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Mini cows

 
Peter Ellis
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Anyone have experience? I know there is a miniature Jersey. Any others? Any informed comments?

Thanks.
 
Sean Banks
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mini moos.....very very small cattle
 
Chadwick Holmes
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I've heard they are popular family milkers, I am interested in hearing what everyone has to say!
 
Dan Boone
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These have recently become a topic of conversation at my house, because my better half saw some pictures of mini cows on FaceBook and demanded to know why we don't have some. My response had something to do with $10,000 worth of fencing and a question about who was going to milk them, which did not make me popular.

However from this I learned that there is a guy in California who sells miniature Texas Longhorns, although they aren't as small as some of the other mini breeds. They are very cute, and apparently he sells a lot of them to Texans.
 
Dan Grubbs
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I've been studying Dexter cattle for about six months. It's my understand they are naturally small, not as a result of breeding for trait. The first settlers of Ireland tamed and bred Dexters in the lush green lowland pastures of Ireland. Invaders later drove farm folk and their animals into the most mountainous and unsettled areas of the island, where the Dexters bred and thrived on sparse fare. They survived both harsh climates and rough grazing. Dexter cattle were later known as "The Poor Man's Cow", because a small landowner was able to get an adequate supply of meat and milk for his family, even on the rough grazing land. Dexters were first introduced to the United States in the early 1900's when several families imported selected animals from England. Dexters possess many fine qualities not found in other breeds. Small farmers and homesteaders in America today have chosen IRISH DEXTERS as the ideal small landowners livestock. Dexters are the smallest breed of cattle in America. They are a dual-purpose animal producing both delicious meat and quality milk. Cows mature to 750-800 lbs. and 36-42 inches high at the shoulders. Bulls mature to 1000-1100 lbs. and 38-44 inches high at the shoulder. They are available in three colors: Black, Dun and Red. Dexters come as either horned, polled or dehorned. They are a hardy breed and easy to handle. Their economical upkeep and long life is an advantage over many other breeds. What I like from everyone I've heard is that they are good foragers.

These are the cattle we're going to introduce to our farms.

Here is a Facebook group dedicated to Dexter enthusiasts: https://www.facebook.com/groups/8281875862/
 
Adam Klaus
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Dexters are an awesome breed. 'Mini cows' on the other hand, are a gimmick.

I like Dexters a lot for homesteads, there is nothing bad you can say about the breed. If you plan to milk them, be sure to look for milking genetics, as a lot of Dexters have been used just for beef and have lost their dairy quality.

Mini cows are great for the breeder, who sells them for a small fortune. For the homesteader, I am skeptical that they have the constitution to be reliably productive permaculture cows. All the breeding programs I am aware of are raising mini cows under very un-permacultural systems. Making the transition from conventional management to pasture-based management is a big ask for any cow. It is a super big ask for a cow that has been bred so far from its original form. Don't believe the hype, the unrealistic 'efficiency' numbers, etc.
 
Chadwick Holmes
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I'm Irish, and have been looking at Scottish highland cattle. So, when I saw the post about dexters I had to go look.......I can get a full size bred heifer for what they want for one open......they aren't the poor mans cow anymore!

I do like their stature though, if I could find a breeding pair for $2000 I'd do it.
 
Nicola Marchi
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I had the opportunity to ask Greg Judy about miniature cattle at PV1.

He told me that if you could sell them to consumers as beef, they would be good on a working farm. But he remarked that selling them was tough, as people have their own ideas about the sizes cuts of meat should be.
 
Laura Sweany
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I have heard that Jersey/Dexter crosses are a great choice for sustainable farms; breeding Dexter bulls (through AI) to Jersey cows will assure that the cows are large enough to produce and deliver the semi-sized offspring.

I've heard that adding the Jersey into the Dexter line will assure better milking characteristics and give the offspring enough muscle mass to be worth slaughtering (unlike Jerseys). I'm trying to find Dexters, and/or Dexter/Jersey crosses in SW Washington state, but I'm coming up short (lol).

Anyone willing to confirm my research? Also, anyone have any leads on this hybrid, or Dexters in general, in my area? Lastly, how are these hybrids on fences?
 
Stu Brock
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Several issues back, Acres USA had an issue about Vechur cattle (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vechur_Cattle), which is an Indian breed which has been brought back from the brink of extinction. They average ~280 lbs. for adults, produce around 3 liters of milk daily. Of special interest is the claim that "there has been some research claiming that the milk from such cattle helps lower the risk of many chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, autism, allergies, schizophrenia, SIDS, and cardiac disease... because the Vechur breed carries the A2 beta casein gene variant which has been linked to a lower incidence of the conditions mentioned above."

sources:

http://www.realmilk.com/how-to/meet-the-tiniest-dairy-cow-in-the-world-vechur-cattle/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16403684

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vechur_Cattle
 
Thekla McDaniels
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I would not count on the "minis" as anything but very expensive pets. I am a fan of Dexters, but know nothing of crossing them to Jerseys, though it sounds like crossing Nigerians to standard size goats both to improve butterfat content of the standard size, and increase volume of the Nigerian, a project I am pursuing at my place.

I'm fascinated by the Vechur cattle and the reported benefits of their dairy products. The list of benefits is not exactly the same as the superior health qualities of raw dairy products from grass fed non CAFO animals, but similar. I wonder how much is the A2 beta casein, and how much is the way the cow is fed and handled, and how the milk is treated and handled.
 
leah cardwell
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the neighbors/renters had a small herd of highlands and they were adorable astheticly, they were pretty docile, good milkers, high milk fat for people who love butter. They were also amazing foragers, they were out getting their own grass happy as clams at -20 F with a SE wind blowing, the usual breeds of cows were huddled around their hay bales behind a wind break fence. I have heard a number of people had good luck crossing jersey with highland for a hardier milk cow for the northern climate and really enjoyed the results. the downside is that you end up marketing the meat as inspected freezer beef on the specialty market or privately for people who don't want a huge carcass in their freezer, also they must be dehorned before they are sent to the abitoir or feed lot and some auction markets wont handle long horned animals either. Easy enough to do if done when they are very young but not when they are older it is a real pain in the butt (at least in my view,i hate it). The winters can get nasty here in Alberta and the Highlands seemed to like it. They are priced at about the same or slightly less than any other cow right now.
 
Cj Sloane
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I have mini Belted Galloways. A full sized cow is 750 lbs. This yields about 250 lbs of beef, a nice amount for a family of 4. Some years we will split with another family. Really happy with them. Great tasting.

This is probably closer to the size of Belties from 100 years ago.
 
Kirk Schonfeldt
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I agree modern "mini-cows" (cuz they look cute) are gimmicky, pricey and not bred for production. However, you do (or CAN) get better feed-conversion with a smaller animal, more milk and meat for the same amount of forage. Mini (aka Island) Jersey cows are the original Jersey cows and though they produce less volume their milk is richer yet than modern American Jerseys. I've also read of a mini- or micro-cow developed in the last couple decades in Mexico and Latin America for home milk production (from zebu genetics). I think smaller livestock in general is a good direction to head for a post-industrial future, but getting quality, affordable genetics is a long way off and will require a concerted breeding effort of networked small producers. One day perhaps.
 
Kirk Schonfeldt
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Here's a good publication (which I haven't perused in many years). You can read it online or download the PDF for free. There is a chapter on micro-cattle.

Cheers.

 
Adam Klaus
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Kirk Schonfeldt wrote:I agree modern "mini-cows" (cuz they look cute) are gimmicky, pricey and not bred for production. However, you do (or CAN) get better feed-conversion with a smaller animal, more milk and meat for the same amount of forage. Mini (aka Island) Jersey cows are the original Jersey cows and though they produce less volume their milk is richer yet than modern American Jerseys. I've also read of a mini- or micro-cow developed in the last couple decades in Mexico and Latin America for home milk production (from zebu genetics). I think smaller livestock in general is a good direction to head for a post-industrial future, but getting quality, affordable genetics is a long way off and will require a concerted breeding effort of networked small producers. One day perhaps.


I agree completely Kirk. Huge potential, but not there yet. Great post.

The only way larger animals are superior is for efficiency of dairy management and beef slaughter. Simply fewer udders to milk and care for per hundred pounds of butter. Fewer carcasses for a ton of beef.

Other than that, smaller cows would be my ideal for permaculture cows.
 
Hugh Holland
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Some experience our family had with both Dexters and Jerseys. We found Dexter cows to be a bit ornery and the bulls extremely gentle. We've milked three Dexters, one purchased as an adult and two hand raised from calves. We had no success with any of them.

We've milked quite a few Jerseys over the years without any problems. We always searched for smaller sized regular Jerseys and they really are an awesome breed! I've no experience with Mini-Jerseys other than a friend of ours had a bull and he was not pleasant to be around. Of course full sized Jersey bulls are dangerous and should be avoided. Dexter bulls on the other hand are very calm and unexcitable. At least the ones I've been around.

I've heard of people breeding for the milking trait back into the Dexters and I've seen some pictures showing them with nice dairy qualities. I think that they are harder to find though. I wouldn't hesitate to raise a Dexter for beef, but if you've not much experience with them and or milking, stick with a Jersey (mini or regular) and you won't go wrong.
 
richard valley
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Greetings, We, well, wifey and the girls, have Miniature Jerseys, The Jersey, from the Island of Jersey, was a small animal and was bred larger for dairy needs.

There is no trick or gimmick, these cows give a goodly amount of rich creamy milk. We make cheese from their milk it is wonderful because of the quality of the milk. They thought of getting other small cows but decided not to settle. The Jersey and Guernsey are Milk Cows, if milk is the object why not have the best milk.

Here's a bull she raised from a pup, I'll try to post a picture, the animals are smaller but still stout, we have three feet of snow on the ground and the are as happy as clams, well, cows.
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richard valley
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The Jersey breed originated on the Island of Jersey, (a small British island off the coast of France). The Jersey is one of the oldest dairy breeds, known in England around 1770. They were commonly referred to as Alderney cattle. Jersey cattle were brought to the United States around the 1850's.
The Jersey is adaptable to a wide range of climatic and geographical conditions and are found all over the world. Jerseys are thought highly of because of their milk and butterfat production. They produce more pounds of milk per pound of body weight than any other breed. Most Jerseys can produce more than 13 times their own bodyweight in milk during each lactation.

 
richard valley
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Hi Hugh, I see your family has been around the barn. The girls just sold their Dexter Cow to a couple who will love and take care of her, they're not the best when it comes to milk, Very sweet animal though.

Bulls, milk breeds, can get mean, unless handled a lot, if you just put them in a corral, away from the females and don't talk to them they get pissed, we would too. Our daughter's bull will do any thing she ask of him, pulls a cart, they go for rides on the mountain.
 
Hugh Holland
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Greetings Richard, We had to blind fold one of our Dexters to milk her!?! Outside of that a great cow. Another option with Dexters compared with others is they are hardy! Ours were grass-fed, with sea kelp, redmond salt and the pat coleby mix free range. Hay was provided in winter. They stayed fat and hardly touched the minerals.

Our Jerseys definitely hit the minerals more (a lot more!) and our Dexters just seemed like they never needed anything. A very hardy breed! If people come up with some good milking genetics (as they had in the past) they would be a hard breed to beat. Again though, the cows seem to have an attitude so to speak, where as Jersey cows are as kind and gentle as they come.

 
Jenni Schwegler
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I moved from dairy goats to a dexter in the hope doing grass fed milk for our family on our 3 acres of pasture in western washington. I got a sweet heifer but now that I know more I don't think she has good milking genetics. When she miscarried her first I started looking again. Everyone I talked with either bred only for beef or had a dexter as a milker but wasn't getting much milk with a calf around. I ended up getting a dexter jersey from a jersey dairy in her first freshening and so far (since April) she's been great. She loves our pasture diet and is steadily producing at 9 months after freshening. This summer will be my first chance to see how she drops her milk with a calf around but I'm hoping her genetics and milking experience will make it a fairly seamless process. We've also had a great time feeding them pumpkins from a friend's farm for the lady month, which they prefer to all but alfalfa leaves
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Thekla McDaniels
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Thanks for this great thread.
I've been contemplating getting a small cow. I had heard of Dexters and did not know there were small Jerseys. I only have 2 acres, and possibly when I get the pasture developed, I will begin to look for a Dexter Jersey cross. Any recommendations where to look for her?
 
Su Ba
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There are some mini breeds on my island, though I don't know how many. The rodeo folks have mini bucking bulls, for the kids' bull riding events. Plus there are many mini Jersey-Dexter crosses, and both pure Dexters and crosses. I don't have any experience with them but they are popular with the small homestead type people. Somebody is shipping in mini Jersey semen, so there are more mini crosses being produced lately. I was tempted to get a mini Jersey a couple years back but decided I was too old and inexperienced , so I opted for goats and sheep instead.
 
Adam Klaus
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Thekla McDaniels wrote:Thanks for this great thread.
I've been contemplating getting a small cow. I had heard of Dexters and did not know there were small Jerseys. I only have 2 acres, and possibly when I get the pasture developed, I will begin to look for a Dexter Jersey cross. Any recommendations where to look for her?


Karen and Adi VanGotherd (sp?) in Paonia have been crossing Dexters and Jerseys for a few years. I don't know the specifics of their operation, but they brought Dexters into Paonia and would be a good resource to talk to.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Thanks Adam!
 
Angelica Harris
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Hi guys, I had never heard of a Dexter cow before, but they look like an awesome breed for sure. As soon as I saw the tag about mini cows, I was almost sure it was going to be talking about Zebu or Nadudana cattle. They are an Indian breed, naturally small with most only reaching 42 in at maturity. They are super docile from what I've read in research and great for limited spacing since they don't require a lot of input to take care of. They are also super hardy and love hot climates.

Here's the link for more info: http://www.imza.name/whats_zebu.html
 
Joseph Lewis
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Vechur cattle don't have the market cornered on A2 milk, many other breeds have the A2 milk. Dexters can go either way on the A2 gene and tests are available to find out if your cow is A2 or not. About the only breed that doesn't carry the A2 trait is the Holsteins, and that is where most of the milk comes from commercially. No need to be looking for a rare breed if you believe this milk is healthier.

I have raised Dexters for four years. I have experience with other cattle as well, but the Dexter breed is what I chose for my small operation. I have been very happy, I rotation-ally graze and the only other thing my cattle get besides an occasional treat is hay and minerals. I like their smaller easier to work with size. They are easy on the land compared to the larger breeds, and are very hardy. The only thing that has kept me cattle in during this whole time is an electric fence, it cost less than $500 for the initial setup. Cattle are the easiest critter I have ever had to fence in, wish my goats, sheep or chickens were this easy.

I have 23 head, building up to 50 cow calf pairs eventually. My cheapest Dexter cost $250, my most expensive was $900. Most were purchased as heifers and hauled home in the back of a small truck. Half of my Dexters are registered. I don't think you can find a cheaper registered breed than Dexter's, and the unregistered ones seem to go a little cheaper than a run of the mill Angus. They would work very well for the average small operation in a good climate.

 
richard valley
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Greeting, We sold our last dexter, born here, a little darling. Staying with the Jerseys for the rich milk.

With the large amount of snow come the little ones.
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richard valley
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Let me introduce: Ruger. Jerseys have the greatest eyes!
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richard valley
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They get to spent their first night in the house. They kinda look like deer.
Holly .JPG
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richard valley
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The girls didn't want mixed breed or animals from equatorial or swampy areas, because of the weather conditions in North America and the perfect quality of a milk breed.







http://www.silverlakeranch.org/about-contact/
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Julia Winter
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Such a gorgeous baby!
 
Jesse Cantrell
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I bred a "mini" cow out of my Milking Shorthorn once, bred A.I. to a Carnation Simmental bull (both animals peak at over 1100 lb. cows easily.
For some strange reason I got the smallest Frame 3 out of 10 score cow you've ever seen. I then bred her, believe it or not, to a Simmental
Fullblood bull and she threw......a small calf. I really should have just gone into the mini business. It was bigger money than the big cattle.

She calved, lil one, unassisted. I sold her shortly after with the calf. I wish I had kept photos.

Mini wise I'd pretty much stay away from them for all kinds of reasons, mainly genetic. But I understand that in Montana there are some really
progressive breeders that have "cleaned up" the genetics in small Herefords, for example. Dairy wise you've got dairy. That's all. If you're looking
for a small cow they're around, and you can view them in person, then buy.
 
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