I might have mentioned that I'm a bit of a controlling perfectionist. I'm also a research fanatic. So, when I decided to add cows to our little hobby farm I did months of reading before choosing a cow. We have a very small acreage and most of it is wooded hill side. We have about 3 acres of pasture. What kind of cow can you raise on a measly 3 acres? A little one!
I wanted to start with Mini Herefords as we were looking for beef, not milk. It turns out Mini Herefords are cost quite a pretty penny. Like, the shiniest, sparkliest, diamond penny. No matter what bad words I said, or what bad habits I was willing to give up, I couldn't afford one, much less two. So I started looking at my options and I found a Dexter/Mini Hereford cross. When I went to go see her I fell for a tiny Dexter too. You need more than one cow so I bought them both and thus began my journey with little cows.
The upside to little cows is that they are little. They are extremely efficient to feed. A cow should eat an average of 3.5% of it's weight in dry matter per day. My tiny cows got massively fat on that amount and I eventually cut them down to about 2.5%. Also, little cows can utilize smaller spaces, do less damage to land, and are less intimidating for newbies to handle. The downside to little cows is that they are little. It takes two little steers to make the weight of one standard size steer. Fortunately you can raise three littles for the cost of one big so the littles are still up!
I bought my cows bred but with unknown due dates. They had also never been handled. At all. Ever. The Dexter was a two year old first calf heifer. She learned grain very quickly and she was easy to move with a bucket. So easy that I eventually started milking her. I also eventually halter trained her but she was never really a pet cow. She would never really trust me.
The Mini Hereford cross was 6 and absolutely insane. She was aggressive and suspicious of everything. She gave my kids the side eye and was warning us all the time and viciously bullied the other cow. No one ever went in with her without a very big stick. She had very nice calves but I really just wanted her gone. She made everyday a touch more stressful than it had to be.
They both had bull calves that we immediately steered. They were good moms and the calves grew well. I finished the steers on grain as they were born at the wrong time to finish on grass and, seriously, grass finishing is an art form all it's own. The Mini Hereford cross butchered out at 78% live weight and Dexter at 70%. I got more beef from them than the last full size and massive steer we bought from my folks. I was sold!
The thing I learned from my first cows was that, while I liked Minis, I wanted friendly, easy to handle cows. So I bred them to Lowline bull and the next calving produced two heifers. I was thrilled. As soon as they were old enough to wean I sold my starter cows and began working with the heifers. I now have two friendly, feed efficient, halter trained little heifers and I love them. Plus, they are polled! No more horns. They come when I call and love to be scratched. They load right up in the trailer and are easy to lead and calm and trusting when they get out. MiniMe shows her heifer, Ruby, in 4-H and loves her. They are stocky little girls and should give us nice beefy calves. I couldn't be happier!
MiniMe and Ruby. Ruby is not quite full size here but not far from it. MiniMe isn't either but they are just the cutest pair and it makes me happy to see them. These heifers are bred to a Mini Belted Galloway for September calves and by then I think I'll have the money saved to breed them to a Mini Hereford! It only took me four years too!
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