Looking for a miniature cattle breed sized right for small farms?
The International Miniature Cattle Breeder’s Society and Registry and Registry maintains herd books for 26 breeds, and the Animal Research Foundation registers minis of every breed.
But a handful of minis are more popular than the rest. You can consider them the big five of the miniature cattle world. They are:
You can register all five with both organizations, but each also supports a herd book of its own. Let’s take a closer look at these popular miniature bovine breeds.
Dexters are tri-purpose cattle (beef, milk and draft).
The breed has a good foraging ability, as well as high feed conversion and meat-to-bone ratios. You can finish a grass-fed Dexter steer in 18 to 24 months, and it will dress out at 50 to 60 percent live weight.
Their beef is fine-textured, tender and delicious. And Dexter cows give 1 1⁄2 to 3 gallons of roughly four percent butterfat milk daily, at a rate of up to one quart of cream per gallon.
Lowlines are Miniature Angus cattle developed by the Trangie Agricultural Research Centre in Australia.
No “outside” blood was used in its creation. They are purebred Angus bred 30 to 60 percent smaller than their standard (Highline) kin.
3. Miniature Herefords
Mini Herefords are another scaled-down purebred breed.
They are said to mature 20 percent faster than standards. They’re gentle, adapt to all climates, and are highly efficient foragers. Veterinarians familiar with beef breeds know how to treat them, too.
Miniature Herefords are a first-rate, easy-care choice for gourmet and organic beef producers.
“Zebu” is another name for Bos indicus—all breeds of Asian humped cattle.
Most folks recognize the brawny Brahman, a full-size Zebu developed in North America. The mini size resembles Brahmans with two notable twists:
- Mini Zebus’ upright ears don’t match the Brahman’s trademark floppy ones.
- Mini Zebu cows have a lot less hump.
Both breeds, however, sport short, sleek coats and have tough, loose skin. They also have fully functional sweat glands.
Highly developed panniculus muscles make it easy for Zebus to twitch away flies. They’re heat-, disease- and insect-resistant, and they thrive on marginal pasture.
And rodeo-bull image notwithstanding, they are easy-going and remarkably intelligent.
Jerseys were barely more than today’s miniature size until recently, historically speaking.
The “bigger is better” boom ultimately impacted this ancient dairy breed. But enough bantam Jerseys remained to make selectively breeding them back to miniature frame a relatively easy task.
For today’s smaller households seeking a pocket-size family cow, Miniature Jerseys make good sense. They are gentle, prolific and a delight for the eyes. And their delicious, high-butterfat milk is hard to beat.
This story originally appeared in the November/December 2019 issue of Hobby Farms magazine.