Here on our little homestead in the Interior of Alaska, we keep a small variety of animals including chickens, bees, and waterfowl. But the queen of the farm is our Honey girl. Come and meet our Jersey dairy cow!
Why We Chose a Cow
Our little barn was filling up. We had layer chickens giving us fresh eggs, bees providing honey, and a garden providing our vegetables. We also kept meat birds and turkeys in the summer and my husband was hunting and fishing.
Whenever I was in the kitchen preparing delicious, nutritional, local food for our family, the only missing ingredient was fresh dairy products…homemade butter and cheese…what a dream!
Keeping goats seemed like the obvious place to start. But, after doing a lot of research and speaking to several families with experience, we decided that goats were not for us. I had done research on family cows as well and that’s what spoke to me. Jerseys are smaller in size, perfect for a family like ours. And how can you resist those eyes?! And all of that cream…
Of course, this was a far off dream until my husband asked me why I wasn’t looking for one. “What?! You think we should get a cow right now?!” “Why not?” And so the search began.
Finding a Cow
The trouble was finding what I was looking for in Alaska…not easy. We started looking in Canada and the lower 48 thinking we would have to travel to get the perfect cow for us.
Then one day, a good friend of mine saw a post online from a woman in the next town over regarding her Jersey cow. I sent her a message introducing myself and asking for any advice on finding a cow. She connected me with her bovine mentor who lived in southern Alaska. So I sent another message, again introducing myself and asking for advice on where to find a Jersey for our family. To my surprise, she said that she might have just what we were looking for! Then she sent me the photo above.
And that was that. My heart melted and when my husband called me that night (he was deployed at the time) I told him I had found our girl. Less than a month after he returned home, we made the six hour drive to southern Alaska to pick her up.
Bringing Her Home
James had rebuilt the torn-down stalls in our barn so we had the perfect home for her. We purchased a supply of hay as well as the other necessities for owning a cow. Of course, we had read countless books (Keeping A Family Cow by Joann Grohman has become our go-to) and contacted a few other families who were keeping a cow as well so we were as ready as we were going to be. Thankfully, she was still young and not in milk yet so we would have time to get to know her and work with her before milking began.
We brought her home at the beginning of March 2018 so the ground was still frozen and we were unable to put in a fence right away. Every day we put her halter on and walked her around the back of the barn for a while to get some exercise. Since then, we have put in a good fence and now she spends her days roaming around outside or relaxing in her stall.
Of course, the reason for getting our own family cow is for the milk. Honey was only six months old when we brought her home and wouldn’t be ready to be bred until she was over a year. We were fine with this as it gave us plenty of time to bond with her and prepare for having a calf and a cow in milk one day.
We planned to breed Honey at the beginning of 2020, hoping for a calf that fall.
Owning a Cow
Honey loves attention and especially enjoys having her chin and neck scratched. She really loves company when she’s laying and chewing so we often sit down with her and hang out for a bit. Her personality keeps us on our toes!
I never in my wildest dreams could have imagined that we would own a dairy cow one day, but I’m so glad we do. I read in my other favorite book Milk Cow Kitchen by MaryJane Butters, that you haven’t known true love until you’ve known the love of a cow.