One of the blessings of having a Jersey in your herd is all of that wonderful fresh milk. One of the curses of having a Jersey is…ALL. THAT. MILK.
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A Jersey can give you up to four gallons of milk per day. In order to get that amount, you have to milk twice a day and feed her a larger amount of rations. In our case, we have chosen to milk once a day, and allow her calf to have the rest. We do offer dairy feed, along with hay, but only in small amounts. The rest of her feed comes from pasture grass. Even with that, we can still easily get one to two gallons each day.
Milking occurs when a cow ‘freshens’. This means that she has recently had a calf and her milk production begins to flow. At that point, she is considered ‘wet’. A ‘dry’ cow means that she is either no longer producing milk, or that she has been dried up in preparation for giving birth.
Drying off a cow is usually done approximately two months prior to calving. This is done to allow colostrum to build up in her milk. When a new calf is born, it is imperative for it to receive colostrum. This milk contains the proteins and antibodies needed in order for the calf to survive. Since the Mama’s system will not allow for antibodies to pass on to the calf, this is compensated for with the proteins and antibodies in the milk.
The calf needs at least two quarts of colostrum within the first half hour to four hours and up to a gallon within twelve hours after birth. After approximately 24 hours, the new calf will lose the ability to absorb the nutrients.
We usually allow the new calf to have all the milk it wants for three to five days. This allows for mother/child bonding as well as assisting the calf to as healthy a start to life as possible. But once we begin milking, we do it daily until we dry her off. This is done at least two months before she calves again, to allow the cycle to come full circle.
We chose a Jersey cow for two reasons: 1) Jerseys have one of the highest butterfat contents of most dairy cows at 4%. This makes a rich, creamy, delicious butter. 2) In kindergarten, I was in a play. My role was Mrs. Bossy Cow, and she was a Jersey. Yep. My stage debut. And thank goodness my milk products turn out so much better than my acting abilities!
So what do you do with all that milk?
• Fresh milk – I have found that fresh milk is so much richer than that you get in the grocery store. On our first day of milking, I usually make a batch of fresh cookies. It’s a celebration of sort. Warm cookies, ice cold fresh milk. That flavor combination is definitely something to celebrate!
I think I learned my lesson about how fresh foods are so much tastier than store-bought when I made my first batch of butter. The final product is bright yellow, and I thought I had done it wrong. One taste told me I finally knew what ‘real’ butter tasted like. Now, we use as much of our fresh cream as possible to make butter. Fresh butter is made into a block with a butter mold and excess can be frozen for later use.
I never knew that this came in two different types. True buttermilk is the liquid that is first poured off of butter after it is solidifies, but before you add water and knead it. This type is liquid, yet delicious. The second type is made with an added culture, and is the type of buttermilk you get from the grocery store. I make this is quart jars, and usually have to make at least two batches a week, as my friends love it when I share with them!
Nothing tastes better than a sweet dessert topped with fresh whipped cream – especially if you are talking about Strawberry Shortcake. Skim your cream, whip. Add a little sugar, and whip until stiff peaks form. (You can find specific directions at the bottom of the Strawberry Shortcake recipe.) Delicious!
From soft whites to hard parmesan, there is no end to the types of cheeses you can make. My favorite go-to cheese making book is Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll. I also order my supplies from her at New England Cheesemaking Supplies. She has everything you can imagine for turning milk into dairy products. If you are a beginner, check out her kits. Mozzarella and Ricotta can easily be made with milk purchased in the grocery store. There is also a kit for making Farmhouse Cheddar. Yum!
Talk about breakfast fit for a King! Homemade yogurt is delicious when topped with fresh fruit from the garden and sprinkled with homemade granola. It is a perfect way to start any day!
Your livestock benefits from milk. Pigs are given milk that is past the point where we could safely use it for our own consumption, but not yet spoiled. We give a small dish of milk or yogurt to our chickens. My cats prefer it straight from the cow while we are milking, but they don’t argue about getting a small dish of fresh cream after the fact. And yogurt aids with digestive issues in dogs. (Please check with your vet on this one before giving your dog dairy products!)
The best part about all of this is that you don’t have to have a cow to make your own fresh dairy products. You can purchase milk or cream in the grocery store. Keep in mind, it cannot be homogenized. Homogenization breaks down the fat in milk to prevent separation. Which is why you don’t have that wonderful layer of cream on top of most milk you buy in the store. But look around – there are brands that do not put their milk through the homogenization process.
No matter your preferences, milk provides a variety of ways to enjoy it. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack at midday – you can enjoy this ‘white gold’ provided by your friendly neighborhood Jersey cow.