Most small farms would like a cow for milk or meat, but many don’t need the volume of either that would come with a full sized cow. Miniature cattle provide a great alternative. They’re generally less than half the size of their full-sized counterparts, so they produce a more manageable amount of milk and meat for a small farm.
One of the core breeds of miniature cattle is the Dexter. The Dexter breed hails from Ireland and is the smallest of the European cattle breeds. This is a heritage breed that is perfect for a small homestead. The cows only weigh in at about six hundred and fifty pounds and the bulls get to around one thousand pounds. They are considered a dual purpose breed because they are used for both milk and meat. No matter what the owner is using the cow for it can grow on grass alone; this makes the animal very cost effective to keep if there is even a small pasture available. Additionally, in some countries they are used for oxen.
Dexter cows are very good mothers who are very attentive to their calves. They are known to give birth easy which is a trait that is desirable for the small, part-time farm. Additionally, they will allow other cow’s calves to nurse on them. This means that more of the calves that are born in the herd will survive.
Many of the newest miniature cattle breeds are a direct result of crossbreeding with Dexter cattle or Zebu cattle. Zebu cattle are another heritage breed that originates in South Asia. They are well adapted for high temperatures so they are not ideal for some parts of the United States and Europe. There are now a total of twenty-six miniature breeds of cattle thanks to crossbreeding of these two breeds.
This means that you can really pick and choose what you want in a miniature cow. They now come in a variety of coloration and purpose. Some people may put more value on meat production than milk production in which case the Miniature Angus cow is for them. There are also Miniature Jersey cattle for the milk lover. For the farm owner looking for a unique cow then the Panda cow may be a good choice.
As meat animals miniatures make much more sense for the small farm because the animal is generally only being harvested for a single family. Breeds like the Dexter will produce about half their body weight in usable meat. Five hundred pounds of meat is much more manageable for a single family than the thousand pounds of meat that a full sized bull can produce.
For small farms miniature cattle are a great alternative to a milk goat herd. The raw milk derived from milking cows is growing in popularity despite the fact that in many states it’s illegal to sell it. In states where it is legal to sell raw milk miniature cows could present an affordable way to make a little extra money for the small farm.