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A bears guide to keeping a milk cow

A couple milk cows can easily provide all the dairy for a half dozen bear families.

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If you have the desire and ability to keep a milk cow, it can be one of your biggest homesteading assets. The amount of food that one cow can provide for your family is amazing. Raw milk, home made yogurt, raw butter, and if you have the time, cheese. The quality of such homegrown dairy products is so much higher that you literally can not buy it from your local grocery store. In most cases the only way you can get access to food that real and that nutritious is if you grow it and make it yourself.

The nutrition your family will get from daily access to the raw milk is incredibly high. I have noticed that many of the local giants come from multi generational dairy families. There’s just something about that raw milk. If you want your boys to be above 21 rogans in height, keeping your own milk cow is going to raise those odds dramatically.

Buying a cow

I don’t recommend spending a ton of money on a cow. The best cow I have was a 2 year old Jersey in milk that I paid $700 for. You should be able to find a good cow in the $1000 range. If you are new to cows I recommend going to a local farmer and seeing if he will sell you an experienced milker. Ask him if he has any 3 quarter cows that he wants to sell. (sometimes a cow will dry off a quarter due to injury or mastitis and will only milk out of 3 teats instead of all 4). A 3 quarter cow will still give plenty of good milk, but is usually higher up on the farmers cull list so the farmer may give you a good deal on the cow.

If you are new to milking a cow, I recommend going with an experienced milker so that you aren’t both learning at the same time. Once you know what you are doing, training a first calf heifer to milk isn’t hard. But it can be very frustrating if you and the cow are learning at the same time.

Don’t buy milk cows at the sale barn unless it’s a whole herd sale where the farm went out of business or retired or something like that. If the whole herd is being sold you should be able to get a good cow out of it.

If its your first cow, buy a cow that’s already milking and bred back if you can (that will save you some hassle for the first year). When you go to look at a cow, bring a CMT kit with you and test the milk on the spot. The kit will indicate if the cow has a high somatic cell count and you can test each quarter individually. If the cow has a high SCC than you will likely have problems with milk quality and possibly mastitis. Pass on that cow and find one that is clean.

Cow care and feeding

Don’t pay for genetics. That gets expensive. Expensive genetics are for fine tuning an already successful farm. Most cows if fed properly will be great cows.

Mohawkfarmer Bear 2020

Keep your cow clean. This will prevent diseases, mastitis, and contaminated milk. Provide plenty of dry bedding in the winter time and good pasture access in the summertime. Keep your cow out of mud and manure and all will be good.

Not all hay is equal. Early, early cut first cutting is the best hay you will ever find. A pattern in the old Testament is that God required offerings from the first fruits of a harvest. There’s a reason for that. It’s usually the best.

Don’t be cheap by holding back on feed. Don’t try to save money by buying low quality hay. If you want your cow to be healthy and provide you with plenty of milk, feed only good hay, and plenty of it. Good genetics won’t do anything if you starve your cow. This may seem like common sense but I’ve seen it happen many, many times.

Of course, during the growing season, a well managed pasture is the cheapest and highest quality feed you can provide for your cow.

Once a day milking

The downside to keeping a milk cow is she needs to be milked everyday, even when you don’t feel like it. If you stop milking your cow, she stops giving milk. That being said, if time is limited due to your job and raising a family, you can get by with once a day milking. You will get less milk, but it will still be plenty to provide what your family needs. When the cow first has her calf and starts milking you may need to milk her twice daily for the first 3 to 6 weeks because of the flush of milk. But after that you can safely settle into a more relaxed once daily milking.

Milk Quality

If you put the work into keeping a milk cow, you want to be able to enjoy sweet, delicious, quality milk. Here’s some things to pay attention to.

Chilling – have a dedicated fridge to cool the milk down fast. This is important because if the milk is not cooled fast enough it will spoil sooner and have some off flavors. Quality raw milk if kept cold will last up to 2 weeks. Bottle the milk in half gallon containers. Larger containers just can’t cool down fast enough.

Equipment- If its not properly washed, your milk will develop off flavors and spoil faster. After milking rinse of the equipment with warm water and then wash with hot soapy water. A hot water rinse will cook the milk leaving minerals from the milk on the stainless steel. That is called milk stone and it causes problems by holding bacteria from one milking to the next. It doesn’t make the milk unsafe, but it will cause the milk to spoil faster shortening the shelf life. Your buckets should be nice and shiny when you shine a flashlight on the steel. If you see a white film, that is milk stone and you will need to use white vinegar or acid wash (from a dairy supply store) to get the milkstone off.

Somatic Cell Count – this is the white blood cells in the milk. There will always be some present but if the SCC gets too high the milk will spoil fast and will taste sour, or even salty if its really high. It will also reduce the yield of cheese you get from the milk. A high SCC (700,000+)can also be an indicator of mastitis, an infection in the cows udder. To prevent a high SCC keep your cow clean, feed her well, and provide her with a good quality mineral mix. Dipping the teats with an iodine solution before and after milking will also help prevent bacteria infecting the udder. For quality milk you want the SCC to be in the 70,000 to 100,000 range. The simplest way to check the SCC is to use the CMT kit.

Community

A couple milk cows can easily provide all the dairy for a half dozen bear families. Going in on a couple cows in order to share the daily care and responsibility of milking and feeding, as well as teaming up to make cheese and butter, can be a great way to enjoy the nutritious bounty without being overwhelmed by the work. Crush, grow, and milk a cow as you build your part of Beartaria!

Guest Article Written By,

MohawkFarmer Bear

@mohawkfarmer_bear on IG

Farming

Metaphor in the Orchard

Even with near perfect conditions and preparation, unforeseen challenges will arise.

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Our front “lawn” is an orchard. Apple, pear, quince, cherry and peach trees that our family started planting 4 years ago on freshly cleared, rocky Maine soil. It was dense woods full of maple, oak, beech, poplar, pine and hemlock.

 

 

A neighbor has a business cutting trees so we rented his wood chipper to make lignin rich, ramial hardwood chips for mulching our fruit trees. The rapidly growing, spring, green budding tops (ideally a little less than one Rogan wide branches) of native hardwoods are rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and more! All nourishing elements that will feed a healthy, dynamic soil web, and eventually you! Mulching your fruit trees with hardwood chips provides additional benefits by keeping grass back from the trunk of the tree, some pest protection from apple Borers and of course creating a fulvic and humic acid rich humus that retains precious moisture for a heavy fruit set. 

 

 

Mulching plants like Comfrey, “pest confusing” plants like Hyssop or common Tansy and beneficial insect attractors like Yarrow are great companions to plant next to fruit trees and contribute to a successful and multifunctional biodiversity. Most orchard companion plants have been used medicinally for ages for a variety of ailments. Fruit trees need our help to thrive, so if you fall from a ladder, standing on tip toes at the very top rung to reach a perfect fruit, put some Comfrey salve on it. 

Recently, it was not I who was injured, but one of my Garnet Beauty peach trees. 

I planted it as a whip in the best spot we had when it was only 8 rogans tall; Sun all day, on a knoll that has great drainage and protects from late frost, heaps of ramial wood chips, soiled hay from the sheep, chicken compost and consistent watering in dry spells. This past February, the tree was pruned and in the spring, it was covered with pink flowers that were very successfully pollinated. I ended up thinning a 5 gallon bucket of baby peaches that I then fed to the cows. It wasn’t enough.

 

After showing off our beautiful peaches to a fellow shepherdess in the rain, the following morning homestead inspection had an emergency! The fruit was too heavy. One of the main lower branches was split in two and resting on the ground! I propped the branches up with rough cut 2x4s, filled the injury with black tree salve and then bandaged it. I think it will be ok to finish out the season, but in February I’ll be pruning back some of the lower hanging branches. 

 

Even with near perfect conditions and preparation, unforeseen challenges will arise.Branches growing in the wrong direction must be cut and more thinning makes room for healthy, sustainable fruit while preserving the tree. Could it be that producing too much fruit, too fast can have complications? This was a reminder for me to rein in my projects and focus. 

Salt & Stone Bear 

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Business

Bear Trail Beef

One of those businesses with a crushing 2020 year is Winter’s Farm owned and operated by Jordan and Hannah Winters.

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For many businesses 2020 was a year of hardship, struggles and loss. For the businesses in this community however, it was the best year ever. One of those businesses with a crushing 2020 year is Winter’s Farm owned and operated by Jordan and Hannah Winters. Jordan and Hannah both spent their youth farming and started their current farm in 2015. They have provided grass fed and finished beef to their local community and have now added pasture raised pigs to the menu again. 

In late 2020 however they made the plunge and started Bear Trail Beef! Supporting our community is what we do best in the bears and like many we simply couldn’t wait to purchase a package of meat from their farm. No strangers to mail order beef we jumped on the chance to place an order excited to support a small scale farmer and family. When the package arrived even the kids were excited to unbox it! We ordered the Beartarian Basics- Mixed beef bundle It was delivered promptly, well packaged and included a lovely family photo as a thank-you.  Included in the box was 10lbs of ground beef, 2 Tenderloin Medallions, 2 Delmonico/Ribeye Steaks, 2 NY Strip, 2 Sirloin steaks, 2 Roasts of their choice (we got a chuck roast and a shoulder roast). Each vacuum sealed package of beef was a stunning deep red color with beautiful marbling. 

We have been purchasing grass fed beef for some time now and even just by the color you can see the difference between the beef from Winters Farm and the beef we had purchased. The steaks cooked beautifully to a wonderful rare to medium rare with ease. The ground beef was phenomenal and appeared more natural and unprocessed than any other ground beef we had tried yet. Everything was delicious and nourished our growing family well. The best part of the deal was knowing these animals lived a good life and that our purchase was helping to support a family like ours that was out there providing bears an essential service.

Their main goal and focus with Bear Trail Beef is to bless families with tasty, healthy, and nutritious meat, in order to grow strong heathy families and to provide access to homegrown food outside of the industrial food system. Here at the CameraBear household we would say they are absolutely crushing those goals! They are shipping to the contiguous US and you can order today at www.beartrailbeef.com . We are sure you will not be dissatisfied. 

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Farming

Fancy Pants to Overalls

It’s not all fresh carrots out of the ground and based moments in Beartaria, there is struggle. As each seed needs adversity to grow, the more it struggles the stronger it becomes.

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I had a dream, that one day little seeds will germinate as we procreate, this dream led the Bolar clan to pack up and leave Los Angeles where I was born and raised and take a leap of faith to move to middle America. We relocated to the rural part of a town of 8000 in Missouri. The laws are as based as they come in Babylon, the land is cheap and available, and only a victim mentality would be frightened by the stereotypes that the coasts and the cities of Babylon have to say about the area we decided to settle.

My wife and daughters had done some very small-scale gardening in our backyard that was mostly about fun for the kids and a cucumber or two to actually eat in about 2 sq. ft. I’m not good with following the advice I would give to all of you; start small, be realistic, and have fun with it. No one is having more fun than the bears, whether crushing in the culture war, in the development of our faith, or with our hands in the dirt. We did have fun but going BIG or going home is how I’ve always rolled so we went from 2 sq. ft to about 150 sq. ft, raised beds, a chicken area, coop, and chicken run around the garden for free ranging and bug protection. Mind you I work in Babylon and have no building skills or experience in gardening. We dove into the deep end and came out on the other side of our 1st growing season with as much success as lessons learned.  

We were successful in growing about 2/3rd of our crops but only successful in putting one third to good use. I have enough pickles to share with every bear across this realm but Brusselsprouts, corn, and a few other stables in the household were stillcoming from the grocery store.

 

Be thoughtful in what you plant; do you like it, will you eat it, how will you store it, when will it be ready for harvest, will it all be ready at once or spread out, and about 33 other things we should have figured out first.

Gardening is easy and complex at the same time and there are master gardeners amongst the bears that will be the 1st ones to tell you there is still a lifetime of learning in front of them. That’s part of the fun; as bears we are meant to crush, and crushing takes effort and challenging yourself to grow; pun intended. Growing your own food is not just fun and great for your family’s physical health but for your mental and family health as well. Sitting around watching a family movie can be fun, but watching your kids be a part of what your building for them and their future is priceless. Turn in their iPad and iPhones for some soil and seeds. Endless family bonding and growth will not only make your insides healthy but the health of your family as well.

It’s not all fresh carrots out of the ground and based moments in Beartaria, there is struggle. As each seed needs adversity to grow, the more it struggles the stronger it becomes. Think about what challenges you have. Not just bugs, dry spells, or flooding but are you and your wife on the same page, your kids, are you being realistic with yourself? Just as many lessons in this arena as when battling the squash bug without roundups “help”. Babylon is a heck of a drug and just because you have dreams and new ideas for your future, doesn’t mean you can or will want to leave it all behind. 

Being realistic is the best place to start.

It may not be too hard to take a week off and get your garden or other aspects of your homestead up and running. Have you thought about who is going to and how you are going to water, keep out pests, weed to stay away from Babylonian poisons? If you’re going even further who will feed these chickens and milk the goats and keep it all up and running daily. The Homesteads that fail have big dreams that don’t match their reality or reality of your Babylonian magic square standing.

Its great watching the Smiths Crush it, but that’s a lot of hard work and going from zero to Ursa Manor overnight isn’t in most people’s reality.

It wasn’t in Owens reality, one fence post at time, one garden bed, one goat, it was a process and if you’re like me the process can be overlooked. In hindsight that is the point, the process. The journey is the point that will lead to your destination and if you lead with logos in your heart and in your intention you may not get to where you planned but you’ll get to where your supposed to be.  

This is not intended for the green thumb bears; this is intended for the droves of bears inspired by the crushing of our tent post and fellow bears. Crushing isn’t always easy, but someone’s got to do it. Approach this with love, not fear of supply chains failing. If you’re going full homestead start with chickens, they are easy, and you don’t know what real eggs taste like until they’ve come from the backyard. We’ve all spiraled and gotten caught up in some nonsense Babylon is currently perpetuating, so don’t be so hard on yourself. But approaching anything including your 1st or 33rd growing season is so much better and sustainable when its about a lifestyle and not a toilet paper shortage. 

Keep Crushing Bears, this is just the beginning…

Bolar Bear  

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