If you’re interested in buying Jersey cows, it’s quite easy once you know what you’re doing and how to go about it. The American Jersey Cattle Association (AJCA) offers a directory of Jersey dairy farms for each state. You simply contact the nearest dairies and ask, “Would you be interested in selling any cows?” You should expect to pay $1600-2000 for a pregnant Jersey cow. If you think you can sow sparingly and reap abundantly, you’ll soon learn you’re wrong. You get what you pay for and good animals are expensive. Realize, you’re asking to buy a cow that would provide the dairy with thousands of gallons of milk over the remainder of her life and produce a new $1000 pure-bred calf every year. The dairy is losing money when they sell a cow to you and you should be ready to pay generously for a cow that is going to pay itself off within a few months of milking ($10/gallon of raw cow’s milk, at 4 gallons per day will pay off your $1800 cow in 45 days…so don’t be stupid about spending money. It’s a great deal even if it cost $2500.). As long as you don’t kill the cow in the first 30 days, you will turn a profit. After she calves in May, your investment will have tripled in 10 months. Don’t be the stupid farmer holding onto his $5 bill afraid that he will be poor without it. The “love of money” and sloth (hoping to never work again once some money is gained) keeps many people poor. Spend it, work hard and turn it into $15. Then spend that $15, work hard and turn into $45, etc.. “He who sows abundantly, reaps abundantly.” Think of every dollar as a seed that needs to be planted. Only a fool would save his seed for fear of having no seed.
Anyway, there are three things you should require when buying a dairy cow:
1. It should come from an established dairy–not some random individual farmer with a cow for sale. (Again, you can learn the hard way if you wish.) A dairy will have breeding and milking records, all immunizations and vet records, etc.. You will be able to KNOW that a cow is healthy, calving regularly, etc. If you get hooked up with a good dairy, they’ll be willing to e-mail you pictures, let you visit the dairy and see some available cows, etc.. If the contact person seems like a jerk, find someone else.
Plus, they’ll be friendly towards the family dairy and may even be able to get you a cow that has been hand-milked before. I once bought a cow that had been sick and required surgery and then had to be hand-milked while recovering. I contacted my local extenstion agent to ask about the riskiness of buying a cow with that problem (displaced abomasum) in her background and was told that the surgery was no risk at all–totally routine and with 100% recovery the norm. The cow was perfectly healthy AND comfortable being milked by hand–a perfect deal for a family dairy.
2. “Pure-bred” is meaningless unless the cow is registered with the American Jersey Cattle Association. If you buy from some random farmer and he tells you the cow is “pure-bred” that may only mean that on his farm, it’s parents were Jerseys. That’s not what it means to be “pure-bred” as far as breeding and sales go. If you want pure-bred Jersey cows, you have to have registered cows. You need to see registration papers and they need to be given to you at the time of the sale. All the original owner needs to do is sign the cow over to you on the registration paperwork and then YOU can submit an ownership transfer with the AJCA. If you don’t see/get that paperwork, you’re a dumb-dumb.
3. It should be bred and confirmed to be pregnant. Most dairies follow a very strict breeding/milking schedule and breed their cows by artificial insemination (AI) in August for calving the following May–every year. They are bred in August and then checked to confirm that they are pregnant a month or two later. Therefore, you can buy a cow that has b een confirmed to be pregnant by a vet. She will give you a pure-bred Jersey calf (hopefully a baby girl). Moreover, if she has already calved before, she will be in milk if you buy her between June and March. In March, she will need to stop milking to prepare for calving. The first 70 days of milking (May-June-July) are the heaviest milking months and dairies will be less interested in selling then because they’re getting lots of milk (up to 8 gallons per day–which you do not want when you’re getting started).
4. The best time, in my judgment, to buy a cow in milk is October/November–(a) before the the weather gets too cold, (b) after the cow has been bred and is confirmed pregnant and (c) after its heaviest milking period is over.
So, you should look for three things in October/November:
(1) A healthy young registered pure-bred cow that has calved before.
(2) A cow that is confirmed pregnant with her second or third calf (don’t buy an older cow).
(3) A cow that is in milk now, but NOT in its first 70 days.
Once you get your cow home, you can milk from the time she gets home until the following March and she will give you a steady 3-4 gallons per day. Don’t worry about the dairy’s saying she was given 7 or 8 gallons per day–that was on a diet and schedule that you will not be able to maintain. You should be content with 2-4 gallons per day. She should calve in May and then the whole milking cycle starts again. The problem you wil have is what to do the next August–when it’s’ time to breed her. If you only have one cow, it’s very difficult to get her bred. An AI tech will not be eager to travel to a 1-cow farm and owning a bull is not a good idea for a 1-cow farm. It’s going to be hard, unless you already know a neighbor with a bull, or who has more cows and has an AI tech visit each year. Then, you might be able to bring your cow to his place for breeding.
You’re going to need to be patient in starting a family dairy–you can get it done, but it will take some work. Then, once it’s established, you can get your own registered bull and then every calf born on your farm will be a registered Jersey.
P.S. If you’re going to get into dairy cows, I recommend you also get some pigs. You’re going to have a lot of waste milk and whey and it’s better to turn it into ham and bacon than throw it away.