09 May 2011

The Milch Cow
—1825, 1842, 1843, 1849—


Keeping Milch Cows
Cows, by good keeping, afford a greater clear profit. Give a cow half a bushel of turnips, carrots, or other good roots per day, during the six winter-months, besides her hay, and if her summer-feed be such as it should be, she will give nearly double the quantity of milk that she would do, if kept, during winter, only in the usual manner; and the milk will be richer and of better quality. When thus fed, they consume less hay and are less liable to several diseases which originate in poor keeping. Raw potatoes, as they commonly lessen the quantity of milk, ought not to be given to milch-cows; but if steamboiled they will not have this effect, besides being much more nourishing. In summer, milch cows should have the best or first feeding of each pasture-lot; they should have plenty of water and that which is good; they should have plenty of shade to retire to in the heat of the day; and be kept quietly, neither worried by dogs nor clubbed and stoned by children, nor driven too great a distance to pasture; for these all affect their profitableness in milk.
Best Food For a Milch Cow
Sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkins and ground oats are unquestionably among the best articles of food for milch cattle. These cause the milk and butter to assume a fine flavor and rich color, at the same time the quantity and quality are greatly increased.

Keep No More Cows 
Than You Can Keep Well
One cow well fed, will produce as much milk as two indifferently treated, and more butter; and if the cow be wintered badly, she will rarely recover during the succeeding summer, so as to become profitable to the feeder. Cows should by all  means be housed in extreme weather, and particularly those which give milk, or a failure in the quantity of milk will be experienced. Wherefore, instead of keeping 20 cows poorly fed, and but half of them stabled, sell ten, and give the remaining ten food in amount equal to what the 20 originally had, and you will receive quite as much milk and butter in return as was derived from the former mode of treating twenty. Potatoes, carrots, pumpkins, and ground oats, are unquestionably among the best articles for food for milch cows.

Marks of a Good Cow
As the marks of a good cow, Mr. Sheldon, at the Legislative Agricultural Meeting , in Boston, enumerated the following: A lean head, hazel eye, flat horn, small neck, open rib, large milk vein, bag running well forward and back, teats fair size, and standing well apart, and a thin skin. For working oxen, and for beef, Mr. S. thought the Durham had been an improvement to our stock. One reason why we have better cows now, is that they are kept better than in former years.


Woven into today's excerpts are five paintings by the 19th Century artist Julien Dupré (1851-1910). I will post more of this man's wonderful paintings here in the future. They provide us with a look at European peasantry, a way of life that is now gone but it is worth remembering and understanding as we study the Agrarian Nation of early America.

There was some question and discussion about the "pail ring" around the milkmaid in the Julien Dupré painting that I showed in the previous excerpt (#11). In the painting above, the milkmaid is using a wood frame instead of a metal ring, and the painting shows this forgotten implement in better detail (you can click the picture to see an enlarged view).

As for the almanac excerpts, please note that root crops and pumpkins were commonly fed to cows in the 19th Century. We will learn more about root crops for feeding farm animals in future excerpts here.


The next excerpt of Agrarian Nation will feature Maxims For The Farmer from Dudley Leavitt's 1866 Farmer's Almanac.

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odiie said...

Our milk cow just freshened three weeks ago and the amount of cream that she gives has lessened. I'm thinking I'll give her oats instead of the corn that she's been getting.
I feed root crops to my goats, but I'll have to make them share with the cow this winter.

The Edwards' said...

I've tried to get our Jersey to eat carrots, and she won't touch them. How do you get the milk cows to eat the root vegetables?? Do they need to be crushed, or shredded?

The Midland Agrarian said...

"Keep No More Cows
Than You Can Keep Well"

Sadly, that is not something one would see in a modern Ag publication.

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that roots needed to be chopped before feeding to cows. Most farms of the day had a root chopper. Cows were known to die from choking on roots that were too large. I'll have more to say about roots and chopping and cow choking in future excerpts.

Herrick Kimball

The Edwards' said...

Thanks,that would be great!