I have been so excited to bring this episode to you all because I get so many questions about our dairy cow! Angel Turner was the perfect person to join me in this conversation. She has gained a great deal of experience with dairy cows in just a short time. It has been less than a year since Angel brought home her first family milk cow, and since then, she has taken on the task of halter breaking over 15 milk cows and matching them with families. We could have talked forever about all things dairy cow, but we managed to address the most frequently asked questions in the time we had together. If you are considering whether a family milk cow might be right for you, this episode will give you a peek into both of our journeys of getting started with owning dairy cows.
In this episode, we cover:
- What it’s like owning your first dairy cow
- The one thing you should always do before buying a cow
- Preventing and treating mastitis
- How much land you need to own a dairy cow
- Breeding considerations
- Calf sharing and weaning
- Making the most of the acreage you have
- Feeding your dairy cow: grass, hay, grain
- Learning as you go in homesteading
- The economics of owning a dairy cow
- What it looks like to travel when you own a dairy cow
Angel and her husband Gabe started homesteading on a very small scale. A few chickens, a small garden, a lamb or goat here and there. But as they grew their family in their 10 years of marriage, they began to see the importance and benefits of the homesteading lifestyle for so many reasons. Angel and Gabe are passionate about taking their family back to a more simple way of living that connects them with the land and animals. They are now pursuing farming full-time and very much in the beginning stages of that journey! They also want others to see their potential no matter where they are, so they have begun teaching homesteading skills on their blog.
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Lisa Bass Welcome back to the Simple Farmhouse Life podcast. Today, I am so excited to bring on Angel from @AngelRoseTurner over on Instagram to talk about dairy cows. I get a lot of questions on just the logistics of keeping a dairy cow, if someone on a small farm can do it, if you need a lot of acreage, what do you feed them? Is it something that is going to require so much of your attention that you can never leave your house again? So she and I are just going to have a conversation about that, about some of the things that we’ve learned, stories that we both have from keeping cows, and all of the learning experiences that go along with that. Plus, if you need a large farm to have one. Spoiler alert: you don’t. She and I both have pretty small farms, pretty small pastures. She actually feeds her cow hay year-round. So anyways, let’s dive into the conversation and I hope that you learn a ton.
Lisa Bass Thanks for joining me. I get a lot of questions and just curiosity about having a dairy cow. Not necessarily everybody even wants to have one. Just how it all works. Some people just even want to understand how it works so that whenever they’re finding a local farm to get dairy from, just the whole process is really interesting. And so, I thought it’d be fun to have an episode dedicated to it. I did one when we first got our cow, but I’ve obviously—since we’ve been milking now for eight months—I’ve learned a lot. A lot of things.
Angel Turner Oh wow. It’s amazing. We actually got our first dairy cow last May. Since then, we’ve went through 15. It wasn’t so much that I was buying them to keep. Once we got Maggie, I started buying them and breaking them and then matching them up with families. But it’s been a very interesting journey.
Lisa Bass That is.
Angel Turner Yeah, I love it.
Lisa Bass Wow, you have a lot to share, then, about this.
Angel Turner Yeah, we enjoy it.
Lisa Bass You just had cows that you basically— were they a heifer so that they had only had one calf and they were a little bit wild? Or what’s your story there?
Angel Turner Very wild. The reason I got into breaking cows was because when I got Maggie, the man was like, “She is so broke to milk. When you come get her, you can field milk her.” And I went and got her—and we drove four and a half hours to pick her up—and it was very apparent when I picked her up that she had never been milked before. And I was like, “We’re already here? So we’re just going to have to get her.” So we brought her home. She had a calf on her, and I highly recommend that. If you’re getting a cow for the first time, I would definitely, make sure you have a calf because it’s nice in case you’re unsure of what you’re doing, you have the calf to milk the cow no matter what. But we brought Maggie home, and she was not broke. I was terrified because I’d never even been around cows before. I just knew I wanted to do it. But I had no previous— I’ve always had chickens and all that. I’ve had everything, but cows.
Lisa Bass Not a thousand pound animal.
Angel Turner No, no. And I was so intimidated watching her walk around the yard. I’m like, “This is crazy. I have to milk her.” And it was just a process. It was really interesting. First two weeks, I cried a lot. But we did it, and I ended up breaking her through a series of rope tying her legs. I would tie the front legs forward, and then the back legs— I would hobble them. And it basically broke her and trained her that “Okay, when I’m in the milking stall, I don’t move.” And cows, they’re very, very receptive. So she learned very quickly. It took about two weeks, but after I did that, I was like, “Oh man, I love this. I absolutely love this.”
Lisa Bass Yeah, it’s interesting—once you’re used to it, and once your cow is used to the routine—how not big of a deal all of it actually is. But there is that really intimidating learning curve. When we went and got ours—like you, we drove four hours. We went to Kansas in the southeastern part of Kansas, and she didn’t really have a whole lot of information for me, except for that she was bred. She was AI’d and that she should be bred. And that was it. Whether or not she’d been milked before— she was just a nurse cow. I really wasn’t sure what to expect. Whenever we got her off the trailer at our house, she literally knocked me to the ground. She charged me and knocked me to the ground. My husband got it on film, but we didn’t put it on YouTube because— you know? I don’t know what kind of comments I would have gotten for that. Who knows? Yeah, but
Angel Turner Oh my word. One of those things. It’s amazing what happens with cows.
Lisa Bass Yeah. And I grew up around cows, so I felt like I was pretty comfortable and knew my way around a cow. I grew up in 4-H, and so I had to tame every year a steer for the fair, but still, a thousand pound animal. It’s always a little bit intimidating.
Angel Turner They’re all different. They’re all different. I’ve went through 15 dairy cows and it amazes me that their personalities are all different. Do you have a Jersey or what do you have?
Lisa Bass Yeah, we have a Jersey.
Angel Turner Okay, you’ve got a Jersey. The Jerseys are kind of spunkier I find. They’re a lot more personality. We have a Jersey and then we have a Guernsey. And the Guernsey, she’s just chill and laid back. And then my Jersey is just— she’s wild. She’s something else.
Lisa Bass The first cow we brought on to our homestead was actually a Guernsey calf. We got her at four months old. And I halter broke her. Later that fall—it was fall of 2020—my sister was having a wedding in our barn. So we moved the calf to my other sister’s farm, so that way she wouldn’t be in the stall or just around whenever we had all of these guests. She’s really loud, too. Even people don’t have cows— just so you know, calves have this deep—some calves—have this deep, loud— like, they sound like a bull. We wanted to get her off of our property for the wedding. When we did that, we sent her off to my sister’s farm. At the same time, I was like, “You know what, I don’t want to wait that long because I need to wait until she’s about 18 months to breed her, so we’re still looking at two years from milk right now.” So I ended up leaving her there and getting a Jersey that was already bred pretty much like the week after the wedding. So that’s who we have now. The Guernsey is at my sister’s. She is now bred by my sister’s Angus, and so my sister will be milking her later this fall. But I just wanted to get ahead. I’m like, “We’ll have been milking over a year once she’s finally ready.” So I’m like, “I don’t really want to wait that long.” I’m glad we took that step. But people always are asking me, “What happened to your Guernsey?” I’m like, “She’s tame as can be. I halter broke her, but I didn’t think about how long that process would be.”
Angel Turner It is a long process. I’ve always wanted milk cows, but it took a while for my husband because, like you say, it’s a very intimidating thing. You just don’t know what to expect. Neither of us have ever been around cows. So it took him a while. But finally, we started looking—it took about eight months—and we were going to get a baby little calf. And then I was like, “You know what? That’s just going to take so long. That’s going to be a long process.”
Lisa Bass Yeah, like, I don’t know why that was— it just sounded maybe less intimidating. But then after I had her all halter broke, I’m like, “Okay, now we wait a year and a half before we have milk.”
Angel Turner Yeah, a long time. Oh my goodness. We started getting— I would just get little heifers that had just had their calves and break them for families. I wanted to gain experience because I have plans in the future for different things, but I wanted to get as much experience as possible with milk cows. And it’s crazy, when you start going through them, there’s so many different things you learn. For example, when I first started buying the cows, I would just go pick them up, you know, whatever. Now, when I go pick up a milk cow— I can’t stress enough to people, if that cow is in milk, take a mastitis test with you. Because that is one thing I learned the hard way. I went and picked up a cow, brought her home and I started milking her and I’m like, “Wait a second, she’s got mastitis.” So now every time I get a client, I’m like, “Make sure that you take a mastitis test with you when you go buy that cow if it’s in milk.” Because that’s something you don’t want to end up with.
Lisa Bass So what do you do? Do you just milk her out a little bit and dip it in? I have no clue what a mastitis test, how it works.
Angel Turner Okay, so a mastitis test is like a little piece of paper, and it will have four dots and you basically just go milk each quarter just a little bit on each of those little dots. Most of them will turn blue if it’s got mastitis. It’s a very simple thing, but you want to make sure you do that because I bought this cow and brought it home and I was like, “Oh my word.” That’s just a whole can of worms you don’t want to open.
Lisa Bass Yeah. We never had to deal with it—so far, ever—and so I’m curious what the process is like. How do you deal with mastitis?
Angel Turner It was a long process. It honestly took me forever to get that cow cleared up. When you milk a cow, you know you have to milk them all out, unless you’re calf sharing. But if that cow has mastitis, you have to strip every last drop. Wait a couple minutes and then strip it again. Then we did a series of— there’s something called Dynamint. I cannot say how amazing that stuff is. It’s basically essential oils in a cream and you rub it all over the udders and that goes in and fights the infection. And then you have to use antibiotics if you can’t clear it up. And this girl, I had the hardest time clearing up. We finally did get her cleared up. But you just don’t want mastitis. You do not want your cow to have that. It’s a very hard thing to deal with.
Lisa Bass To prevent it from happening, what are some of the tips that you have if someone does have a first freshened?
Angel Turner If you don’t want your cow to get mastitis, make sure that you milk them every day on time and you milk them out completely. And clean. Cleanliness is super important. You want to make sure that you’re keeping your cow clean. You’re cleaning them before you milk them and then after you milk them, obviously, you want to do the iodine dip. If you keep your cow clean and you keep your cow milked out on time, it’s very simple to prevent it. But once it sets in, it’s not simple anymore. It’s a very hard process to get through.
Lisa Bass Okay, yeah, that’s something I definitely want to avoid. When our cow first freshened, her milk for a little while tasted salty and we were told maybe that was a sign of mastitis, but it never— I mean, it just cleared up after about a week or two. It didn’t taste salty anymore, and we’ve never had any trouble since then. Yeah, so we didn’t have to do anything.
Angel Turner That’s actually super common. It’s usually like a very acute case of mastitis when you see that coming on and salt does mean mastitis usually. But if she had just freshened, more than likely, she just had a very, very acute case of it, where usually that will just clear up on its own. Maggie had the same problem when I got her.
Lisa Bass Okay, so tell us about your cow, Maggie, and how many calves she’s had. You could tell us about your farm, too, how much property. Because I think some people think, “Oh, I want to have a dairy cow, but maybe do I have enough property? What do I need for this?”
Angel Turner Well, interestingly enough, we don’t have a lot of land for a cow. I have to feed my cow year-round. For the longest time, we thought we had 15 acres because that’s what was zoned, and come to find out, we’ve only been farming on 10 acres. It’s not farmable land. We’ve had to literally work it really, really hard. It’s mostly hills and trees, and we’ve just had to clear out just enough spot for the cows. Then we’ve taken it up into the forest as well. But we have to feed year-round because we simply do not have the space for them. Maggie has had one calf and we’re actually working to get her bred right now because it’s about that time for her. But when I first got her, she was just so wild and I was honestly— like, I almost sold her a few times because she was so— she’d get excited. She’d run at me. I didn’t know if she was being aggressive. But then the craziest thing happened. I bought my Guernsey. I bought my Guernsey last November and brought her home. And the Guernsey is very respectful, very calm, very sweet. But she sees me as the herd leader. Oh, and Maggie’s below Aiden. Aiden is her herd leader. So where Maggie has seen Aiden and respecting me, Maggie gives me the utmost respect now. It’s amazing. It’s very crazy. They fall in line with their herd leaders.
Lisa Bass Yeah, and they’re very, very routined.
Angel Turner Yes, very. Oh my goodness. If I am not down there to milk Maggie at the certain time— we only milk Maggie once a day because she’s a low producer. We only milk her once a day, but if I’m not down there right at the same time, it throws everything off. She won’t even come into the stall. If I’m like 15 minutes late, she won’t come into the stall. She’ll throw a fit. We have to stay on routine. It sounds intimidating, but it’s really not because it just becomes a part of your daily routine.
Lisa Bass Yeah, it does. Does she still have a calf or is the calf long since weaned?
Angel Turner Oh no. No, no, no. We wean at seven months. I find that to be the sweet spot for our cows. So we weaned her at seven months and we were actually going to get her bred back immediately, but we had trouble with our AI guy. So we’ve been kind of in a pickle with that. So now as of next week, someone’s going to be just bringing a bull. Because to be honest with you, I thought getting someone out to AI would be easy, and it has been a nightmare. That’s something that people don’t think about. It’s hard.
Lisa Bass Well, the whole breeding thing is a whole thing. And I want there to be some secret solution that’s really easy. Because my friend had trouble with AI, and so she bought a Jersey bull. And since she lives nearby to me, I borrowed her Jersey bull and we had him for two months. But that was quite the experience. I don’t know if you ever had a bull.
Angel Turner I have, and I sold him very quickly.
Lisa Bass I was going to say, “I don’t know how long you’re planning on keeping him, but—”
Angel Turner Especially Jersey. I’m scared of Jersey bulls. I’m scared of Jersey. I find them meaner than any other bull.
Lisa Bass We had a Jersey bull on our farm for two months. He ripped gates off hinges. He took his water and hid it in the woods. He got out at night because he ripped gates off hinges and we had to get him out in the middle, like when it was dark outside. It was very interesting. So yeah, that’s a whole thing.
Angel Turner That’s pretty typical for Jersey bulls. We sold ours because once they hit a certain age, there’s really no helping them. I’ve heard they’re the meanest bulls of all the cow breeds actually. They’re ornery.
Lisa Bass I was pretty convinced based on all the dairy cow research I’ve done that he was going to kill me or my husband. So we were very careful. But it was a very interesting experience. So what kind of bull are you going to get then for Maggie?
Angel Turner So honestly, I wanted a Jersey just because I wanted it to be a purebred, but I’m too scared to bring a Jersey back onto the property. So we’re looking at— my friend has a Guernsey bull. And so I was going to see if they could bring him over. So they’re supposed to actually deliver him next week. So I’m excited. I don’t know how it’s going to go.
Lisa Bass Are you going to keep him for one month or just hope that it happens?
Angel Turner I’m going to keep him for a month just because we try to track her, but it’s really hard. So I’m like, “You know what, I just don’t want to worry about it.” So we’re just going to bring him for a month get out.
Lisa Bass Let him figure it out. See what happens. So that’s what my thought was. We ended up keeping him two, because I was like, “I really want to make sure because of all the hassle of getting a bull and bringing the bull back.” But we still don’t know because we got him in November, and we just haven’t— I haven’t had a vet out to see if it worked or not. But I’m really hoping because I’ve heard a lot of AI non-success stories, and so I’m a little bit worried about how that all is going to work. But tell me a little bit more about your weaning process because our calf is—let’s see, she was born in June—so I know I need to wean her. But for those of you who don’t know, if you don’t have a calf on the cow, then you have to milk no matter what, whether you’re out of town—anything—because the cow will get mastitis if they’re producing milk and nothing’s taking it. Whereas my thought with keeping the calf on—even though she’s so old— and here’s the thing, we’ve never gone out of town at all.
Angel Turner Yeah, you sound like us.
Lisa Bass But theoretically, we could leave if we wanted to. I’m new to this, so I don’t know at what point do you just have to wean them?
Angel Turner I mean, honestly, they get to a point to where the moms will wean them theirselves. I find it easier to wean them when they’re seven months, or between five and seven months kind of seems to be the sweet spot. And I just do it cold turkey, and it’s hard for about a week. But after that, they’re totally fine. So I just separate them basically.
Lisa Bass Yeah. At that point, do you then milk twice a day?
Angel Turner Yeah, that’s what I did with Maggie. We we took the little calf off of her. And we paddled the nose. You know what I’m talking about where you put the little paddle on their nose? Okay, so there’s like a little clip and you can actually just— it doesn’t hurt the cow or anything, it’s not uncomfortable—they just don’t like it because they cannot nurse. If you do not have the setup to separate your cows, you can get a nose paddle and it just goes right into the calf’s nose. So when the calf goes to suck, it can’t because there’s that little paddle right there and it keeps them— so you don’t even have to separate them, which is really nice. I separated mine just because we had a little spot. We had a little paddock for them. But we did bring in one calf and I actually paddled her nose. It’s very simple. But Maggie, I milked her twice a day for two weeks and then I started slowly— I did a very slow process. Even though Maggie’s not a high producer, I did not want mastitis setting up. So we just started slowly bringing those hours closer and closer. And then finally, we just went to one day. I would just check to see how full her bag was. She did great. She had no trouble. I would be very weary of milking a high producer once a day. I tried that with one of the cows I was breaking for a friend, and I just didn’t feel comfortable with it. So we went back two times a day.
Lisa Bass So when you say a low producer, what what do you mean? For us, I think my Jersey is probably a low producer. She raises her calf and then we get a gallon a day, but that’s it.
Angel Turner Yeah, that’s perfect. That’s perfect. Maggie is between a gallon and a gallon and a half in one milking. And then two milkings obviously would be three gallons a day. I think anything above four gallons would be a high producer.
Lisa Bass Okay, we’ve never had that. But then she has always been raising her calf and I know that she nurses a lot, even though she’s like eight months old.
Angel Turner That’s awesome that you’re even getting milk, though. Do you separate them?
Lisa Bass Yeah. We separate at night. We have a little a little pen where they just are separated by a cattle panel. And at first, she nursed through it. We would be like, “Why is there no milk?” And then it turns out she nursed through it. Then the cow started holding milk back. We actually have to have the calf pull down the milk every morning.
Angel Turner Oh wow, I’ve heard of that. I’ve never seen it, but I’ve heard of it. Do you get cream at all?
Lisa Bass Only when we do that. So I didn’t discover it for a while. She just kept declining. I’m like, “Why are we getting a quart of milk? This is like milking a goat.” And then one day— I forget what happened, I think the calf accidentally somehow got to her. I was like, “Oh no,” and I pulled her away. I was like, “Oh my goodness, her balloon just filled.” Then that was the routine. It was like a balloon. It was like completely empty. Then all of a sudden, full. She wouldn’t let it down for us.
Angel Turner Is that not crazy? It’s amazing. Yeah, yeah. That’s great. I’ve heard of that. I’ve never seen it myself, but I’ve heard of that.
Lisa Bass Yeah. So I don’t even know—whenever we do wean her—what we’ll do about that. We plan to keep her because she is female. I want two because—in order to not have to worry about this whole AI bull thing that’s so annoying—I’m thinking what we’ll do is we’ll every other. I’ll send one off to my sister’s farm for a season and then bring it back. And then that way, I don’t have to worry about that.
Angel Turner That’s why we got two. That was the whole point of us getting two cows. Like I said, it was really hard to get my husband on the train at first, just because he was like, “I don’t want you overwhelmed.” You know, we’ve got a lot going on. I homeschool, all that. And then once we got it, we were like, “Hey, we got this. Like, this is nothing.” So then he was like, “Hey, let’s get another one.” I was like, “Wow, really?”
Lisa Bass Yeah. My husband’s the same. He didn’t grow up on a farm or anything like that. It was my job completely—because it was my idea—up until I had my baby. And then I was inside for my two weeks postpartum, just nursing, laying in bed, and he started milking. And then it was cold. And—long story short—I haven’t gone back to milking yet.
Angel Turner Are you serious? That’s awesome.
Lisa Bass I’m thinking in the summer, whenever I put him on my back, I will go back to it. But right now, yeah, it’s like all my husband. I really want it to be my kids’ job completely at some point. I’m still at the point where I’m like, “I don’t know how well you’d get it done and we definitely don’t want mastitis.” I need to start transitioning more into that being something that they do. But so far right now, with it being winter and everything, we’re still getting familiar with all of this. But I think I understand how it all works. The breeding thing is still a little iffy for me.
Angel Turner I don’t think that gets easier for anybody, honestly. That’s just been the drama on our place was getting the cow bred. I’m like, “This is never going to happen.” I still have Maggie and she’s not bred. She calved last May, so I’m in a time crunch.
Lisa Bass Yeah. For those who don’t know how it works, usually you want them bred back every year. You want them—at about three months after having the calf—bred back. Then it’s a yearly cycle where they are in milk for 10 months, you wean them about two months before they calve That way, they have a chance to recover, and then repeat, repeat, repeat. The process, really— it’s going to be a constant issue. Which is why the idea of having two really is great for me. Which we have them because we have June, who’s our our cow, and then her calf, Ginger. They’re both female. They’re both Jersey. And so I think they’ll just rotate being bred and going off to my sister’s farm or my friend’s farm or whoever has a bull. I don’t want a bull anymore.
Angel Turner Yeah, I don’t either. I mean, if we had more land and it was further back. But I don’t want one near my house at all. Not where my kids could just get in there. They scare me. I’m so scared of bulls.
Lisa Bass Yes, that’s just it. My friend and my sister, they both have a lot more property. They’re more set up. We’re a very small operation. We have seven acres and like you, it’s very wooded, hilly. We feed hay pretty much year-round too. We can feed way less in the summer.
Angel Turner So we’re on the same page.
Lisa Bass Yeah. Our whole property is fenced in. So what you can find on seven acres of woods is there, but there’s a lot that we need to do. We’ve only been here three years, so there’s just not a whole lot of pasture. So they definitely have to be fed.
Angel Turner Ours is just— I mean, there may be— I couldn’t even say comfortably. But honestly, most of our land is like straight up a hill and it’s all wooded. I was even like, “Okay, maybe I can put pigs here.” But the pigs would literally roll down the hill. My husband’s like, “There’s no way we can do this.” But you learn to work with what you have. I feel like people feel like they have to go out and buy this fairy tale farm with all this acreage. You just don’t have to. I have friends that are literally farming on three acres, and it’s incredible what they’re doing.
Lisa Bass Yeah, I follow people on Instagram who have two acres and have a full blown farm, just by the way they set it up very intentionally. I forget what book it was. It’s something about self-sufficiency, but there’s layouts for each amount of acres. So if you have a one acre farm, and then there’s a layout for where you put the fruit trees, where you put the pigs, the garden. It goes up through, I think, like 20 acres. But it has a layout for each. Now, when I looked at it, I’m like, “Well, if we had just like a flat five acres with no hills or woods, I would lay it out like that.” But ours is a lot more variables to it. But the idea is that you really don’t have to have this huge farm to have some of these things that you want.
Angel Turner No. My brother—he had one acre, I think—and they were growing. I mean, he had every bit of that covered. He had his gardens in all these different places. He had his chickens. And it worked for them. He was literally on a hill. Like not one acre flat spot. It was a one acre shell, and he had turned it all into a garden. It looked like the Garden of Eden. It was beautiful. I was like, “How did you do this?”
Lisa Bass Yeah, just a lot of creativity. Did he put boxes like in the hill, going up the hill?
Angel Turner Okay, so he took pallets and he shelled the pallets out and he put the pallets in the ground. And then he started getting like chicken manure from my mom’s and different things and just filling it through the winter. He made a beautiful little walkway all the way around that place. I can’t even describe how beautiful it was. It was an incredible garden on a hill and people were just like, “How did he do that?” It was amazing. But you work with what you have.
Lisa Bass He had one acre. Yeah, and so he just did it. I mean, I’ve told that to my husband a lot because there’s times when I want to look for more property. I’m like, “Well, maybe we could find somewhere around here.” I even have a search going right now on realtor.com of—.
Angel Turner Same girl. Same.
Lisa Bass Yeah, yeah. I have a very specific search. I want a house over 100, 20+ acres. Yeah, and it’s in my search and it never comes up because when it does, it’s $3 million here right now.
Angel Turner Exactly. Exactly.
Lisa Bass Yeah. So it’s not happening any time soon. But I was like, “I need more property.” And I’m like, “Wait, we haven’t even tamed our seven acres. Not even close.” We have not utilized— even honestly, we lived on a quarter acre before. I’m like, “We still could have done more there.” Not that I wanted to stay there, but there’s always more you can do with what you have, probably almost no matter what, until you’re utilizing every square inch. If buying a bigger farm is out of the question, there’s definitely ways to make what you have work.
Angel Turner Especially in today’s market. Unless you just find a gold mine, you’re not going to be finding— we’ve been looking for property. It’s just been a crazy thing. I feel like people feel like they have to have a lot of pasture to get a dairy cow. It’s very, very easy to feed them year-round. What we do with Maggie is— in the summer, we’ll move her to a smaller paddock. We break everything up into tiny paddocks. And then we’ll move her to another paddock and let her graze that down and then move her back. And we just kind of go back and forth and kind of do that dance during the spring, summer, and fall. But then on the winter, you don’t even have to worry about that anyways.
Lisa Bass In like a smaller area. Well, it was part of our daily routine every day to milk and then bring them out to the pasture and then repeat. At night, we bring them in. Lately, Luke’s like, “Do I even need to bring them out there?” I’m like, “No, there’s nothing. Nothing left for them at all. Just give them hay.” So have you made any local contacts for hay? Or how are you able to get all of that?
Angel Turner That’s been another struggle because last year—I don’t know how it was for you guys, but it was really, really hard.
Lisa Bass Yeah, it’s a challenge.
Angel Turner There was a hay shortage here because we had the droughts and stuff. So that was very hard to find the hay. I ended up finding a man. I wasn’t as happy with the hay as I would have been if it would have— it just had some like brambles and different things in it. I really had to give the girls extra. I got some seaweed salt licks and different things like that just to make sure they were getting all those minerals. Sometimes you have to get creative. And there was just nothing else we could do, and then we ended up finding a Mennonite farmer. He had everything that we needed. Thankfully we ended up going and getting everything from him. But we worked with what we had for a little while there because everything was sold out. We didn’t have a choice. So I’m planning ahead this year because I’m like, “I don’t want last year happening again.” You learn. The whole thing is a journey. You learn the whole time.
Lisa Bass Yeah, you do. And worst case scenario—we haven’t had to do this yet—but you could just go get grain. Before they’re going to starve to death.
Angel Turner We had to grain feed during—like during milking and stuff like that we grain feed—but we had to do that no matter what. Because we were not happy with the hay. I have friends that exclusively grain feed because they had a hard time last year finding hay. So you just get creative.
Lisa Bass Do you have storage on your property for hay? Like a large amount?
Angel Turner No. Again, we got creative. We stuck pallets on the ground and then we put the hay on top of the pallets and then we put a big like cover over that just to keep it. It was fine. It worked great. We didn’t need a barn. We don’t have a big barn. My husband built a little bitty pallet milking barn for me. He had never built anything in his life, and he was like, “Okay, let’s do this.” And he did great. It turned out amazing, and it suits its purpose.
Lisa Bass Yeah, you learn so many things just out of necessity by doing things like this. I’m totally a person of like, I’m going to just get the dairy cow and figure out the details later because I’m going to be forced.
Angel Turner Yes. Literally we went and got Maggie, and my brother and Gabe were putting up the milk— like we brought her home and I was like, “Oh, wait, I forgot. I don’t have like a milking stall.” So we literally had to go and they built that that night. I was like, “I was not prepared for this.” But you learn and then you end up getting it done.
Lisa Bass Well, you put things off whenever you don’t have to do them. But whenever you’re forced to, you just get it done that night. So for us, our cow was supposed to be bred when we bought her. That’s what we paid for. She was bred with sexed semen, so it would be a female calf. The vet came out about a month later because she had an abscess. I think it might have been from transporting her. She maybe got a cut or something, but she had an abscess. I had the vet check while she was there, and she said, “I have her entire uterus in my hand. There’s nothing in it.” And I was like, “Great.” But hold on, she was wrong.
Angel Turner You’re kidding me.
Lisa Bass So I sent her off. I sent my cow off to my friend’s to live with her bull for two months. After that, vet came again said, “Yup, she’s two months along.” So I’m like, “Cool, she’ll have the calf in September.” Well one fine day in June, my daughter goes out to the barn, comes back in, she’s like, “Mom, when was June supposed to have her calf?” I was like, “September.” She’s like, “Yeah, no.” So we had to build a milk stanchion like the next night because I thought we had till September to worry about it. Turns out she really was bred by the original. She’s a half Brahma, half Jersey female calf, just like she was supposed to be because we bought her from an exotic cattle co. down in Kansas.
Angel Turner That’s crazy.
Lisa Bass Yeah. So it was definitely like, “Okay, we got to figure this out.” Some friends of ours who I met through YouTube—because they have a YouTube channel—they came over because they have a dairy cow and helped us build it. And it was just like a fun night and it was no big deal.
Angel Turner Yeah, that’s how we did it. Me and Anna made supper and then we let the kids all play outside and our husbands put up the— but that’s how my life is with farming. Like, literally, you just have to make it work.
Lisa Bass It is because curveballs happen. All of a sudden, the goats are out. Okay, what do we got to do to get the fence more secure? A lot of times, yeah, there’s no warning, but it’s got to figure it out.
Angel Turner See, we’ve been homesteading very lowkey for the last 10 years since we got married. But the last five years have been the major learning curves because that’s where we’ve started getting more animals, bigger animals, and it’s just been a learning process. Major, major learning process.
Lisa Bass Yeah. What other animals do you have on your farm?
Angel Turner We have lots and lots of chickens. I free range my chickens. I’m like the lady that when people are done with their chickens in the fall and they don’t want to have in the winter, they’re like, “Okay, we’ve got like 15.” I’m like, “Bring them over. That’s fine.” My husband’s like, “Every time I pull up, there’s like 20 more chickens on this farm.” But we’ve got chickens. We’ve got ducks. I really like running different animals together just because it keeps down disease. Like if you run chickens and you run rabbits or ducks, whatever, the disease on the ground has a harder time manifesting. So it’s actually better to intergraze your animals. Of course, that’s not true with all of them. We also have sheep. We’ve had goats. But honestly, I don’t love goats. I don’t love having goats.
Lisa Bass Same. We got rid of ours too. After we got the dairy cow, I’m like, “Why do we still need goats?”
Angel Turner Exactly. That’s what we did. Once we got Maggie, I was like, “Well, I think it’s time for the goats to go.” They kept getting out and causing trouble. They weren’t giving anything to the farm. So I was like, “You know what, we’re just going to have to get rid of them.” But yeah, I’m trying to think. I’ve got a turkey, but I have a pet turkey. We got him for Thanksgiving, and then we fell in love with him because he literally was like so sweet. The kids were like, “We can’t eat Mr. Thanksgiving, Mom.” I’m like, “Oh, great.”
Lisa Bass So his name is still Mr. Thanksgiving?
Angel Turner It’s still Mr. Thanksgiving, and he roams around the farm. He’s like our watchdog. When people pull up, he goes to their door and won’t let them out. They’re scared because they’re like, “There’s a turkey.” They’ll call me and be like “Hey, there’s a turkey like in your front yard.” I’m like, “Yeah, it’s fine, I’ll come out.”
Lisa Bass Beware of turkeys. Oh, that’s hilarious.
Angel Turner We go through tons of animals just because I’m trying to learn as much as I can right now because we have plans of going bigger, but we’re just kind of waiting on God’s timing, basically.
Lisa Bass Yeah, so you are actively looking for some way to expand. Yeah.
Angel Turner Yeah, very much so.
Lisa Bass Who knows if the market will go down.
Angel Turner I know, I know. And we’re like, “You know what? I mean, if it’s the Lord’s will for us to find a place now, we will.” But like you said, you go on and it’s like $3 million if you’re looking for 100 acres. It’s crazy.
Lisa Bass Well, and I don’t even want 100 acres. I just want a house over 100 years old and I want twenty plus acres. Is that too much to ask? Apparently it is.
Angel Turner That’s me. That’s me. Like, we’ll find places and I’m like, “But it doesn’t have the hundred year old house,” and Gabe’s like, “Angel. I just don’t think we’re going to find that right now.” I’m like, “We will. We will.”
Lisa Bass It matters.
Angel Turner It matters. And we will find it.
Lisa Bass Yep. Well, in a way, I already have a my dream property. It could have more acreage. But other than that, it is. So I have to find something better to want to move, which means it has to be, you know—.
Angel Turner Exactly.
Just recently my husband said, “Oh, a friend of mine said that the place across the street sold,” and I was like, “You are kidding me.” I’ve been wanting it forever. I didn’t know it was for sale. They get sold without being listed. I should have knocked on their door. But it’s a lot of acreage and an old house and it’s just across, and I wouldn’t have even moved. We would have just ran cattle over there. But anyways, I was like, “Oh no.”
Angel Turner That’s the stuff that you’d rather not have known about.
Lisa Bass I go, “I don’t want to talk about this anymore.” He’s like, “Well, maybe it’ll come up again.” I’m like, “Yeah, well, it just did. Somebody just got excited about it and bought it.” I had no idea.
Angel Turner That’s like a really hard thing. We’ve been looking and it’s really hard because you’ll get your hopes up over things and then it doesn’t happen and you’re like, “Oh my goodness, this is a really hard process trying to find something else.”.
Lisa Bass Yeah. But like we’ve mentioned, we have so much to do. So much to do. We could put berries out back and grapevines, and there’s just so much that we have not taken advantage of here.
Angel Turner It’s important to be grounded where you are and thankful for where you are in your journey because you’ll get there eventually one of these days, but it is important to be excited about where you are now.
Lisa Bass Right. Oh yeah, yeah, I am. We have so much potential here with our place. So probably the most common question I get from people is about expense. So is it worth it?
Angel Turner Okay, so absolutely. I feel like it’s worth it. Once we got a milk cow, we’ll never go back. But you just have to kind of learn. I don’t feel like it’s super expensive. I guess it just kind of depends on your situation. If you have fields that you can hay, then you’re set. But obviously, if you don’t, you’re going to have to go buy the hay. You’re going to have to find the grain if you’re going to feed them during milking. That was something that was getting really expensive for us was the grain. Then we found a really sweet farmer out by my mom’s and we buy it by the ton. And it’s not that expensive for us. So that’s been something that’s been really, really helpful. Sometimes you just have to get creative. It can get expensive, but we treat our animals ourself. I really don’t call the vet out a whole awful lot. But if you’re one of those people that you’re wanting to have the vet out for everything, it’s going to get expensive really, really quick.
Lisa Bass Well, yeah, and probably at first, you will. For example, with that abscess, I now would know how to do that. But I didn’t know at first. Now I’m like, “Okay, she literally—” I mean, it’s disgusting, but I saw how she did it. And it really was not like a super medical process, honestly. Pretty straightforward.
Angel Turner Yeah. You learn. I agree. I think it’s more expensive in the beginning because you’re learning. You have to just kind of make everything work. But you will learn how to treat your animals, you’ll learn how to take care of them. I’m not saying I’m grateful for the cow that I got that had mastitis, but I learned how to treat it myself after that. So that was a good thing. You learn a lot of different things. It does get expensive. In the beginning, especially, I believe. But you learn to make it work. Honestly, everybody has a different budget and you just learn to kind of budget around it if it’s something that you find worth it. I think having a dairy cow is 100% worth it.
Lisa Bass Yeah, for having the fresh raw milk. Just the benefits that it has for my family is definitely worth it. And I think, too, with the economics of having a cow. I think some people forget to think about the calf that’s produced every year. So yes, maybe if you’re just thinking about how much you’re feeding the cow and then how much per gallon it’s costing, it might be costing five or six dollars a gallon to produce the milk. But right now, we have a very valuable female calf that—if we were to sell—would cover a lot of that. So I haven’t completely ran the numbers, to be honest with you, but I do think the economics— I know that there are people who do. I don’t know if you have the Keeping a Family Cow book.
Angel Turner Oh yeah, I do have that one.
Lisa Bass Yeah, that kind of stuff. And so I know the economics do work out, especially if you are smart about sourcing and learning things. But it’s going to be different. It’s going to be different for everyone based on your property and what you know.
Angel Turner But like you said, once you start having the calves, you can break even or you can eventually— like, I’m making money off Maggie now because we’ve learned— or not making money, but it’s not really costing us anything because we’ve learned how to budget everything out. But in the beginning, it was expensive. But once you start having calves, you sell the calf and then it kind of pays for itself.
Lisa Bass Yeah, and the infrastructure’s a little bit expensive at first.
Angel Turner But that’s an investment.
Lisa Bass Yeah, it really is. It’s an investment. Since you’re doing the paddocks, are you setting up electric fencing paddocks?
Lisa Bass Not yet. No. Maggie’s very respectful. We’re lucky. Our cows are respectful of— I can put a rope through the paddocks and she won’t cross it. Now, I know that’s not true with all cows. I had one that she would just go through six strands of barbed wire. We could not keep her in anything. Her name was Calamity Jane, and she was very true to that. We just couldn’t keep her, so we had to call her. There’s always going to be a cow like that. But our girls are pretty respectful. We’ve got barbed wire and then we kind of just section that off and they’ll stay wherever we want them.
Lisa Bass Yeah, so that wasn’t super expensive to start with then.
Angel Turner Yeah. I’ve watched a lot of Joel Salatin’s stuff where they do the electric fencing. It seems pretty cheap to do that kind of a setup.
Lisa Bass Oh, yeah, yeah. We kind of went all in because we knew we’d want to keep having animals and also—where we live, I really wanted fencing for the safety of my kids. So we just fenced the whole place in which was way, way expensive, but it wouldn’t have been necessary just for the cow. It was a multiple— like several reasons why we wanted to do that, but you wouldn’t have to go and do all of that. Have you found any local people that could help you if you guys wanted to go on vacation? That’s another thing people are really worried about being tied down. How have you managed that?
Angel Turner To be honest with you, I’m not the right person to ask for that. We don’t go on vacation. We don’t go out of town.
Lisa Bass Neither do we.
Angel Turner We enjoy being home. We just do.
Lisa Bass Yeah, same, same.
Angel Turner We enjoy being home. So, I’m not the right person to ask about that. Now I do have friends that live in town and they actually will get people. What they do is they go find people at milk shares that know how to handle the animals, and they will have them come over. Because they’re more than happy to come over and get free milk while they’re gone on vacation. But I would just worry about, you got to make sure you find someone that’s responsible, again, that’s going to be on time and milking your cow correctly every day. So I haven’t had to worry about that. I feel like that’s a lot of the reason why people calf share, because then you can go on vacation. You have that freedom.
Lisa Bass Right, right. Yeah. As long as you have a calf to milk them out, especially if they’re not a super high producer. Because some you have to—no matter calf on or not—you need to still milk them. But yeah, we’re actually planning our first vacation since having a cow this summer. Actually, we went on one last summer, but it was— yeah, we totally did. We had family do it. So my sister— she has animals too, and so we’ll trade off. But making farm connections like that— she doesn’t know how to milk a cow or anything, but I could learn, you know, I can teach her. Besides, right now, she’s not in a super high production part of her milking cycle. So that’s another thing, too, is if you have a dairy cow and you’re on the right cycle, which you’re supposed to be, there should be two months where they’re off every year anyway. And that’s when you would plant things like vacation. If you calf share, you can do a weekend away. If you’re a family that is super active and you’re always leaving, probably a dairy cow is not the right choice for you. But there are ways to do minimal travel.
Angel Turner Most people that are homesteading aren’t gone a lot anyways, so it usually ends up working out. But yeah, we just don’t go anywhere. We’re not a traveling family.
Lisa Bass Yeah, well, it’s so hard, like with kids. And then even if you have a dog, it’s hard. That’s one of our hardest things. It seems like the more intelligent an animal is, the more care that it needs. We can’t just leave the dog. We can leave the chickens. They’ll be fine. But the dog needs human interaction. So kind of already used to that. So tell us more about what you share on your Instagram, where everybody can find you, what kind of things we can look for to learn more from you.
Angel Turner Okay, so on Instagram, we do a lot of country cooking and just like a lot of basically what we’re doing on the farm. I share a lot about our milk cow and our chickens and different things. Lots of little tips here and there for homesteaders and different things like that. We’re actually launching a website tomorrow. So I’m really excited about that, and that’s where we’re going to be having all of our recipes. I had a hard time because I was trying to put recipes in my highlights, and people are just having a hard time finding that. So I was like, “You know what? It’s time. I just need to go ahead and do it.” So we’re launching that. I’m excited.
Lisa Bass So will it be named after you?
Angel Turner We’re actually naming it after the farm: Rose Hill Farm. You’re the first one to hear. It’s Rose Hill Farm, and it’s actually not really anything to do with the land there. It’s my grandpa that passed away. My middle name is Rose. My daughter’s name is Rose. So every time he would pull up and see us somewhere, he’s like, “There’s my two roses on the hill.” And so everybody was like, Rose Hill. That’s perfect. He passed away. So we did that for him.
Lisa Bass That’s cool.
Angel Turner We’re excited.
Lisa Bass Yeah, awesome. Yeah, @AngelRoseTurner on Instagram and then RoseHillFarm.com. I’m assuming once this comes out, if you’re launching it tomorrow, it’ll be up and—
Angel Turner We had to put Turner in front of it because the Rose Hill was taken up unfortunately, So we did TurnerRoseHillFarm.com.
Lisa Bass Okay, yeah. Yeah, that happens a lot.
Angel Turner I’m excited. But yeah, we just do a lot of basically all things homesteading on there. Lots of wild kids with dirty feet.
Lisa Bass Yeah. And it’s a very, very beautiful account. I’m also inspired by a lot of your hairstyles on there. I need to try out some of your braids this summer.
Angel Turner That’s definitely not every day there on our farm at all.
Lisa Bass I know, but it’s a pretty addition.
Angel Turner Yeah, I grew up watching like Anne of Green Gables and stuff, and I loved seeing like the beautiful farm scenes and then the whimsical dresses of the big hair, and I just can’t get away from it. My husband’s like, “Oh my goodness, Angel.” But I’m like, “I just like envision going down there and milking my cow in the field.”.
Lisa Bass It’s beautiful.
Angel Turner Not that it actually happens. Not that it actually happens that way, but it’s a nice thought.
Lisa Bass Well, it’s like art. You capture the moment that— yeah, it doesn’t necessarily have to be an everyday occurrence to be beautiful and admirable and something that somebody can appreciate. So, yeah, I totally love it. Well, thank you so much for joining me.
Angel Turner Well thank you. I enjoyed it.
Lisa Bass There were so many more questions that we could have jumped into.
Angel Turner Yeah, milk cow. It’s a lot. It’s a lot to get into. Well, thank you. I sure appreciate it.
Lisa Bass All right. Well, thank you so much for listening to this episode of the Simple Farmhouse podcast. Be sure to check out Angel on her Instagram. And also, I hope that you learned a lot about keeping a dairy cow and that this was a helpful conversation for you. As always, thank you so much for listening, and I will see you in the next episode of the Simple Farmhouse Life podcast.