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Bigger isn't always better
For 50 years, the motto of the mainstream cattle business has been, Bigger is Better. Bulls often weigh over a ton!
But families living on smaller acreages may not have room for those big bovines. Large cattle can be dangerous, especially for kids, and you might not need that much meat or milk. Big animals are fence-busters.
A movement is on for mini cattle – a small-scale version of traditional cattle breeds. Selective breeding over several generations has led to cattle that are barely half the size of their traditional ancestors. Their mini credentials are defined not by weight, but by their height at the hip. They can’t be more than 48 inches to be called a mini, and many of them are around 40 to 42 inches – just above your waist.Date Published: July 11, 2012Date Updated: July 11, 2012
Small but mighty
These pint-size bovines may yield just enough meat for the family freezer or just enough milk for you and a couple of neighbors. For some animal lovers, these little grass-guzzlers are just cute, adorable, and expensive (read on) kid-friendly pets.
Here are six examples of small-scale ranchers who raise cottage-size cattle. Most of these owners have mini cattle for sale, or they may know a fellow breeder who can help you find what you need.Date Published: July 11, 2012Date Updated: July 11, 2012
Mini Belted Galloway
Belted Galloway cattle (mini Belties) are black, dun, or red with a distinctive white belt around their middle. Jody Richards says they are easy keepers. Mature cows average about 44 inches and weigh about 700 pounds. "I want to take care of them on weekends without needing a big tractor and hay baler," she says. "I put out a bale of hay, and these guys are good for the week." Stocking density is about double for standard-size cattle. On 5 acres of good pasture, Jody says you could run a herd of eight or 10 cows. She sells breeding stock. Her heifer calves go for $1,200 to $2,000, and bulls calves are $800 to $1,500. A mature bred cow might be $3,000 to $4,000.Date Published: July 11, 2012Date Updated: July 11, 2012
Bill Buck (pictured here) and another breeder developed this breed. His goal has been to maintain the beautiful horns and color patterns of Longhorn cattle in an easier-to-feed-and-manage small package. His mature cows average 40 inches at the hips and weigh between 400 and 550 pounds. Calf birth weight is usually 22 to 24 pounds. Stocking density can be almost double that of normal-size cows. In Bill's Texas climate, he can run about one of his mini Longhorns per acre. These cattle are pricey. Bill mostly sells weaned calves at 6 months of age, and they average $3,200 each – more for heifers, less for bulls. "They're really pets," he says. "At those prices, you can't afford to turn them into beef. I love their temperament and the way people can mix with them. The emotion they show toward each other is just amazing."Date Published: July 11, 2012Date Updated: July 11, 2012
Greg Dillon's Lowline Angus cows average about 40 inches tall at the hips and weigh 600 to 800 pounds at maturity. Greg says pasture stocking density is just simple math. If a full-size 1,200-pound cow needs an acre for grazing, then two 600-pounders can graze the same space. Many of his steer calves go to a rancher in Washington state who grazes them to about 700 pounds at 18 months of age for butchering. "People love the meat from these cattle," Greg says. "What I like best is their temperament. They are easier to handle than traditional-size cattle, and they don't work your fences as hard." On an acreage, Greg says mini cattle let you keep two or three animals, where you might only have room for one traditional size. "Lowline Angus are herding animals, so it's better for them to be together."Date Published: July 11, 2012Date Updated: July 11, 2012
While a full-size milk cow might give 6 to 8 gallons of milk a day, these little brown cows give 2 to 3 gallons. And they are very kid-friendly, says Pat Schout. He has a dozen mini cows, with mature weights of 400 to 600 pounds and heights of 40 to 42 inches at the hips. Calves weigh about 30 pounds at birth. "We got into this because we wanted cattle that our kids could work with and have some chores," says Pat. The Schouts like drinking the milk. Pat machine-milks his mini cows, but he says the cows are easy hand-milkers for someone with only one or two. "They're herding animals, but you can keep one cow alone and she'll do fine." They can be stocked two to three per acre, depending on pasture conditions. He usually sells calves at 4 to 6 months old for $2,500 to $5,500 per head.Date Published: July 11, 2012Date Updated: July 11, 2012
The mini Herefords are bred for meat production, and at 45 inches or less at the hips, can still weigh up to 1,000 pounds. "Our mini cattle are more like the cattle of 50 or 100 years ago," says Regena Barrett. "There's lots of meat in them." She says they can be stocked on pasture at about 2:1 compared to standard cows. "I can't name another breed that I can walk into a pasture with bulls in it, and not fear for my life. I also like the size of these calves. They are born at about 30 to 50 pounds, and kids can work with them. My three daughters can't wait to do that." When Regena has calves for sale, heifers usually go for $2,500 to $5,500, depending on show quality (mini Herefords are hot on some show circuits). Bred heifers are in the $3,500 price range.Date Published: July 11, 2012Date Updated: July 11, 2012
Mini Panda cattle have a face that looks like a Chinese Panda bear. Richard Gradwohl raised several breeds of small cattle for many years, and in 2000, the first Panda-looking calf was born, a heifer named Precious. She stood only 14 inches tall at birth. From her has come a unique new breed of mini cattle, the Panda. Richard passed away in 2011, but wife Arlene, daughter Michelle, and son Michael carry on his legacy with the Pandas, along with other breeds of miniature cattle. The Gradwohls call the Pandas an exotic pet. "They're too expensive to raise for meat. We have some female calves for sale for $6,500 and males for $4,500," says Michelle. "They are very docile cattle and good around kids. It's their uniqueness that I like the most. You can look at cattle all day long and not see any like these." At maturity, cows will weigh about 600 pounds.Date Published: July 11, 2012Date Updated: July 11, 2012
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