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Make it on few acres with miniature cattle

Miniature cattle fit well for the cattle lover with just a few acres of pasture.
Miniature cattle are mostly a smaller version of conventional cattle. Dick Gradwohl advises that miniature cattle for beef markets have a final weight of 600 pounds. "You sacrifice efficiency with a bigger animal," he says.

Perfect fit for acreages

If you love cattle, but don't think you can raise them on a small acreage, talk to Dick Gradwohl.

He and his wife, Arlene, run a thriving beef herd of 70 head on 40 acres in Covington, Washington, about 20 miles east of Seattle. There's a difference, though. These aren't the familiar 1,200-pound cows that mosey around pastures or 1,100-pound steers that lumber through feedlots. These miniature cattle are smaller, ranging from 250 pounds to 900 pounds. They're shorter, too, ranging in height between 38 to 46 inches.

As a result, miniature cattle fit well with small acreages. Dick says stocking rates of two 600-pound miniature cows per acre can match two 1,200-pound cows per 5 acres.

He says that miniature cattle convert feed 25% better than their larger counterparts and eat one third as much. The short cell structure of miniature cattle makes for tender beef. Their docile temperament also appeals to folks who don't want to wrestle with larger cattle.

"Big cows can be intimidating, but small animals can be more like a buddy," Dick says.

Small but beefy

The Gradwohls first raised standard size cattle. However, Seattle's suburban sprawl substantially raised the property taxes of the original farm they bought in 1965.

"We started selling off pieces of land to pay the property taxes," says Dick. "As we downsized acres, it occurred to me it would make sense if the cattle were smaller, too." Thus, they established a thriving miniature cattle herd derived from European cattle genetics. They retained the miniature cattle emphasis when they moved to a nearby farm in 1986.

"In England, a 5-acre piece of ground is an estate," says Dick. "They didn't want big cows. They wanted a small animal that was beefy."

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