Farmers Downsize with Miniature Cattle

That’s right, nothing is sacred, not even a cow… or a bull: I’ve been downsized!


It actually makes economic sense, though.

“Their miniature Herefords consume about half that of a full-sized cow yet produce 50% to 75% of the rib-eyes and fillets, according to researchers and budget-conscious farmers.

“We get more sirloin and less soup bone,” Ali said. “People used to look at them and laugh. Now, they want to own them.”

In the last few years, ranchers across the country have been snapping up mini Hereford and Angus calves that fit in a person’s lap.”

Not only that, but these smaller cattle are actually the original size.

“Minicows are not genetically engineered to be tiny, and they’re not dwarfs. Instead, they are drawn from original breeds brought to the U.S. from Europe in the 1800s that were smaller than today’s bovine giants, said Ron Lemenager, professor of animal science at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.”

It wasn’t the wild west that made today’s huge bovines either.

“Big cows emerged as a product of the 1950s and ’60s, when farmers were focused on getting more meat and didn’t fret as much about the efficient use of animal feed or grasslands.

“Feed prices were relatively cheap, and grazing lands were accessible,” Lemenager said. “The plan was to get more meat per animal. But it went way too far. The animals got too big and eat so much.”

Today, there’s little room for inefficiency on a modern farm, and that has led some farmers to consider minicows.”

There have been drawbacks, however.

“It hasn’t been an easy transition. When the Petersens bought their first dozen animals in the mid-1990s, friends told them they’d lost their minds. Some ranchers said they’d have trouble selling consumers on their mini-steaks. Even their youngest daughter was reluctant to show them at 4-H livestock contests when she was younger.”


“Their size does have some drawbacks for farmers, who’ve learned they must also scale down their operations.

Richard Gradwohl, a minicow farmer in Kent, Wash., installed partitions in his 24-foot-long trailer to prevent the animals from getting jostled too much. He also got feed troughs and water tanks that sat a foot off the ground because the old ones were too tall. Even his fencing had to be modified.

“You’d be surprised how small a space they can get under,” said Gradwohl, who has written a beginner’s guide for minicow owners.”

And, not just a little humor.

“They also had a tough time finding collars for ID tags small enough to stay put on their calves. So the owners of the Sonoma Little Cattle Co. in Santa Rosa, Calif., went to a pet store and bought dog collars. “It wasn’t until later that we realized they had tiny hamburgers and hot dog designs on them,” Mintun said.”

My personal favorite.

“Farmers who raise mini-Jerseys brag how each animal provides 2 to 3 gallons of milk a day, though they complain about having to crouch down on their knees to reach the udders.

“Granny always said I prayed for my milk,” said Tim O’Donnell, 53, who milks his 15 miniature Jerseys twice a day on his farm in Altamont, Ill.”

Too funny.

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