Now that you’ve had some time to do your homework, here’s the next installment for this month.
Chapter 2: Buyer Beware
The fun part is actually going and looking at the cows you’re considering for purchase. As tempting as it is to just pick one & go buy her, especially if you have to travel a distance, you really should go visit in person at least 2-3 cows before making your final decision. This is the time to check details.
Registration & Identification:
Ask to see the cow’s registration papers and any DNA test results that are available. Check the animal’s ID, whether a tag or a tattoo, and make sure it matches the paperwork. If it doesn’t, or if the animal or information doesn’t seem to match up with what was advertised, proceed with caution. You don’t want to buy an animal with the wrong papers and if the owner dismisses the issue or insists everything is fine, you may not want to do business with them. If things are in order, also ask if they have a sale contract you can see.
You’ll have to be able to catch & handle your family milk cow, so now’s the time to make sure the cow you’re looking at will cooperate. A cow that’s too shy or wild for the current owner to handle won’t be the best candidate, no matter how good her milk production is. A halter-trained cow is usually the most easily managed. Ask what she’s been taught and be sure you can handle her. While you have your hands on her, check her body condition – whether she’s under- or overweight. Be skeptical of an underweight cow that is claimed to be bred, unless she’s been vet-checked.
Get as complete a calving & milking history as possible on the cow and carefully inspect her udder. Look for strong fore & rear attachments, a strong median suspensory ligament, a level floor, good teat placement with uniform size & shape. Check for any udder or teat injuries that would affect milking, signs of mastitis, or any blind quarters. And of course, make sure she isn’t ticklish about having her udder handled. If the cow is in milk & it’s possible, ask the owner ahead of time if they could milk the cow while you’re there.
If you haven’t asked these questions yet, now is the time. Ask about current management practices (i.e. feeding, vaccines, etc.), any illnesses the cow has had, any reproductive problems (i.e. slow to breed back, abortions, etc.), and why they’re selling her. Hopefully you’ll be able to observe the cow interacting with herd-mates so you can gain some insight into her temperament, but ask how she behaves with the others, whether she’s dominant or submissive, where she is in the pecking order, and how she responds to people. Also ask about her likes & dislikes and if she has any “quirks” to her personality.