A Guide to Choosing Miniature Livestock

By Sue Weaver 

Miniature farm animals have so much more to offer than their adorable appearance. Exhibit pint-size animals at fairs and 4-H events, raise mini sheep for wool or meat, milk little cows and goats, and train tiny horses, donkeys, and mules to pull wagons or work as therapy animals. In Storey's Guide to Raising Miniature Livestock (Storey Publishing, 2010), Sue Weaver provides a comprehensive look at these entertaining and economical animals. The following excerpt is from Chapter 2, "Which Species?"


Factors to consider when choosing a miniature livestock species

Whether you keep farm animals for pleasure, food, or profit, there are miniature livestock options designed for every pocketbook, lifestyle, and taste. Which of them beckon to you?

When choosing the species and breeds you might like to raise, factor in personal preference; time constraints; ease of handling; space, fencing, and facilities needed to maintain the species; start-up costs; and profit potential. The following chart may help.

Species 

Availability 

Ease of care 

Livestock fencing* 

Pasture and shelter 

Compatibility with other species 

Profit potential 

Miniature cattle  3-5 (depending on breed)

Beef cattle and nonlactating dairy cattle: 1

Lactating dairy cattle: 3-4

Any standard cattle fencing: multiple strands of barbed, high-tensile, or electric fencing; welded-wire mesh cattle panels; wood, plastic, or pipe post-and-rail construction.

All approximately 1/3 the pasture-stocking rate recommended for a conventional cow, based on local conditions (consult your county extension agent for particulars)

Communal loose housing: allow 25-35 square feet of space per animal

Box stall: allow 64-80 or more square feet of space per animal (ideal sizes: 8’ X 8’ to 8’ X 10’)

All other livestock species of all sizes (barring horses that habitually chase cattle) 3-5 (depending on breed)
Miniature horses  1-3 (depending on quality) 1 Wood, plastic, or pipe post-and-rail construction; multiple strands of high-tensile or electric wire (but not barbed) fencing; welded-wire mesh cattle panels; woven-wire horse or sheep fencing.

Allow approximately 1/4 to 1/5 the pasture-stocking rate recommended for a full-size horse, based on local conditions (consult your county extension agent for particulars)

Communal loose housing: allow 30-40 square feet of space per animal

Box stall: allow 64-80 or more square feet of space per animal (ideal sizes: 8’ X 8’ to 8’ X 10’)

All other livestock species except aggresive full-size horses. 1-4 (depending on quality)
Miniature donkeys and mules  2-3 (depending on quality) 1 Wood, plastic, or pipe post-and-rail construction; multiple strands of high-tensile or electric wire (but not barbed) fencing; welded-wire cattle panels; woven-wire horse or sheep fencing.

Allow approximately 1/4 to 1/5 the pasture-stocking rate recommended for a full-size horse, based on local conditions (consult your county extension agent for particulars)

Communal loose housing: allow 25-35 square feet or more of space per adult donkey or mule

Box stall: allow 64-80 or more square feet of space per donkey (ideal sizes: 8’ X 8’ to 8’ X 10’)

All other livestock species except aggressive full-size horses. 1-4 (depending on quality)
Miniature llamas  4-5 1 Wood, plastic, or pipe post-and-rail construction; multiple strands of high-tensile or electric wire (but not barbed) fencing; welded-wire cattle panels; woven-wire horse or sheep fencing.

Communal loose housing: allow 25-30 square feet of space per llama

Box stall: allow 48-80 or more square feet of space per llama (ideal sizes: 6’ X 8’ to 8’ X 10’)

All other livestock species except aggressive full-size horses. 3-5 (depending on quality)
Miniature dairy goats  1-5 (depending on breed)

Non-lactating: 1

Lactating does: 3-4

Goats require secure fencing to keep them in and predators out: welded-wire cattle or tall sheep panels; woven-wire horse or sheep fencing; multiple strands of high-tensile or electric fencing.

Communal loose housing: allow 12-20 square feet or more per goat

Box stall: allow 16-24 square feet or more of space per goat (ideal sizes: 4' X 4' to 4' X 6', depending on breed)

All miniature livestock species; full-size goats, sheep, llamas 2-4 (depending on breed)
Miniature fiber goats  3 2-4 (1 on an everyday basis, but Pygoras and Nigoras require annual or biannual stripping or shearing, depending on fiber type) Same as for miniature dairy goats

Communal loose housing: allow 16-20 square feet or more per goat

Box stall: allow 16-30 square feet or more of space per goat (ideal sizes: 4' X 4' to 4' X 6')

All miniature livestock species; full-size goats, sheep, llamas 3
Pygmy goats  1-3 (depending on quality) 1 (3-4 if milking lactating does) Same as for miniature dairy goats

Communal loose housing: allow 16-20 square feet or more per goat

Box stall: allow 16-30 square feet or more of space per goat (ideal sizes 4' X 4' to 4' X 6')

All miniature livestock species; full-size goats, sheep, llamas 1-3 (depending on quality)
Miniature sheep  3-5 (depending on breed) 2 (1 on an everyday basis, but most miniature sheep also require annual shearing) Sheep require secure fencing to keep them in and predators out: welded-wire cattle or tall sheep panels; woven-wire horse or sheep fencing; multiple strands of high-tensile or electric fencing.

Communal loose housing: allow 12-16 square feet or more per sheep

Box stall: allow 16-24 square feet or more of space per sheep (ideal sizes: 4' X 4' to 4' X 6')

All other livestock species 3-4 (depending on breed)
Miniature pigs 

Potbellied pigs: 1

Kunekune and heritage pigs: 5

  Welded-wire hog panels work best

Communal loose housing: allow 20-25 square feet of space per pig

Box stall: allow 24-48 or more square feet of space per pig (ideal sizes: 4' X 6' to 6' X 8', depending on adult size and breed)

Smaller miniature pigs can also be housetrained and kept indoors as pets.

All other livestock species with one caveat: pigs have been known to kill and eat small weak lambs and kids. So they shouldn't be kept with sheep or goats with newborn offspring at their sides.

Potbellied pigs: 1

Kunekune: 4-5

Heritage breeds: variable (based on whether they're raised for breeding stock or pork)

Availability key: 1 = readily available, 5 = rare or demand currently exceeds supply
Ease of care key: 1 = very easy, 5 = time consuming or difficult
Profit potential key: 1 = very unlikely, 5 = high

*It's always best to house and pasture miniature livestock and poultry of all species inside tall, stout, predator-proof fencing. Also consider keeping a livestock guardian dog or a full-size guard llama or donkey with miniature goats, miniature sheep, and with small groups of miniature equines.

Note: Figures and comments are subjective and based on the author's experience and that of veteran livestock owners surveyed through species-specific e-mail forums.


This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from Storey's Guide to Raising Miniature Livestock, published by Storey Publishing, 2010. 

Cover image courtesy Storey PublishingRaising Miniature Livestock Cover

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