s the cow in the first photo on the blog. I have her bred approximately every other year and then milk for about a year and a half. Just after calving she’ll offer eight or so gallons of milk a day. That decreases as the calf gets more hungry and as she gets on in the cycle. Right now I’m getting between 2 to 3 gallons a day and milk just in the evenings. She calved about a fifteen months ago.

The milk, or more importantly, the health of the cow (or goat) is a HUGE factor in cheese making success. I am a freak for clean! I wash Cookie’s teats before milking. I will only milk into a clean, sterilized food grade stainless steel bucket. I wash Cookie’s teats again after milking and then strain the milk into sterilized glass jars. I use painters tape to date the jar of milk and rotate stock in the refrigerator. When straining her milk, I’m watchful of anything hanging out in the filter. When a cow is fighting an infection in the udder, she will have flaking in the milk. It’s like little milk clots that won’t dissolve in warm water. (Milk clumps that do dissolve are simply butter fat) The clots are created by an increased Somatic cell count (SCC) and are really increased white blood cells responding to an unwelcome guest, bacteria being the most common. If these are present… it alters the ph level of the milk and makes cheese making more challenging. So, happy, healthy cows make healthy, happy cheese!!!

Once you have your healthy source of milk you’re certainly on your way to cheese making. Now, anyone who looks up cheese making on the internet will almost certainly be overwhelmed by the pages and pages of information written for people who already make cheese. So, how to decipher all of the at information…

Cheese making is achieved by adding a culture to milk at a certain temperature and then once the milk has had time to absorb the culture, you add rennet to convert the liquid to a jello type mass. In the pre-culture days… milk was set out on the counter to clabber. What this means is that good bacteria in the air inoculated the milk and raised the acid level of the milk. That’s how different cheeses came to exist… from different bacteria (good bacteria) being isolated to a specific region of the world. Over time, these single strains of bacteria were isolated and cultures were created so you could make Provolone cheese in Texas instead of having to clabber milk in Italy. There are two basic types of cultures that are the foundation of all cheese. Mesophilic and Thermophilic… in essence – buttermilk is a mesophilic culture and yogurt is a thermophilic culture. Blending the two can create even more varieties.

Mesophilic is the foundation for Colby, Cheddar, Feta and the like… Thermophilic is geared more towards Italian cheeses like Parmesan or Provolone. Lipase powder is added for that provolone taste. There is a mold culture that’s added to create blue cheese… really the possibilities are endless! As you progress in your cheese making art form.. you sample different types of mesophilic cultures because each one does have a unique taste! We carry three different varieties of mesophilic cultures and I enjoy the Danisco the best. It’s a very mild flavor and makes a wonderful cheese quesadilla!

Now to the rennet… there are as many varieties of rennet as there are cultures! Rennet is an enzyme which turns the milk into curds and whey. According to histories of cheese making, people in Egypt carried milk in a calve’s stomach and found it to separate into curds and whey… this simple accident was the foundation of storing milk as cheese to keep it from spoiling! Due to modern science the enzymes in a calve’s stomach have been duplicated into a vegetarian form. There is still calf rennet available, but I use Fromase rennet with wonderful consistency.

So, where do you buy cheese making stuff???? Anywhere!!! Before we started Homesteader’s Supply, I bought cheese making stuff from many folks online. My biggest struggle was consistency of the final product. This was one of the reasons for creating Homesteader’s Supply! We have found, in our opinion of coarse, the best source for cheese making information. We only recommend this one book because it’s the only one we use out of probably ten we own. Why make other people buy ten books too and then only use one? Our resource isThe Cheese Makers Manual” by Margaret Morris. It covers all aspects of cheese making from large, professional recipes to home cheese making recipes. There’s a wonderful troubleshooting section that came in handy on many occasions.

I’ll share this story with you. I like to make home made bread… I posted the recipe in an earlier blog. Well, all of a sudden the cheese curds GREW once in the press… smelled yeasty and became spongy! Come to find out (from the troubleshooting section of that book)… cheese curds absorb EVERYTHING and if yeast is in the air…. it will over take any other cultures you have in the cheese! Lesson learned… I could NOT make bread and cheese on the same day!!!

Cultures were another thing we’d order before Homesteader’s Supply and get in a little ziploc baggie. Some times the cheese would turn out great, other times it would taste funny or too strong. Each time I made cheese I was careful to use exactly the same amount of culture. Our quest for consistent cultures to produce consistent tasting cheese brought us to carry Danisco, Sacco and Abiasa cultures. Each hosting a specific flavor but all very reliable for the same flavor each time!

Rennet…. I’ve tried calf rennet, Marshals, JunkIT, liquid, tablets… all sorts of rennet varieties.. The best for setting a quality curd in my opinion??? Fromase! We carry liquid and calf rennet, but the only vegetarian tablet rennet we carry is the one that works for us time and time again.

I share all of this with you so you don’t spend the money I did testing, trying and figuring it all out. It’s up to you certainly… try anything you want. Just know, I’ve done it too and these are the items I liked the best and why we carry them on the store.

Look for the next blog on cheese making for the recipe we use for a great tasting Colby cheese… my quesadilla favorite!!!!!

Loose Minerals for Livestock

I have been working with the local feed store trying to get loose minerals for Cookie cow and the calf. They’ve both been licking the ground lately and since I know I haven’t dropped molasses there, I figured it was time to fill the loose mineral feeder. (Licking up dirt is a tell tale sign that their bodies are craving minerals)
The feed stores out her don’t carry dairy cow minerals, just goat minerals. From what I’ve read, goats have much higher selenium needs than dairy cows do and an overdose of selenium can stop the heart… so what to do… READ and READ, well at least that’s what I did.
Apparently it takes a very large overdose to hurt your cows and the greater amount in goat minerals is not so much that it will kill you cow. If dairy minerals are available, they are much better suited for your milking girl, but so far Cookie is doing just fine on the goat minerals and thankfully she’s stopped licking the ground!

What do you do when loose minerals aren’t available for your animals needs?

Comments welcome!

Can My Cow Colic???

Good evening all… forgive any typo’s this evening… my day started at 4:30 a.m. and it’s now after 8:00 p.m. and I’m just getting to sit down. Normally I’d be in two hours earlier but my sweet Cookie cow had the bovine version of colic. Notice in the photo how the left side of the cow is very rounded and arching, while the right is short ribs and sunken in as normal. The left is full of foam and is trapped on top of rumen that is too dry to move as it should. You see, our daytime temperatures recently went from the mid to high eighties down to forties in a matter of twenty four hours. Sometimes, when the temps swing so fast like that Cookie cow forgets to drink enough water and her rumen becomes like biscuit dough. It should slosh when pushed into and Cookie’s left side was definitely not sloshing! Normally, as the rumen works the gas forms a bubble and the cows belch, with a dry rumen, the gas becomes foam and gets trapped. If left uncared for it can compress the lungs and actually suffocate the animal. I called Dr. Lane, my favorite livestock vet. He was on another emergency call and explained that it would likely be a few hours before he could get here. So, I had two choices. I could go get mineral oil and make a drench or I could wait for him and hope Cookie could make it… Well, you guessed right… I went to the store! I bought a gallon worth of mineral oil, some molasses and once home, pulled the Epsom salt from the livestock cupboard. From this I made a drench of sorts. I used warm water, about a quart, added a quart and a half of mineral oil and a half quart of molasses. Once all of the liquids are blended, I add two tablespoons of Epsom salt for the Magnesium which helps her rumen balance again. I make it this way, because if Cookie has any interest at all in food, I can at times get her to gobble up the mixture on her own, but this evening wasn’t one of those times. She had NO interest in food.

I don’t have pictures of the next part because I can’t hold a cow’s head, grab her tongue and pull it out of the side of her mouth, AND pour the mixture into her mouth all the while taking photos.. HA! I pour a cup or so at a time and release her head / tongue so she can swallow, breath, cough… you have to be VERY careful not to get the mixture in her lungs and without the tube it’s a best effort situation. I pour small amounts and allow her to swallow it on her own. She HATES the process but by the time I had half of the mixture into her belly, she began belching! MUSIC TO MY EARS!!!! I massaged the left side (the rumen side) and got the oil to mix with the foam, creating a bubble that she could burp out. After a half an hour she was sunken in again like a Jersey / Guernsey cow should be and was ready for dinner! Seeing her head in the red bucket made me a very happy cow momma! I hope this helps those of you with bovine, goat, sheep… any rumen bellied animal. Some are prone to this issue, others go a lifetime and never have any problems at all. I hope your critter is the latter.

Happy Homesteading!

Pseudocowpox Adventure May 2011

Early this spring I thought one of the milk cows was having an allergic reaction to fly bites. We don’t have too many horse flies out here in Arizona, but we do have flies. One day I noticed blisters up around the top of Sally cow’s front right teat. I put an ointment on the blisters and at the next milking found more on the front left teat. I also noticed little blisters around her legs down by the hoof. I thought she was having an allergic reaction to the fly bites so I ran up to the feed store the next morning and purchased a fly sheet. Sally was a good sport even though Cookie cow, my Jersey / Guernsey cross, kept laughing at her. For several days I’d put her fly sheet on during the day and take it off at night. The little blisters not only got worse, they also moved to the trunk of her body where she was covered by the fly sheet. Ok, now I was perplexed and dove into the Merck Veterinary Manual looking for symptoms and answers. The only thing that fit was pseudocowpox. My first thought was “This day and age??? Cowpoxs???” I called out the livestock vet and without telling him what I found, he looked at Sally and said.. “she has pseudocowpox, it’s a virus and will take from 3 to 6 weeks to heal up” He offered to take samples to the lab and told me to keep my hands washed well between milking Cookie and Sally so I didn’t spread it from Sally toCookie. It’s in the chickenpox family and luckily I’d already had chickenpox. He was right… within six weeks the blisters had all scabbed over and slowly healed up. I never did get blisters on my hands but apparently it was common in the old days for milk maids to get cowpox on their hands and even helped with the development of the small pox vaccine. See how great it is to have cows!!!

How Are Feed Prices in Your Area?

As I’ve said many times, I have a Jersey dairy cow named Cookie, a jersey calf and a gelding Quarter Horse named Dandy (he came named that way… I call him DoDa from the Yankee Doodle Dandy song) Anyway… I had two jersey cows up until a week ago when I took one, who was still in milk, into the butcher. (Another side note… I had to take her into the butcher – there was no way I could pull the trigger staring my Sally cow in the eyes)

Why did I take a pure bred Jersey cow who was still in milk to the butcher??? FEED PRICES!!! Sally had a detachment in her left rear quarter and it was a battle to milk that section. She stood statue still and was a great cow, I just had to hold up the bag and massage a lot to get the milk out. (Detachment is when the milk making part of the quarter detaches from up top and falls to the bottom of the bag) Sometimes the blood supply is cut off when this happens and the quarter dries up naturally. Unfortunately, that was not the case with Sally.

Now, back to our regular program…. So, I took Sally to the butcher, not because Cookie wouldn’t love to have her as a dry cow buddy, but because I couldn’t AFFORD to feed a dry cow buddy. You see a few years ago (2008 / 2009) when gas shot up to almost $5.00 a gallon, feed shot up. A three string bale of alfalfa (90 lbs or so) went from $8.99 to $14.99 per bale in a matter of weeks. (Remember, I live in Arizona where everything has to be trucked in) Corn, Oats and Barley also shot up as did Estrella alfalfa pellets and chicken crumble. Prices didn’t really drop too much until very late 2009 and the prices didn’t drop anywhere near where they started before gas skyrocketed… Then late 2010 gas prices started to skyrocket again… but went no where near as high as it had last time… peaked around $3.90 instead of $4.80 a gallon… FEED however went significantly higher than it had before. I am currently paying $16.99 for a light three string bale of Alfalfa, I’m paying $14.99 for a 50 # bag of corn, oats and barley with molasses and $11.99 for a 50# bag of Estralla alfalfa pellets… Before I took Sally to butcher – my feed bill was pushing $800.00 per month! I pay less than that for my house payment!

So, I’m curious, with the commodities market raking havoc on grain prices and gas prices jumping up, little down and then up more… how are you fairing with feed prices? Now you all see why I’m trying so hard to save up for land with pasture… mid west here I come!