Back to All Events

The Family Cow Workshop

Note: This is a tentative date.  We are scheduling a class for September or October 2017, date TBD.  (4 spaces available).

Come out to our Vashon Island farm and learn what it takes to keep a milk cow of your own!  The family cow is the most generous of all animals - providing bountiful milk and cream for your table, raising a calf every year, providing excess milk and whey to raise a pig or two, fertilizing your garden, and improving your land year after year.  Starting out with the knowledge to keep your cow happy, healthy, and productive will make your first years of cow husbandry far more rewarding and less stressful.

The Family Cow Workshop will be offered as a series.  By focusing on just a few areas of milk cow care in each session, we will be able to delve deeply into each topic and provide you with the knowledge and hands-on skill needed to handle every situation.  Over the course of the workshops we will cover every aspect of milk cow ownership, from choosing the perfect cow, to feeding, breeding, calving, and milking.

Participants will receive hands-on experience throughout the workshops - particularly with learning how to milk by hand (and machine), assessing health, and handling cows and calves.

A dairy-centric feast will be served in the middle of the day.

Kelsey and Ben have been working with dairy cows for a combined 18 years (or over 10,000 milkings!) at various farms ranging from one to twenty cows.  Currently they keep a Jersey named Jingle and are in the planning stages for their Grade A micro creamery.  Whether you are fantasizing about the day you can move to the country and have a cow of your own, or have already made the leap but are wondering how to ensure your cow stays happy, healthy, and productive for years to come, we will share our knowledge and help ensure that you get the best start possible.  

The topics covered in each class will be guided by students' particular needs and interest, but here are some of the primary topics that we will cover:

  • Choosing the perfect cow - your family's needs, breed and temperament traits, and comparing cows in the field.
  • Preparing for your first cow - fencing, pastures, barn and milk parlor requirements.
  • Annual care - routine vet care, disease testing, hoof care, and breeding.
  • Calving time - preparations for birth, how to tell when she's close, emergency supplies to have on hand, when to intervene. 
  • The calf - calf-sharing vs bottle-feeding, weaning, raising your heifer or steer.
  • Milking - hand vs machine milking, milking machine models.
  • The milking cow - lactation diet requirements, the dry period, and metabolic issues.
  • Diagnosing and treating - supplies to have on hand, common ailments and how to treat (including bloat, mastitis, ketosis, and milk fever).
  • Raw milk - handling fresh milk, sharing the bounty on the farm, and making cheese and butter.

We will have plenty of time to answer questions and go over any other topics that interest you, such as Grade A dairy requirements, stanchion design, or even breeding traits and genetics, for example.

Bring your boots and questions!