Figures you need to know to own a family milk cow for success

Figures you need to know to own a family milk cow for success
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Like any animal, milk cows have a cost to them as well. Most livestock will have about the same cost, in differing amounts. A cow will eat more than a sheep for example, but they both require feed. The main difference lies in the potential income they produce. 
Basic one-time costs (unless you break it or have a disaster), include shelter, waters, feed bunks or hay feeders, and fence. Now if you are blessed with abundant, year-round pasture, you may not need feed bunks or hay feeders. 
With a milk cow you will need some way to milk her. Especially if she is new to milking, you will want a stanchion. Yes, the idyllic walking out and milking in the pasture is nice, but not guaranteed to happen every time. 
Keep in mind barns and fences will require maintenance to keep them in functioning order. The older the structures, the more maintenance cost is typically involved. For ease of figures, just plan on a basic number per year. There will also be a cost involved in moving manure around if your animals are in smaller pen areas instead of pasture at any point. For more on fence design tips, check out the blog here
What your hay or grain feeder is made from will determine how long it will last. Wooden feed bunks outside may only last 5-10 years before they completely fall apart. Kept inside, they will last longer. Metal will last longer 15-20 years even outside. 
The nice part about a milk cow is they are used to you being around them, so if they do get sick, you can usually easily treat them, even if it is simply using the milking stanchion as a head catch to help you. 
One important thing to consider unique to dairy cows is breeding. It is NOT recommended to keep a dairy bull around for safety reasons. They are big, hard on fences, and often don’t respect your space. You will have to factor in what it will cost to get your cow bred. This is typically done through artificial insemination. You can pay your beef cow neighbor a breeding fee and use his bull. 
Now the fun part is the income! The obvious is milk! Even if you aren’t selling the milk to your neighbors, you aren’t buying it either, so be sure to factor that in. Even your cheese, butter and other diary products you are no longer buying. 
You will have extra calves at some point. The quickest dollar to figure is selling the calf after weaning. The different times when you sell and what weight the calf is will determine the price. 
If you’re up for some marketing, you can sell sides of beef or directly to the consumer. Keep in mind, this is going to cost more to raise, and you will have processing and marketing costs involved. Even if this is raising one to put in your own freezer, factor in those extra feed costs and the income from the beef you could have sold in. You don’t have to buy it at the store now. 
At some point your cows will age out and no longer produce calves. They still have value though as a cull animal, though it is much less than a calf. Be sure to factor this in as well. 
The easiest way to see all the expenses and income together is to lay out all the expenses on one side of a chart and the income on the other. Then total the numbers. Keep in mind one time cost should be spread out over the lifetime of the structure/equipment for accurate analysis. 
Now get figuring and go buy your milk cow!
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