Category Archives: heritage breeds

Cape Barren Geese

This is an interesting heritage goose breed.

Photo Flickr CC by Charles Strebor. Cape Barren Geese at Churchill Island Heritage Farm in Australia.

Cape Barren goose is a greyish Australian goose, Cereopsis novaehollandiae, having a black bill with a greenish cere

[Named after Cape Barren Island in the Bass Strait]

A Summary of Sheep Breeds Popular in the United States

Droving sheep at sunset with storm – Powder River Basin – Wyoming.
Photo credit: Flickr CC via Jeremy Buckingham MLC.

Talk about an idyllic farm picture. Scatter some sheep across a green “veriditas” pasture under a few trees. Or watch a collie herd a flock of sheep across a mountain rangeland. This mammal is a good fit in a pastoral rural landscape, a hardy and rugged flock animal which provides healthy meat and fiber for humans. The number of sheep being raised in America has diminished greatly since the 1950′s, but they are coming back on today’s small, organic farms and among local food movement meat appreciators.


Sheep were being domesticated 9 to 11 thousand years ago in Mesopotamia. In Europe, sheep husbandry was taking place 600 B.C. in the south of France. They descended from the Asian mouflon which are still found in the mountains of Asia Minor and southern Iran.

The number of domestic sheep in the world is over one billion. Sheep were introduced into the United States in 1607. In the early 19th century, sheep production in the U.S. moved westward where rangeland competition between cattle and sheep have been ongoing ever since.

The sheep is a ruminant animal, that having a four-chambered stomach and chewing a cud. Sheep are mostly grazers as opposed to goats which tend to forage on a wider variety of plants. Sheep prefer to eat forbs, or flowering plants, as well as grass and clover. They are useful at controlling weeds such a leafy spurge, knapweed, and kudzu. Sheep love to eat grain, but if it is added to their diets, it must be introduced slowly.

There are more than 200 distinct sheep breeds worldwide. Breeds vary according to their quality of meat, milk, and wool production as well as their hardiness and adaptability. Wool fiber characteristics are described as fine, medium, and long, or carpet wool. A rich, moist, pasture acre might support ten grazing sheep whereas an arid pasture condition might require ten acres per sheep. The intelligent Border Collie is a popular dog for working sheep. Sheep are often marked by their owners with ear tags, or raddles, which are temporary colored pigments. Sheep growers must work to prevent predators such as coyotes and dogs from reducing their herds.

Wool-producing sheep breeds need sheared at least once a year, preferrably in the spring. One sheep might produce seven pounds of grease wool. Because of the expense of shearing, hair sheep varieties which shed their coat naturally, are gaining in popularity.

Foraging herbivores such as sheep under managed or “prescribed” grazing conditions, are beneficial to grasslands and help to improve biodiversity. But, care has to be taken not to allow sheep to over-graze, which damages range land.

Sheep production has been on the decline in the United States. It peaked at 56 million head in 1945, and went down to 7 million head in 2003. Larger sheep operations are in the Western U.S. and smaller ones are in the Northeast, where the meat is more popular. Texas, California, and Wyoming are the top sheep-producing states. Meatpacking concentration has eroded prices for sheep producers in the U.S., contributing to the decline in herds. The development of synthetic fabrics in the 1960′s hurt the wool industry. However, small local lamb producers are being embraced in the eat-local and farmers market movements that are popular today.

Now, the U.S. imports much of its lamb from Australia and New Zealand, where sheep are grass-fed and generally smaller weight animals. Australia accounts for almost 30 percent of the world’s lamb and mutton exports and New Zealand accounts for over 40 percent. These two countries also have the highest lamb and mutton consumption in the world at 50 pounds per year for New Zealand and 37 pounds per year for Australia, as compared to 1 pound per year in the U.S.

To follow are photos and brief descriptions of some of the most popular sheep breeds being raised in the U.S., plus a few heritage varieties.



Merino wool sheep – Virginia.
Photo credit: Flickr CC via brownpau.

Merino sheep breeds are fine wool sheep found in Australia, South Africa, South America and the U.S. This variety accounts for about 50 percent of the world’s sheep population. Fine wool sheep do well in arid and semi-arid regions, have a strong flocking instinct, are productive, adaptable, excellent foragers, and are long-lived. The merino wool sheep has fine and soft, high quality wool and is slightly smaller than sheep bred just for meat. Merino, a Spanish word, is historically well-known in Spain where it was introduced as early as the 12th century. Merino wool is common in high-end, performance athletic clothing.

There are many breeds of merino wool sheep including American Rambouillet, German Merinofleischschaf, South African Meat Merino, Delaine Merino, Argentine Merino, Booroola Merino, and others.



Rambouillet Sheep.
Photo credit: American Rambouillet Sheep Breeders Association.

Rambouillet are the most popular commercial sheep. They are the foundation breed of most western range flocks in the United States. Sometimes called the French Merino, they descend from the Spanish Merino crossed with native French “Rambouillet” farm sheep, dating back to 1800. German breeders further developed and popularized the breed, which is larger than the Spanish merino. The U.S. Rambouillet breed association was formed in 1889. This is a large and long lived breed with a strong flocking instinct. It is an excellent dual-purpose breed for both meat and wool.

To learn more, go to the American Rambouillet Sheep Breeders Association.



Suffolk sheep – Ovis aries – Midlands, England.
Photo credit: Flickr CC via fwooper.

The Suffolk sheep breed is a meat or “mutton-type” sheep, with medium wool, and a striking appearance with its black legs and head. It accounts for more than fifty percent of purebred sheep registrations. It originated from a cross between Southdown rams and Norfolk Horn ewes 200 years ago on the rugged southeastern coast of England. This is a large, fast growing breed which yields heavy, good-quality meat. They were introduced into the U.S. in 1888.

To learn more, go to the United Suffolk Sheep Association.



Hampshire sheep.
Photo credit: Wikipedia.

The Hampshire sheep breed produces fine quality medium wool and excellent mutton. They have black legs and faces, grow quickly, and have good meat carcasses. Hampshires are large and active foragers with a mild dispostion. The breed originated in the early 1800′s by crossing Southdowns with horned white-faced sheep native to the Hampshire Downs in the UK. It became popular in the U.S. in the 18th century.

To learn more, go to the American Hampshire Sheep Association.



Katahdin Sheep, third largest meat breed.
Photo credit: Hidden Meadow Farms – Bridgewater, Maine

The Katahdin sheep is a hair sheep which has good carcass quality and was developed in the U.S. in the 1950′s. They are named after Mt. Katahdin in Maine where they were crossed by an amateur geneticist. This breed is easy-care, low-maintenance, tolerant of extreme weather, and naturally resistant to parasites. It sheds its winter coat, so it does not have to be sheared, which saves costs and makes them suitable to the warmer growing regions. They are medium-sized and ideal for pasture lambing and forage systems.

To learn more, go to Katahdin Hair Sheep International.



Dorper Sheep.
Photo credit: Wikipedia.

The Dorper sheep is a hardy, popular breed in South Africa. Originating in arid condtions, it is highly adaptable to many environments. Its popularity in the U.S. started in 1995. Their coat is a mix of wool and hair and drops off without being sheared. It has a prized sheepskin because it is so thick, protecting it from harsh weather. This skin is marketed under the name “Cape Glovers” and provides about 20 percent of the Dorper’s carcass value. They are a good mutton producing sheep.

To learn more, go to the American Dorper Sheep Breeders’ Society.



Dorset Sheep.
Photo credit: Old McCaskill’s Farm – Rembert, South Carolina.

The Dorset sheep is a medium wool, meat sheep known for prolific lambing. Polled dorsets are popular in the U.S. They are prolific breeders and milkers with a good body carcass for meat production. In the U.S., Dorset history began in Salem, Oregon in 1860, while polled Dorsets originated at North Carolina State College in Raleigh. They are the most popular white faced breed in the U.S., and second only to the Suffolk breed in total numbers.

To learn more, go to the Continental Dorset Club.



Southdown Sheep.
Photo credit: Wyncrest Farms – Houstonia, Missouri.

The Southdown sheep are a dual-purpose medium wool and meat sheep well suited for farm flock production. They originated from southeastern England, are one of the oldest sheep breeds, and have contributed genetics to the Suffolk, Hampshire and Oxford breeds. They were known to be in Connecticut back in 1648. They are great survivors and thrivers in difficult conditions and adapt well to intensive management. The breed is medium-small with a gray face and legs and is polled. Southdown sheep are useful for grazing weeds in vineyards because they are too short to reach the grapes.



Karakul Sheep.
Photo credit: Flickr CC via Just chaos.

The Karakul sheep breed is a fat tailed sheep that is possibly the oldest of the domesticated sheep, dating back to 1400 B.C. in Persia. Fat tailed sheep are about 25 percent of the world sheep population and have a distinctive taste. Karakul sheep are found in very arid regions of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Extremely hardy, they are raised for meat, milk, pelts, and wool. They were introduced into the U.S. in the early 20th century for pelt production. Currently, Karakul’s are finding a niche in the fiber arts cottage industry, so there are small farm flocks throughout the U.S. The fleece lacks a high grease content, is easily spun, and produces a superior carpet yarn. It is the wool from which the art of felting began.

To learn more, go to the American Karakul Sheep Registry.



Lincoln Sheep.
Photo credit: National Lincoln Sheep Breeders Association

The Lincoln, or Lincoln Longwool sheep was imported from England into the U.S. in the late 18th century. It is known as the world’s largest sheep breed, with mature rams weighing from 250 to 350 pounds. They are long wooled sheep and their lustrous fleece is in demand for spinning and weaving crafts. They produce the heaviest and coarsest fleece of all the long-wooled sheep varieties.

To learn more, go to the National Lincoln Sheep Breeders Association.



Icelandic Sheep.
Photo credit: Flickr CC via Neil D’Cruze.

The medium-sized Icelandic sheep are raised for fiber, meat, and milk. This feral and thrifty breed has coarse, low grade wool, used for carpets. The breed is double-coated with a coarse long outer coat for protection from life in extreme environments. They are a very prolific, short-tailed breed originating from Northern Europe, and brought to Iceland by the Vikings in 9th century. Accustomed to harsh environments, they are efficient herbivores, and not very docile. To preserve its heritage it is illegal to import any sheep into Iceland, where the breed is used primarily for meat. The first Icelandic sheep were introduced into North America in 1985, in Canada.

To learn more, go to the Icelandic Sheep Breeders of North America.



Navajo Churro Ram.
Photo credit: Flickr CC via Just chaos.

The Navajo Churro sheep is the oldest U.S. breed with the most animals located in New Mexico. They were imported to North America in the 16th century to feed Spanish armies. This breed is hardy and adaptable, intelligent, has delicate meat, and double coat wool for yarn used in Navajo weaving. Churro thrived in the Southwest and were kept by the Navajo along the Rio Grande Valley in the 17th century. They became an important part of Navajo culture, providing them with meat, milk, hide, horns and wool. The U.S. government nearly exterminated them in the 1860′s and again in the 1930′s, when flocks were massacred by the USDA to about 800 head. Today, they are making a comeback. The breed was revived by starting a breeding program in 1978 from gathering survivors found in small pockets. The species is now “rare” but not “endangered”.

To learn more, go to the Navajo-Churro Sheep Association.



Leicester Longwool Sheep at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.
Photo credit: Flickr CC via Rory Finneren.

The Leicester Longwool sheep were developed in the 1700′s by Britain’s Robert Bakewell. It is a curly wooled sheep, medium to large, with a high quality carcass, but valued especially by handspinners and weavers. These were raised in the early American colonies, but had almost disappeared by the 1930′s in the U.S. A Colonial Williamsburg project is working on bringing back this heritage sheep breed, classified as “rare”. This has been an important breed for humans. Leicester Longwool’s were instrumental in the colonization of New Zealand and Australia, and were used in the 19th and 20th centuries to create new breeds of sheep. Today they number about 2,000 world-wide.

To learn more, go to the Leicester Longwool Sheep Breeders Association.



1. Sheep breeds – Oklahoma State website.
2. Sheep 101 Information (Maryland).
3. American Sheep Industry Association.
4. Wikipedia.

Six Duck Breeds For Your Small Farm

Runner ducks
Photo credit: Wikipedia CC

If you are considering adding ducks to your small farm you will be making a wise choice, as they will be pleasant companions and entertain you daily while providing pest control, manure for your soil, meat, eggs, down and feathers, and left-over grease that can be used for cooking. Granted, they do make “messes” with water and mud, depending upon your tolerance for that sort of thing. If your land has water, adding ducks would be a perfect fit. Ducks can be herded to bed in a simple night time shelter and they are more cold hardy than chickens.

When I was growing up, my grandmothers raised ducks on their farms and always gave us their “extra” ducklings in the spring. Besides enjoying their company, in my opinion, there is no better holiday meat than home raised free range Mallard duck. We didn’t have a pond, but set out a large water container for them to swim in. They loved using it and we loved to watch them use it. When our small flock circled the place by wing in the fall, we sadly knew that harvesting time was upon us.

Duck husbandry is important around the world, especially in Asia, where ducks are sometimes integrated into the rice paddy cycle. In the United States in 2007, according to the USDA, 31.3 million ducks were raised and the top three duck raising states were Indiana, California, and Pennsylvania. Americans on average only consumed about 1/3 pound of duck per person that year. In Canada, the duck industry totaled $58 million in 2006, part of the $5 billion pountry industry. Commercial duck producers use 17-20 pounds of feed to raise 6-7 pound ducklings in 7 weeks, whereas small farmers let them graze and gather their own food.

Ducks don’t scratch up vegetables, like chickens do and they are efficient egg producers, too. They lay their eggs by 8 AM and the eggs are larger, richer and fatter than chicken eggs. Certain duck breeds are well-suited for egg-laying such as the Khaki Campbell which lays well over 300 eggs per year.

“You don’t have a snail problem. You have a duck deficiency!” —Bill Mollison

If you want an optimal permaculture use for ducks, keep them fenced in your orchard, away from vegetables and where these omnivores eat weeds, insect pests and the odd fallen fruit.

All domestic duck breeds originate from the wild Mallard except for the Muscovy. If heritage breeds are your thing, then you will want to consider raising Aylesbury, Crested, Black East Indian, Buff Orpington, Welsh Harlequin, Silver Appleyard or Rouen ducks.

The following chart is from a 1989 Mother Earth News. It shows which of “the duck breeds your grandparents raised are still best for small farmsteads,” listing the unique and important characteristics of each duck type.

These next two charts compare the efficiency of meat and egg production according to various poultry types, including how much feed is required to produce a pound of meat, or eggs. As you can see, ducks are quite efficient for both purposes when compared to other poultry, but choosing the appropriate breed for your needs is important. (source:



If you have a relative or neighbor who raises ducks, you just may find yourself with a brood of free give-a-ways when they discover they’ve hatched too many for the season.

Lucky you!

Soon thereafter it will be you giving away the ducks.

Next, please read about the six duck breeds that I have chosen to feature. If you raise ducks and have any observations you’d like to share, please leave a comment and tell us which are your favorites.


White Pekin Duck

White Pekin Ducks
Photo credit: flickrCC/northdevonfarmer

The most common duck in the U.S. is the White Pekin, also called the Long Island Duck. Ninty-five percent of the duck meat consumed in the U.S. is Pekin, and it is the most popular commercial breed. Bred from the Mallard in China many years ago, this breed marked the beginning of America’s domestic duck industry in 1873, when they were shipped here from England.

The White Pekin is a dual-purpose breed, with adults weighing 8-11 pounds, and females laying 140-200 eggs per year. The body type is large with pure white feathers and an orange beak and feet. The breed is nervous, generally too heavy to fly, and considered the easiest of all breeds to dress. Their average lifespan is 9 to 12 years.

Pekin ducks don’t always chooose to sit on their nests, so eggs should be incubated, or hens can be used to sit on their nests. Eggs hatch after 28 days.

As with other ducks, these can imprint on humans for pleasant and long-lasting companionship. They are excellent sentinels, like geese, and will warn the household or other animals in the yard of approaching strangers or danger.


Muscovy Duck

Muscovy duck perched on a farm fence
photo credit: flickr CC/SubZeroConsciousness

Originally from Brazil, the “quackless” Muscovy duck is considered by some to be more goose-like. They are the only breed of duck that is not descended from the Mallard. Muscovy Ducks had been domesticated by various Native American cultures in the Americas when Columbus arrived. The first few were brought to Europe by the European explorers in the 16th century. In their natural range of South America, they are often referred to as “Musco ducks” as they eat many mosquitos.

The Muscovy Duck is sometimes crossed with mallards in captivity to produce hybrids, known as mulard ducks (“mule duck”) because they are sterile.

This is a dual purpose breed, desireable for both meat and egg-laying. Muscovy meat is unique in that it is stronger tasting, tender, less greasy, leaner, and sometimes compared to veal or roast beef. White breeds are most desireable for meat production due to skin color. They grow quickly and were once the choice of meat for European Christmas dinners. They are hardy and less prone to illnesses than other duck breeds.

Adult Muscovys weigh 7-12 pounds or more and are 25-34 inches long. The males are twice the size of the females. A unique characteristic of this duck is that it can perch due to feet with strong sharp claws. This earned them names of “perching duck” and “tree sitting duck.” The mature males have large red warty caruncles above the beak and around the eyes. They are intelligent, agile, and come in a wide variety of colors, although most are still the original color of glossy blackish/brown and white. The male has a breathy voice, and the female, a quiet croaking call.

These are very good egg layers, hatching 15-20 eggs up to three times a year. They lay eggs in tree holes or nesting boxes and incubate them for 35 days. The young stay with their mothers for 10-12 weeks and can fly in 5-8 weeks. The young feed on grains, grass and insects, and are good at keeping lawns trimmed. They eat mosquitoes, mosquito larvae, roaches, flies, spiders, and ants.

Males can be aggressive and observed to fight using their claws, wings and beaks, however, they are overall quite friendly to people. Muscovys swim less than other ducks. They prefer wooded areas with water, adapt well to extreme cold, and like to roost in trees at night. This breed is spreading, adaptable to both tropics and cold.


Mallard Duck

Mallard Ducks having a dispute
photo credit: flickr CC/ellenm1

The Mallard duck is the ancestor of most all domestic ducks except for the Muscovy and American Black duck. This “Wild Duck” domesticated weighs 3-3.5 pounds at adulthood and reaches 26 inches in length. The biggest threat to its breed is hybridization with other ducks.

This small flying duck which is widely hunted is native to most countries in the Northern Hemisphere. The male, with its characteristic green head and white neckring is easily recognized.

The mother Mallard raises one or two broods per year often in the same spot year after year, with 8-13 eggs per nest which are incubated 27 days. By five weeks of age, the ducklings are hardy and ready for any type of weather. The ducklings fledge at 50-60 days and between three to four months of age, the young begin flying. Mallards mature at 14 months and can live 20 years in captivity, though in the wild, half of them die by two years of age.

If you choose to raise mallards, know that this breed is timid and somewhat shy of humans. They are social, so need a small flock to feel content. Mallard meat is darker than other breeds. Their diet consists of small water plants and animals as well as grains, weeds, and insects. Noisy by nature, this is a quacking breed. Allow them to forage, swim, and fly and they will be happy.


Indian Runner Ducks

Runner ducks running instead of flying
Photo credit: FlickrCC/me’nthedogs

The Indian Runner duck is a “light duck,” egg-laying, nervous, general purpose breed which stands tall like a penguin. It is found in two dozen colors and does not fly, but runs instead. This breed originated in India or possibly China over 2,000 years ago and came to the United States from England in 1900.

These are prolific egg layers, laying anywhere from 150-300 eggs per year, depending upon the variety. The females rarely nest but drop eggs wherever they happen to be foraging. The adult drake weighs 3.5-5 pounds and the duck weighs 3-4.4 pounds with heights of 20-30 inches. This is a less noisy breed as only the females quack.

These ducks love to forage, swim, and run through grassy meadows, though they can be content confined to a garden area.


Ancona Duck

Ancona ducks
Photo credit: Wikipedia

This excellent choice for a domestic egg-laying and meat producing duck is a rare breed which was introduced into the U.S. in 1984 from England. Anconas descended from the Indian Runner Duck and the Belgian Huttegem Duck, and are most closely related to the Magpie duck. This breed has a calm personality, they are excellent foragers, and prolific egg layers, laying 210-280 eggs per year. With a quick growth rate, adults weigh 6-6.5 pounds, and the meat is tasty and less fatty than the Pekin. Attractive in appearance, the most common color of the Ancona duck is black and white, though they come in a wide range of colors and mottlings.


Buff Orpington Duck

Buff Orpington Duck
Photo credit: Sprout ‘n Wings Farm

This large dual purpose breed is an especially attractive good egg layer and table duck. The buff color found in both the male and female was created by crossing Indian Runners with Rouens, Aylesburys and Cayugas in England. They were introduced to the United States in 1908 but is rare today.

Buffs are a flock bird that lays 150-220 eggs per year and grows quickly. Their meat is considered tastier than the larger Pekins, and ready for harvest after the ducks are 8-10 weeks old. Light pin feathers make this breed easier to dress. Adult Buffs weigh 7 to 8 pounds.

As an added bonus for this duck’s attractiveness, it does not show dirt.


Univ. of Minnesota: Raising Ducks (2008)
Univ. of California Extension Service: Raising Ducks in Small Flocks
Univ. of California Extension Service: Muscovy Duck Care Practices
Univ. of Minnesota: Farm Flock Poultry (2008)
Boondockers Farm on Raising Ducks



1. Murray McMurray Hatchery sells the following ducklings (by mail order) which include several mixes: Homesteader’s Delight, White Crested Duck, Runner Duck Assortment, Gold Star Hybrid Duck, Jumbo Pekin Duck, Flying Mallard, Cayuga, Khaki Campbell, Runners Ducks, Blue Swedish, Buff Ducks, Ducks Deluxe Mix, Fancy Duck Package, White Pekin, Rouen, Barnyard Combinations, Welsh Harlequin Duck, Black Swedish Duck.

2. A list of the ducks which have been catalogued by the FAO from around the world include the following varieties: Belibis, Black East Indian, Hook Bill, Pommern, Rouen Clair, Swedish Blue, Belted, Jending, Dendermondse eend, forest, Huttegemse eend, Laplaigne, Merchtemse eend, Semois, Japanice Crioll, Grimao ermaô, Tea Anka, Canard du Cameroun, Azul, Mudo, Pato colorado, Brown Tsaiya, Caohu, Dayu, Enshi Partridge, Gaoyou, Jiangchang, Jinding, Linwu, Liancheng White, Putian Black, Quemoy, Sansui, Shaoxing, Weishan Partridge, Wendeng Black, Xingyi, Youxian Partridge, Yunnan Partridge, Zhongshan Partridge, Local Duck of Côte d’Ivoir, Barbary, Dsshed, Dwarf volant, Domiati, Shersheer, Sudani, Blanc De L’allie, D’estaire, De Bourbour, De Challan, Duclair ble, Duclair noir, Rouen fonc, Domestic Duck of Guam, Kunshan, Pekingase Duck of hortobág, Chemball, Kuttanadu Char, Kisara, Pegaga, Tondano, Maros, Magelang, Osaka Duck, Malian Duck, Bibbed, Kuifeend, Kwaker, Spreeuwkop, NoordHollandse witborsteend, Batakh, Pato Criollo Francé, Criollo, Philippine Duck , Tsaiya, Chunsoo, Blagovarsk, Medeo, Bantam duck (Slovenia), Hifh Fly, Annera Mallorquina, Petrock, Velovi, Vigro, Blekingeanka, Svensk Gul Anka, Ped Puen Muang Pak-Nam, Black White-Breasted, Appleyard Bantam, Baldwin, Bali, Crested Bantam, Gimbsheimer, Magpie, Penguin, Shetland, Silver Bantam Duck, Stanbridge White, Streicher, Whaylesbury, Anh Dao, Bau quy, Bauben, Ky Lua, Moc, Nang, Omon, Tiep, Madada.

Hot 5: Steyr Gas Tractor. Washington Grain Port. Super Weeds. Jyoti. Prezewalski’s Horse.


CNH Global N.V. has produced a prototype tractor which runs on natural gas. This “Steyr Profi 4135 Natural Power” has a Fiat turbocharged compressed natural gas engine which is 3.0 litre, four-cylinder, and 100kW/136 hp rated. The gas storage is divided into nine tanks totalling 300 liters. This tractor is to be on the market in 2015, and is especially encouraged for farms having their own biogas systems.



Just recently completed, this was the first export grain terminal to be built in the U.S. in more than 25 years. Located on the Columbia River, it is serviced by both the Union Pacific and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroads, plus barges and trucks. It has the capacity to unload rail cars at the rate of 3,000 MT/hour. Having a storage capacity of 4.7 million bushels in 36 concrete silos, it handles corn, soybeans, wheat, soybean meal, and DDGs. Export destinations are Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam in Asia; Guatemala, Chile, El Salvador, Peru, and Colombia in Latin America. In addition to the $200 million project, a $32 million South Dakota project near Kimball, capable of storing 3.2 million bushels of grain for export by rail to West Coast ports will be completed later this year.



Photo credit: Colorado State
Pigweed, which can get 2-4 feet tall

It didn’t last long, did it? Ever since Roundup, or glyphosate, was approved for general use in 1994, weeds have been evolving to resist it. There are now more than 20 types of Roundup resistant weeds, in 24 states, which have developed over the past 15 years. Even though seed companies are working on the next generation of herbicide tolerant crops, experts believe that this development may put us on the downward slope of industrial Ag efficiency. Increased expense, labor, herbicides, and a return to old methods required to manage escapee weeds could mean a gradual reversal of the ever larger fields and equipment being used to produce today’s monoculture crops. Perhaps the grain farming efficiency of scale pinnacle point has now passed.


I recently discovered this canned natural food Indian Cuisine product line, Jyoti, produced out of Berwyn, Pennsylvania, at my favorite local organic grocery store. It was started in 1979 by Jyoti Gupta who is a registered dietitian, as a mail order operation. I’m a huge saag fan, and this Delhi Saag is superb. I’ve had it plain, and I’ve tried it with lamb added to it. This is quality “convenience” food at a reasonable price. The Jyoti Indian Cuisine company is growing and its website urges consumers to request the product at their favorite grocery store if not found there. Try it, request it, or order it online!



We headed for the Denver Zoo midweek and I took this photo of a Przewalski horse. This is the only surviving wild horse subspecies, and it roamed the border between China and Mongolia. It was discovered in the late 19th century by a Russian explorer named Przewalski. Currently, there are about 1,500 of these horses left, and most are in zoos. The FAO began reintroducing them into their native Mongolian habitat in the 1980′s. Its coloring is like that of a Siamese cat.

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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.

Belted Galloway

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:



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

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

Jersey mini-cows can produce 2 to 3 gallons of milk per day. They need to be milked twice a day. One needs to lean very low to reach their udders. Jerseys have high butterfat content in their milk, a genial disposition, and they are adaptable to hot climates.

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



Miniature Hereford
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

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

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.


Thirty Cattle Breeds Described

To follow is a photographic listing of thirty types of cattle, of the genus Bos, subfamily Bovinae. They are truly an example of natural selection at work as many have adapted to specific climatic conditions such as heat, cold, mountains, drought, and tropics. Some do better surviving on scrubby vegetation and others produce tender marbled meat on grass diets because of their unique genetics. Some are generous milk producers and some milk composition is more desirable for cheese making.

Modern day commercial cattle feedlots tend to raise grain-fed cattle bred for large production economics. At the same time, some of the old and heritage cattle breeds have become rare or endangered. Luckily, there is a renewed interest in reviving the older breeds which have unique desirable qualities. The popular slow food and eat local movements, and producers of artisan products help to support this revival.

There are 800 recognized breeds of cattle and 1.3 billion cattle in the world. The next graph (via wikipedia) shows a breakdown of cattle numbers by country.

Cattle are herbivorous ruminants, meaning that they have a digestive system that allows use of otherwise indigestible foods by regurgitating and rechewing them as “cud”.

Some breeds, included in this list, which are most suitable for hobby, grow your own food, or lifestyle farms are the Dexter, Randall, and Jersey breeds, to name a few.

Next, find photographs and brief highlights about each breed, ending with a link to the breed’s association, if it has one.



photo: wikipedia


USE: Dual purpose, originally large draft breed, later selected for beef. Chianina oxen were the principal source of agricultural power in the area until displaced by mechanisation. They were in use in agriculture until at least 1970.

NOTES: Largest and oldest breed of cattle in the world. Tallest and heaviest. Heat and sunlight tolerant and gentle disposition. They now number in the thousands in Brazil.




photo: wikipedia


USE: Lean beef.

NOTES: Small, stocky; black, red, dun or white. Very long coat and very long pale horns, upswept in cows and steers. Very hardy and thrifty. Adaptable to high mountains and colder climates.




photo: wikipedia


USE: Beef. Milk.

NOTES: Smallest European cattle breed, about half the size of a Hereford. Good for the hobby farmer or grow your own food farmer.




photo: wikipedia


USE: Beef. For cross-breeding.

NOTE: This ancient breed has a high feed conversion efficiency, and an ability to produce lean, tender meat. Easy to work with.



South Devon Cattle

photo: wikipedia

ORIGINATED: Largest of the British Native breeds.

USE: Beef. Also milk and draft.

NOTES: Also called “Orange Elephants” and “Gentle Giants.” The breed is exceptionally adaptable to varying climatic conditions and is presently well established on five continents


Brahman cattle

photo: Wikipedia


USE: Beef and milk in sub-tropical climates.

NOTES: Named for the sacred cow of Hinduism. Docile and intelligent.




photo: Wikipedia

ORIGINATED: South Africa.

USE: Meat, milk, and draft animals.

NOTES: Hardy, used in the tropics, with fertility, docility and greater weight gain potential.


Belted Galloway

photo: Wikipedia


USE: Quality marbled beef. Produce a high quality beef product on grass alone.

NOTES: Fewer than 10,000 globally. Expensive.




photo: wikipedia

ORIGINATED: Northwest Italy.

USE: Produce lean and tender grass fed beef due to their muscle genetics. Milk. Cheeses.

NOTES: Beef from the Piedmontese cattle is seen as a premium product. The herd in Piedmont numbers some 273,000 head of cattle.



Pineywoods cattle

photo: flickr

ORIGINATED: U.S. Gulf Coast natural selection, after introduced by Spanish in 16th century.

USE: Dairy. Beef.

NOTES: Landrace heritage endangered breed, lean, small, adapted to climate of the deep south, able to forage on marginal vegetation, disease-resistant. Short horns, various colors, often spotted.



Randall cattle

photo: wikipedia

ORIGINATED: Sunderland, Vermont.

USE: Dairy, meat, and draft. Good choice for homesteads and hobby farmers using low input systems.

NOTES: Rare breed. Considered to be a landrace breed, descended from the local cattle common in New England in the nineteenth Century. Suited to the New England climate. They have strong maternal and survival instincts, high intelligence, and are very docile when handled regularly.



Swiss Braunvieh

photo: wikipedia

ORIGINATED: Switzerland.

USE: Milk. Beef.

NOTES: Docile and easy to work with. Braunvieh cattle imported to the United States in the 19th century were the origin of the modern Brown Swiss cattle breed, though the American breed differs from them today.


Ox / Oxen

photo: flickr via jronaldlee

(Note that this is not a breed, but a term.)
USE: An ox, also known as a bullock in Australia, New Zealand and India, is a bovine trained as a draft animal. Oxen are commonly castrated adult male cattle, but cows or bulls may also be used in some areas. Oxen are used for plowing, for transport (pulling carts, hauling wagons and even riding), for threshing grain by trampling, and for powering machines that grind grain or supply irrigation among other purposes.

Oxen may be also used to skid logs in forests, particularly in low-impact, select-cut logging. Oxen are usually yoked in pairs. Light work such as carting household items on good roads might require just one pair, while for heavier work, further pairs would be added as necessary. A team used for a heavy load over difficult ground might exceed nine or ten pairs.


Icelandic Cattle

photo: wikipedia

ORIGINATED: Iceland. Genetically isolated for years.

USE: Milk. Beef.

NOTES: The milk from Icelandic cows is used to make Skyr, a soft cheese or yogurt.


Jersey cattle

photo: wikipedia

ORIGINATED: Channel Island of Jersey.

USE: Breed of small dairy cattle.

NOTES: Known for the high butterfat content of its milk and the lower maintenance costs due to its lower body weight, as well as its genial disposition. It is adaptable to hot climates and is raised in Brazil.


Normande Cattle

photo: wikipedia

ORIGINATED: Northwest France.

USE: Milk. Beef. The milk is particularly suitable for cheese production.

NOTES: They are claimed to be descended from cattle imported by Viking settlers.



Simmental Cattle

photo: wikipedia

ORIGINATED: Western Switzerland.

USE: Beef. Dairy. Draft animal.

NOTES: Fast growing if well-fed. Among the oldest and most widely distributed breeds of cattle in the world. 80% in the U.S. are black.



Fleckvieh cattle

photo: wikipedia

ORIGINATED: In 1830 when original Simmental Cattle from Switzerland were imported to Bavaria and to Austria to improve the local dual-purpose breeds.

USE: A modern, high productive dual purpose breed that fits the economical needs of today.

NOTES: “Middle of the road type animal” with excellent muscling, good milk production and draft performance.



Montbéliarde cattle

photo: wikipedia

ORIGINATED: Montbéliard region of France.

USE: For dairying and particularly for cheese making. Popular for crossing with Holsteins to give improved longevity and fertility.

NOTES: There are nearly 400,000 milk recorded Montbéliarde cows in France. More expensive cattle than Holsteins. The milk protein is of a type well suited to cheese making and some herds are fed a hay based diet to produce milk specifically for this purpose.


Brown Swiss

photo: flickr via ceiling

ORIGINATED: Alps in Switzerland.

USE: Breed of dairy cattle that produces the second largest quantity of milk per annum, over 9,000 kg (20,000 lb.). The milk contains on average 4% butterfat and 3.5% protein, making their milk excellent for production of cheese.

NOTES: Resistant to the heat, cold and many other common cattle problems. They are hardy and capable of subsisting with little care or feed. Extremely docile temperament.



Pinzgauer Cattle

photo: wikipedia


USE: Beef. Milk. Draft work.

NOTES: Endangered. The breed is excelling in South Africa. In the 19th century, they were bred into strong stock for work on farms, at breweries, and in sugar-beet areas. In its heyday, the Pinzgauer became the most popular cattle breed in Austria-Hungary.




photo: wikipedia

ORIGINATED: West France.

USE: Primarily beef, some for milk.

NOTES: Red-and-white pied. Large breed.



British White

photo: wikipedia


USE: Beef and milk. Pasture raised.

NOTES: Suitable for conservation grazing.



Heck Cattle

photo: wikipedia

ORIGINATED: A product of Nazi genetic engineering, German-based attempt to breed back the aurochs, which became extinct in 1627.

USE: Heck cattle are considered by some the most suitable cattle breed for low intensity grazing systems in certain types of nature reserves, due to their ruggedness and lack of need for human care.

NOTES: Auroch bulls were believed to weigh half of a rhinocerous’s weight, or 2,200 pounds. These cattle are not as large, but attempts continue to increase their size. Heck’s number about 2,000 in Europe, with some herds roaming freely in the Netherlands.



photo: wikipedia

ORIGINATED: From Ongole (Bos indicus) cattle of India.

USE: Beef.

NOTES: Exported to Brazil, where they now comprise 80% of Brazilian cattle. They are resistant to high temperatures, parasites, and diseases. They are hardy in difficult conditions.


Texas Longhorn

photo: wikipedia


USE: Beef, riding.

NOTES: Very hardy in dry climates. Lightly muscled, lean beef. Horns can extend 7 feet. Gentle dispostion. Many colors. Very tough breed which puts on weight quickly.



White Park

photo: wikipedia

ORIGINATED: Britain. Ireland.

USE: Beef and milk for non-intensive production.

NOTES: Rare, ancient, horned breed.




photo: flickr via just chaos

ORIGINATED: Species of wild cattle found in Southeast Asia.

USE: Meat. Working animals.

NOTES: Also known as tembadau. There are around 1.5 million domestic banteng, which are called Bali cattle. They have been introduced into Northern Australia. Banteng live in sparse forest where they feed on grasses, bamboo, fruit, leaves and young branches. The banteng is generally active both night and day, but in places where humans are common they adopt a nocturnal schedule. Banteng tend to gather in herds of two to thirty members.



Blonde d’Aquitaine

photo: wikipedia

ORIGINATED: Southwest France

USE: Draft animals until WWII.

NOTES: Second most popular breed in France.



Zebu Cattle

source: flickr

ORIGINATED: Humped cattle originating in South Asia. Derived from Asian aurochs.

USE: As draught oxen, dairy cattle, beef cattle, byproducts such as hides and dung for fuel and manure. Adapted to high temperatures and raised in tropics.

NOTES: There are some 75 known breeds of zebu, split about evenly between African breeds and South Asian ones. Zebu were imported into Brazil in the early twentieth century and crossbred with Charolais cattle. The resulting breed, 63% Charolais and 37% Zebu, is called the Chanchim. It has a better meat quality than the zebu as well as better heat resistance than European cattle.


For more cattle breeds, see wikipedia.