Ten Miniature Cattle Breeds for your Small Farm
Miniature cattle are the perfect size livestock for smaller farms and acreages, they are much easier and safer to handle than standard sized cattle, and they are ideal as organic or grass-fed beef.
Butchering one animal provides the right amount of meat for a small family and has more choice-cuts. One “mini-cow” will feed a family of four for six months. Mini-milk cows are perfect for families who prefer cows milk to goats milk and wish to consume organic, hormone-free milk.
Minis range in size at three years of age from 36″ in height to a maximum of 48″. This is one-half to one-third the size of normal cattle.
Being herd animals, several mini-cattle would be well suited to two or three acres. They are 25-30% more feed efficient than large cattle. The gestation period of a mini cow is around 285 days, which is the same length as a full-sized cow.
Due to more homestead and hobby farms, miniature cattle numbers are growing rapidly, though they remain a miniscule percentage of the total cattle here in the U.S. Small cattle breeds are utilized in pastoral areas of the developing world and in the past they were favored by small peasant farmers in Britain.
Purchasing miniature cattle can cost between $500 to $12,000 USD, with the rare Panda possibly selling for $30,000. There are now more than twenty breeds of mini-cattle, the more common ones being less expensive.
Some refer to mini-cattle as the “green” red meat.
Below are photos and brief descriptions of ten breeds of mini-cattle.
Miniature Belted Galloway
photo credit: Leiper’s Creek Valley Farm
The Galloway cattle originiated in Scotland as an extremely hardy breed with a great temperament. They are the oldest polled breed of cattle in the world and come in several colors with a white belt, black being the most common. Their unique double layer of hair gives them more climate flexibility. They are non-selective grazers and can be run with sheep. Cows are good mothers and good milk producers.
Further information: Mini-Beltie.org.
Dexter Mini Cow
Photo credit: wikipedia
The Dexter breed originated in Ireland. Dexter cattle are about half the size of a traditional Hereford. Mature cows weigh 600–700 pounds (270–320 kg) and mature bulls weigh 1,000 pounds (450 kg). They may be of several solid colors, black being the most common, with horns. Dexters make excellent milk cows, producing 2 to 2.5 gallons (7.6 to 9.5 liters) per day, but they are also excellent meat producers. Their third common use is as oxen.
Many of the miniature cattle breeds have been made by crossing Dexters with other breeds over these past two decades.
Further information: Oklahoma State
Miniature Zebu Cow with Calf
Zebu originated as naturally small primitive cattle and may date back as far as 6,000 B.C. in South Asia. They are a tropical breed which is slow to mature, hardy, and disease resistant. If raised in cold climates, they require a barn. Mature cows should weigh 300 to 500 pounds, and bulls, 400 to 600 pounds. They come in a variety of colors.
Further information: International Miniature Zebu Association
Jersey Miniature Cattle
Photo credit: flickr
Further information: Wikipedia.
Miniature Panda Cow
photo credit: wikipedia
The “Miniature Panda” is very rare, and has a white belt with a white face and black ovals around the eyes, giving it a panda-like appearance. A panda calf can bring as much as $30,000. It may result from a cross between an Irish Dexter and a Belted Galloway.
Further information: mini cattle
photo credit: flickr
Miniature Herefords have been created by “breeding down,” or selecting the smallest livestock for breeding purposes. They consume about half that of full-sized cows and produce 50-75% of the meat. They weigh 500-700 pounds. There are over 300 miniature-Hereford breeders in the U.S., compared to only two dozen in the year 2000.
Further information: Australian Miniature Hereford Cattle Association.
Lowline Angus Bull
photo credit: wikipedia
Developed in Australia, like the mini-Hereford, the Lowline Angus was also created by “breeding down” or selecting the smallest stock from the established Angus breed. On average, Lowline Angus cows weigh 650-950 pounds and are 36-42 inches in height, while bulls weigh 950-1350 pounds and are 39-46 inches in height. They are black, docile, and naturally polled, while calving easily. Their carcases have higher dressing percentage, marbled meat, and are well suited to beef production on grass.
Further information: Oklahoma State
Texas Longhorn Miniature Cow with Calf
photo credit: Indian Mountain
Miniature Texas Longhorns have been bred-down from standard-sized longhorns to approximately 1/3 the size. They are very hardy in dry climates, come in many colors, are gentle, and are good lean beef producers.
Further information: Texas Longhorn Breeders Association of America.
Miniature Highland Cattle
photo credit: AmByth Estate
Miniature Scottish Highland cattle are said to be similar to the size of the original cattle found on the Scottish isles. This ancient breed is used for beef and dairy and also as oxen. They are hardy and thrifty, have a stocky build and a long coat. They adapt well to mountains and colder climates.
Further information: Ruatiti Highland Cattle NZ
Miniature Holstein Cow
photo credit: Cumberland Miniatures
These are miniature milk cows and may produce 2-3 gallons of milk per day. The milk is of the same quality as from the full-size Holstein cow. Mini-milk cows are perfect for families who prefer cows milk to goats milk and who prefer to drink organic milk. The black and white Holstein originated in the Netherlands, as an excellent grass-raised dairy animal.
- Mother Earth News: Raise Small-breed Milk Cows.
- LA Times: Farms downsize with miniature cows.
- Seattle: Sustainable Cattle Farming that’s good for cows, people, and the environment
- Frequent Q & A about Mini Cows
- Mini-Cows for Mini-Farms