At last count there are twenty-six breed categories of miniature cattle in the International Miniature Cattle Breeds Registry. Miniature cattle are either selected reproductions of the older animals or are a result of several crossbreed programs. These crossbreed programs have the advantage of creating heterosis (higher performance levels) in their progeny. Whenever you cross one distinct breed with another the results can be an animal with outstanding performance characteristics. Miniature cattle are continuing to gain in popularity as farm size continues to shrink. The day of the one hundred to five hundred acre family farm has just about come to an end. Today the two acre, five acre, or ten acre family homestead farm is becoming more common. The smaller cattle breeds are particularly well suited for these small acreage farms for several reasons.
Small cattle are easier on the land, equipment and facilities. Those of us who once had large cattle remember the constant work on fencing, barn repairs, and hours mending broken equipment. The small animals just don’t have the bulk to do much harm. Pastures seem to stay greener longer because these miniature cattle weigh less and their hooves are smaller. Equipment maintenance is rare and you don’t need the heavy duty equipment.
It’s much easier to maintain a small herd as opposed to a solitary animal. Some folks with small acreage farms purchase one large animal to raise their own beef. Cattle are herd animals. You need more than one. A solitary animal just does not do as well as two or three together. With the small breeds it’s possible to put two or three animals in the same area that you might put just one large animal. This is much better for the animals.
More animals per acre is the key here. Because you can raise more animals in the same amount of space beef production is twice to three times as much. It takes about five acres to raise two large animals, depending where and on the pasture available. On the same area you could raise one or two animals per acre with one of the small cattle breeds. It doesn’t take a computer scientist to figure out total beef production per acre is much greater with the smaller cattle.
These smaller cattle are 25% more efficient in terms of feed conversion than their larger counterparts and therefore eat much less. About 1/3 the feed is typical. Miniature cattle come closer to a families needs than large commercial beef. One beef per locker is a lot more desirable than raising more beef than you need. Miniature cattle can also be a great investment and at the same time be helpmates with the grass and brush. They are also much less intimidating and easier to handle.
The truth of the matter however is that they make great pets. Most owners of these great little animals would probably never consider them for beef purposes. Because they are easy to work with it is very easy to give them names and develop bonding relationships. Lets see, on our little miniature cattle farm we have Little Red, Blue Girl, Green Girl, Misty, Snuggles, Little Lady, Violet, Happy, Danny Boy, Nutmeg and quite a few others. All the girls are expecting so we will have quite a few more. Have we eaten some of our miniatures? Yes we have. You can’t keep all the bulls. They do produce excellent quality meat. One piece of advice if you are going to use one or two for beef don’t give them names.
If you have questions or comments about this article or about the breeds of miniature cattle, contact IMCBR.
Content © 1997 Professor Richard Gradwohl