So, you want a milk cow…

Living on a ranch, there are always plenty of critters around. We have had a lot of animals around the house, but after turning our barn into a meat shop several years ago- there haven’t been as many right here at our place. We raise cattle and bison, but they are all out in pastures doing their own thing. So, when our older daughter, Shelby, asked about a milk cow for Christmas- it wasn’t too big a stretch for us to wrap our heads around. We used to have milk goats- their compact size was easy to handle, but being a lot smaller than cows- they also managed to escape pretty often and breeding time was always a hassle.

But a milk cow?

Well- cows are what we do. We raise happy, grass-fed beef cattle, and a small herd of bison at Rockin’ 7 Ranch. Brad’s family fought for survival when they first made the trip out west over 100 years ago, and selling fresh milk was part of how they made it. I love things that connect us to our past here on the ranch! There’s quite a different commitment, though, when you’re talking milk cow, but after discussing the pros and cons, we decided to take Shelby out to do chores with Sue, a family friend who happened to have a milk cow for sale. She was nothing like the mean old milk cow Brad had grown up with, and after Shelby made butter, yogurt, biscuits, and ice cream with the bit of fresh milk we’d brought home, we decided to give it a go.

Where Will We Put Her?

My goal is never to make more work for Brad- but since our barn was transformed into a meat shop, we had nowhere for a milk cow. So, Shelby and I started cleaning up a corner of the super old barn out back and trying to figure how many pans of brownies we’d have to bake for Cody to rig up a fence for us. Brad was pretty quiet when we talked about our plan for the old barn, and finally piped in with his thoughts to just build a new barn. What?! This was getting exciting! Having grown up with a milk cow, he knew how quick the fun could wear off when you’re working in a rickety old barn milking by lamp light because there’s no electricity out there. Plus, we had almost all the materials in stock and some ranch hands with not much to do.

A cozy barn was a much better plan!

I cracked up when I called our friend Sue, to let her know we were going to buy the cow, but needed to build a barn first. Being halfway through December, she asked, “So, you’re gonna wait til Spring?” “Nope”, I answered, “How about next week?” Brad always amazes me, not only with how well he takes care of us all, but with his visionary thinking and ability to make it happen! Before we knew it, things were changing! Brad’s idea for the barn was so perfect! He removed an old, unused grain bin, and made a plan for the barn to be built within the existing corrals, right next to the meat shop- where we have a big sink and running water for easy clean up, and electricity is close by. There was still a lot of work to do- but this new plan would be so much better long-term. First up, the old grainery had to be moved, and some tweaking on the corrals. Our original red and white barn in the background is now our meat shop.

This new RYOBI cordless circ saw came just in time! It ripped through the tough old boards like butter! These old, dimensional barn boards are always harder to deal with- but I’ll be transforming these into something beautiful soon, so I’m glad we were able to save them 🙂I couldn’t believe how open and clean everything looked after the clean up! Brad had to bring in a lot of dirt to build up the barn area so there’s no chance of future flooding. We don’t get much rain here, but when we do it can get pretty soggy over here! The large area of dirt in the forefront is where we have our garden every year, so the barn really will fit in perfect here.

The next day, building began! Don’t try this at home 😉 We get pretty creative out here on the ranch to make it happen!It wasn’t long before the frame was up! We had some spare tan tin that we considered using, but we really love the old tin and barn wood look- so we ended up using some salvaged corrugated tin for this barn and I’m so glad we did! I LOVE the look! We just about used all of our stock lumber, but had barely enough to finish. The guys even spent extra time making a beautiful sliding door for the milk cow and we are so glad we didn’t leave this end open like we had considered. The temps dropped into the negatives as soon as we got our milk cow home- and we really like being able to shut the door! 

Things were just about finished up when Christmas vacation began, so I tinned the back side of the barn right before the weather got cold. I literally got a little sunburned while working on the tin, and the next day temps dropped into the negatives! Another reason I am so thankful Brad suggested building a new, cozy barn for our milk cow!Didn’t the barn turn out Awesome?!

Hard Work Pays Off

I had worked on building a stanchion and a couple of one-legged milking stools while the guys worked on the barn, so we were all set for our milk cow! We picked her up a couple days before Christmas, and we all set to work getting into a milking routine. Her name had been Cricket, but Shelby decided we’d call her Sarsaparilla 🙂Sue had been milking her once a day, and we decided that would work perfect for us, too. One time milking in the morning provides us with 2 gallons of delicious, fresh milk every day!It took awhile for our milk cow, Sarsaparilla, to adjust from being machine milked, to having all 6 of us taking turns milking, but after a few days- she started getting used to us and our milking skills are all rapidly improving! Sarsaparilla is a real sweetheart, and nothing like the mean old milk cow Brad grew up with. We are sure enjoying our new adventure, and I think Sarsaparilla is enjoying the barn!

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