The cows are the heart of our farm! Brookford Farm’s milking herd counts at about 40 heads of mixed, colorful breeds. You will find a good deal of Jerseys in there, but also Brown Swiss, Guernseys and Holstein. Though all these breeds have different characteristics, colors and heights, they are all usually very curious and kind. All of the dairy cows are named; our favorite and most famous is “Muffin”. Each year they give birth to a calf and sometimes two. If it is a daughter and will become a milking cow, the calf is given a name that begins with the first letter of her mother’s name.
Starting in May and running through November, our cows are grazing out on pastures. (This year might be an exception due to the move to our new farm. They will be grazing as much as possible and supplementing with dry hay or haylage.) This is why our milk is so delicious and healthy!
In the winter, they are mostly in the barn and enjoy eating ‘haylage’, a kind of fermented grass food that some people compare to cow sauerkraut. Their winter diet also consists of dried hay from our pastures.This diet is supplemented with small amounts of other grains such as triticale, which is high in protein, and free choice minerals. Our cows are never given antibiotics or treated with rBGH or any other hormones.
If you come out to visit our cows, you will notice that a majority of the herd are carrying horns on their head. A cow is naturally born with horns. On Brookford Farm, we believe the cows should keep their horns. First, it gives them their own character and awareness of their surroundings and they are more confident in themselves. Secondly, it helps them with their balance and digestive system. A German study shows that milk from cows with horns is much easier to digest than without. The downside of horns is that they can gore each other trying to protect their space. This is why cows with horns need more barn and pasture space.
Our calves are born on the farm and in season, sometimes right in the pasture. We create a space for them so their mother or “Amme” (foster mother) can come and feed them. We have found that the calves stay healthier and happier if they have contact with a milking cow for about three months. As they grow bigger they are supplemented with dry hay and have access to outdoor pasture.
Heifers and Steers:
Once calves come off milk, heifers are raised for 1 1/2 to 2 years. At that time, they are bred. At 2 1/2 years the heifers give birth to their first calve and start to join our milking herd. The steers are kept for beef. All of them are pastured during the season or fed hay and silage and supplemented with minerals in the winter.
We usually keep one bull around the herd for breeding. He is typically very content; though we do ask that visitors do not play with him.