Mini cows cost anywhere from $1,000 right up to $4,000 and are typically kept as pets rather than profitable beef or dairy cattle. Keeping mini cows is a great alternative to raising standard cattle and you can certainly keep both types simultaneously.
This article discusses various miniature cattle breeds, their history, health weakness and use cases.
Table of Contents
What Is A Mini Cow?
A miniature cow is a bovine with a standing height of 48 inches or less at three years of age, the age at which most cattle breeds are assumed to have reached maturity.
The main identification aspect of a mini cow is its size—it is a normal cow, only that it is small and much shorter than a regular or standard cow.
Miniature cows are usually 1/2 to 1/3 the size of regular cows but have the same body profile as their respective breeds.
The accepted heights for mini cows are as follows:
- Standard mini cows: 36-42 inches
- Midsize mini cows: 42-48 inches
- Micro mini cows: Less than 36 inches
The term mini cow or miniature cow is actually a general or collective description referring to all small-breed bovines rather than a name for actual species.
How Did Mini Cows Come To Be?
Miniature cattle are a result of two processes. Firstly, they could develop from bovine achondroplasia—a type of disproportionate dwarfism that results in very short limbs and, usually, a face smaller than the normal-sized skull of regular bovines.
While dwarfism is recognized as a cause for the development of miniature breeds of cattle, some cattle associations, such as the American Hereford Society, do not register miniature Herefords unless they are proven as not having the dwarfism gene.
Secondly, small cattle result from successive crossbreeding programs where they are selectively bred in favor of their small stature.
General Characteristics Of Mini Cows
Since there are different miniature cattle breeds, the characteristics vary from one breed to another. Here are the general attributes of mini cows:
- Remarkable intelligence
- Highly loyal to their owners/breeders, hence make great pets
- Time to butcher: 2-3 years
- Mature mini cow weight: 700-1,000 pounds average
- Very low birth weights, though corresponding to their size
- Easy calvings
- Horned or naturally polled, corresponding with their regular cattle breed
- Remarkable docility and ease of handling
- Lower milk and beef production than their respective standard cow breeds
Miniature Cattle Breeds
According to the International Miniature Cattle Breeds Registry, there are about 26 different breeds of mini cows that stem from several crossbreeding programs or selective reproductions of older farm animals.
The most common miniature cattle breeds include:
1. Miniature Belted Galloway
Miniature belted Galloway cattle measure about 42 inches at the hip bone. They are hardy, naturally polled, and have a double coat with a solid color characterized by a midriff belt.
2. Miniature Hereford Cattle
Miniature Herefords stand about 42 inches high and live for up to 20 years. They weigh up to 1,000 pounds when mature. Newborn calves weigh 30-60 pounds.
Cattle breeders highly prefer Hereford minis because they mature about 20% faster than other mini cows.
3. Miniature Texas Longhorns
Miniature Texas Longhorn cattle live for about ten years and weigh 350-800 pounds. They measure approximately 45 inches high.
4. Miniature Holstein Milking Cows
Miniature Holsteins stand about 42 inches high. They are known for their docility, gentility, and ease of handling.
5. Miniature Zebu Cattle
Since they are not bred by man, miniature Zebu cattle are considered a true breed of mini cattle. They average 36-38 inches high at the withers.
Common in Africa and the US, miniature Zebus are highly resilient and resistant to insects, heat, and diseases. They thrive in most climates.
Miniature Zebus live for 15-20 years and weigh 400-500 pounds (females) and 500-600 pounds (males).
6. Lowline Angus
Lowline Angus or Lowline cattle are mini cows of the Angus breed, only about 30-60% smaller. They are naturally polled. In Australia, they are called Australian Lowline. They have a lifespan of 12-25 years.
Mature Lowline bulls stand about 43 inches tall and weigh around 1,200 pounds.
7. Miniature Scottish Highland Cattle
These are also called miniature Highland cattle and are originally from Scotland. The horned Highland mini cattle stand at 42 inches or less and weigh 400-600 pounds. Their lifespan is 15-20 years.
8. Miniature Panda Cows
Miniature Panda cattle are a very rare breed, with only 24 known head in January 2011. They are usually identified by their large spot around the eyes and bear-like markings, particularly the belted midsection.
9. Jersey Mini Cows
Miniature Jersey cows stand 36-40 inches high, shorter than the usual 45-47 inches of regular Jersey cows. Newborn mini Jerseys weigh 25-45 pounds and reach about 700 pounds when mature.
10. Dexter Mini Cows
Miniature Dexter cattle are known for easy calvings and high milk production compared to other mini breeds. They make excellent surrogate mothers. The bulls measure 47 inches and have a dressing weight of 50-60% of live weight.
Weaknesses of Mini Cows
While they have many advantages, as explained in the next section, miniature cows are not without weaknesses.
Firstly, the dwarfism gene (“bulldog” dwarfism gene) sometimes causes physical deformities and even death in smaller cattle. There is no cure or treatment for cattle dwarfism or corrective measures for the resultant bovine deformities.
Secondly, the small size of mini cows necessitates special feeding and care, which can be expensive. For example, you’ll have to buy or construct special feeders short enough for their low-set mouths. The pens also have to be smaller.
Thirdly, there isn’t much to write home about their productivity of milk and meat, which is usually low compared to their full-size cow counterparts.
However, some have excellent milk production such as the Dexter minis. A mini Highland cow produces about two gallons of milk daily with up to 10% butterfat content.
Mini cows are also susceptible to health issues such as bloat, lethal chondrodysplasia, and grass tetany.
Why Should I Raise Miniature Cattle On My Farm?
Here’s why you’ll love raising miniature cattle on your farm:
- Miniature cows are highly cost-effective since they require less feed at about 1/3 of the standard rations offered to standard cattle.
- Mini cows are about 25-30% more feed-efficient than regular cows.
- You can save more money raising mini cows than standard cows because the former requires less space, less grazing land (about a quarter acre per mini), and less work. They also produce less waste, hence lower waste management bills.
- Mini cattle do not damage fences often, saving money that would have been spent on costly repairs.
- You can make money selling live mini cows, which even cost more than their respective regular breeds because of their docility, tininess, and cuteness. Miniature cattle are also considered a novelty, hence quite expensive.
- You can make money selling the now expensive mini cattle beef. The demand for this beef keeps growing as eateries market it as premium meat, especially when it is only pasture-fed.
- Mini cows make excellent homesteading pets as well as show animals. You can make money by creating a mobile petting zoo.
Because of their docility, cuteness, and good-naturedness, mini cows are great as FFA or 4H animals for encouraging your children to get involved in livestock farming.