I was trying to figure out what I could raise on such a small farm besides the normal chickens, rabbits and pygmy goats. I do not want a bunch of hogs to worry about. One or two meat hogs are ok but any more than that and I create fencing and odor problems. So I figured why not Miniature Cattle?
Mostly kept as a hobby and only measuring under 42 inches tall, miniatures do have many advantages:
- Small efficient beef for “backyard beef.”
- Good pets to keep on small acreages as little as 1/2 acre.
- Use to qualify property for agriculture use status.
- Use for investment groups.
- Great for 4-H or FFA projects.
- Good potential to develop a gourmet meat market.
- Most breeds eat 1/3 the food of large breeds.
- Not as harsh on the land and the fencing.
As in large cattle, miniatures have many different breeds. Some of the more popular ones are:
Miniature Zebu, LLL Twister, photo courtesy Lipperts Exotics.
Miniature Zebu are one of the smallest breeds, and the only true miniature breed that has not been bred down to get their size. However, Zebu cattle are known to be one of the oldest breeds of cattle, possible dating back as far as 6000 B.C. Mature cows should be 300 to 500 pounds; mature bulls from 400 to 600 pounds, and are still extremely rare (about 550 purebred animals in USA) They come in gray red black and the painted color pattern like the bull above, and the babies are a sight to behold looking a lot like a little fawn at birth weighing from 12 to 22 pounds. The advantage of the miniature zebu is that they are better adapted to heat and have a high resistance to disease than most European breeds (they come from India). The maximum allowable height is just over 42 inches behind the hump.
Miniature Longhorn, LLL Royal Flush, photo courtesy Lipperts Exotics.
These attractive little cattle stand just under 42 inches at the shoulder in a mature bull. They are horned cattle, which, after all, is one of their breed features. They also come in any color pattern you can think of from solid to spots. The horn span can very from 30 to 50 inches wide. A good rule of thumb is the cattle should be the same height at the shoulder as the length of their horns from tip to tip or less. These animals take a considerable amount of time to raise to get the perfect little cow, and all that horn is quite the thing to see in person.
Miniature Hereford, photo courtesy Point of Rocks Ranch.
The cows are about 42 inches tall, and their average weight range is 650 to 750 lbs. The calves have a birth weight of around 57 pounds and at weaning the average weight is 375 pounds. The advantages of this breed are the smaller cuts of meat, the higher stocking rate per acre, high feed conversion rates, less damage to pasture, especially on wet soils, easy calving, and excellent weight gains.
[If you're near Austin, Texas, and would like to see a few Miniature Herefords in person, check them out at the Star of Texas Show March 12-27, 2010. The Miniature Hereford Sale is March 19, 2010, at 11 a.m. – Eds. ]
Photograph by Patrice Lewis
Dexters are a hardy breed of small mountain cattle, originally derived from the Celtic cattle of ancient Ireland. They are the smallest British breed of cattle with a cow being from 36 inches to just over a 42 inches at the shoulder. An average cow weighs about 775 lbs. The coat is usually black, but it can be red or dun brown. They are very hardy, requiring no pampering, yet remain efficient converters of feed to meat. Like most small breeds, they require only half the space a conventional animal would take. Pasture fed animals can finished early, at 18 to 24 months and 775 pounds live weight, without supplementary feeds, and still have good marbling and meat flavor. Heifers are precocious, and can be mated at 15 to 18 months. The Dexter is noted for easy calving, and the breed is known for the long useful breeding life of the cows – up to fourteen years, sometimes more.
This is just to name a few of the breeds I have been researching and noticed a popularity trend among them.
I have found that even though miniature cattle are small in size, the price tags for these little grass eaters made my heart skip a beat. It seams the smaller the cow is, the more it costs. I am leaning toward the Dexter breed due to their hardiness, easy calving and of course the cost.
American Minature Zebu Association, www.americanminiaturezebuassociation.org
American Dexter Cattle Association, www.dextercattle.org
Lipperts Exotics (Miniature Longhorns and Miniature Zebu), www.lippertsminiaturecattle.com
Point of Rocks Ranch (Miniature Herefords), www.minihereford.com
The Natural Food Hub, www.naturalhub.com