Keeping a Family Cow - book review

by Elizabeth Beavis
Before getting a house cow, I recommend that you read every book you can find on the subject.  You should also visit people with house cows if you can, and spend some time with cows, so you know what to expect.  I am still reading books about house cows, and I was very excited to find Keeping a Family Cow: The Complete Guide for Home-Scale, Holistic Dairy Producers, by Joann S. Grohman in the Brisbane City Library.  You really never know what you're going to find there!  Joann has 60 years experience with dairy cows, so who better to get you started on your house cow journey?  Joann also has a website about Real-Food and started the popular Keeping a Family Cow forum, which I have found useful for cow advice from time to time.

This book includes the best ever explanation of house cow nutrition and digestion processes that I have ever read.  She writes that you can't buy poor hay and expect to make up for it by feeding more grain, your cow will just get fat.  She also explains hand milking and how to stop a cow from kicking.  The advantages of raw milk for humans are also explained and I really enjoyed the discussion on why commercial milk is pastuerised.  There is a huge amount of detail in nearly 300 pages.

I was surprised by how much space was devoted to milk fever.  Its good to know about it and be prepared to treat it if your cow suffers from milk fever after calving.  I really like the way Joann explains the biological processes that can cause problems with cows.

This book is written for the north eastern US climate, and as I always say about US books, there are a few things that are not relevant to Australian house cows because we don't have to deal with snow.  We have different pastures, different fencing techniques and different pests.  But in general, this is a great start for any cow owner.

Of course, I would recommend my house cow ebook as a supplementary guide for Australians.

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