Dear Mr. Rawles:
Whether you are bugging out, hunkering down, or just trying to live well in uncertain times, it is hard to beat a dual-purpose meat and milk cow as a portable and productive asset.
The family cow has historically been a family’s single biggest store of wealth. Until quite recently, in places like Ireland and Texas, cattle were the primary measure of wealth even for chieftains and barons. Some say that cattle still are the only measure of real wealth. Is anyone going to argue that wealth is better stored in Federal Reserve Notes, pieces of paper representing a debt owed to a private bank by a government’s treasury and guaranteed solely by taxing authority? Unlike fiat currency, a milk cow produces wealth. The dollar destroys wealth, having lost more than 95% of its purchasing power since the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1912.
Milk, Butter, Whey, and Cheese
Many people believe that raw, unpasteurized milk, has health benefits beyond that of the commercial milk available in stores. All I know is that raw milk tastes better, and our kids will not drink the stuff from the store. Our one milking shorthorn easily keeps her calf plus 7 teenage boys, 6 adults, 4 dogs, and dozens of chickens very well fed, with plenty left over for cheese.
Meat and Leather
A cow needs to keep having calves to produce milk, and these babies (definitely the males) start life as veal and end up as fine grass fed organic steaks, chops, ribs, roasts, and burger. Do you know where your beef comes from? We do. And what is more satisfying than wearing a leather jacket, belt, and boots made from your own stock. Now that is a real investment dividend.
Many people do not realize that the only difference between cattle and oxen is that oxen are cattle trained to pull a load such as a cart (for bugging out?), a well pump, or a plow.
One thing our family has proven is that one need not have grown up on a farm, or graduated from an agricultural school to own a dairy cow and produce milk and beef. If you have enough property to keep a horse, you can own a cow. However, the one thing you absolutely need is commitment. A cow must be milked twice a day. Either by you, a calf, or a very, very, good friend. Various breed associations (e.g. The Milking Shorthorn Association) can put you in touch with a breeder. If you are inpatient, like we were, buy a cow with her calf, or a cow that has already been bred.
Hamby Dairy Supply can provide you with stainless steel buckets, teat wipes, teat dip, filters, test kits, and sanitizer. If you have the means, the Surge Bucket Milker is a great thing. Specialty Bottle sells wide-mouth milk jugs and lids. Just wash them in the dishwasher after each use. Cheese making supplies and instruction books can be found at Cheesemaking.com. If you have questions, start at the Keeping a Family Cow message board.
Regards, – Ragnar in Texas