Smaller Beef Breed

The smaller beef breeds are ideally suited for small acreage farms. We have shown that beef production per acre is at least twice the production of large animals. Because of their feed efficiency and outstanding growth rate these smaller breeds can be raised at a two per acre concentration. Large breeds can require up to five acres for only two animals. This means smaller acreage farmers can maximize the potential of their limited acreage. Besides all that, they can make great pets.

Recent years have seen more and more interest in small, hobby farms, as well as retirees moving to acreages. The growing group of small landowners and producers is driving a move supporting production of smaller cattle. Miniature cattle are perfect for these settings. These cattle are located in all fifty U.S. states, as well as around the world. This article addresses: reasons for the recent, growing interest in miniature cattle; how their miniature status is defined; the major players involved in the breeding, development and promotion of these cattle; the populations miniature cattle are most attractive to; the breeds being downsized and how that is being accomplished; new breeds being developed; the advantages of miniature cattle; uses for miniature cattle; potential for miniature cattle for economic development across the world; and the lack of, and need for, documented, scientific research on these special “new” cattle.

Miniature cattle are either selected reproductions of the older animals or are a result of several crossbreed programs. These crossbreed programs have the advantage of creating heterosis (higher performance levels) in their progeny. Whenever you cross one distinct breed with another the results can be an animal with outstanding performance characteristics. Miniature cattle are continuing to gain in popularity as farm size continues to shrink. The day of the one hundred to five hundred acre family farm has just about come to an end. Today the two acre, five acre, or ten acre family homestead farm is becoming more common. The smaller cattle breeds are particularly well suited for these small acreage farms for several reasons.

Small cattle are easier on the land, equipment and facilities. Those of us who once had large cattle remember the constant work on fencing, barn repairs, and hours mending broken equipment. The small animals just don't have the bulk to do much harm. Pastures seem to stay greener longer because these miniature cattle weigh less and their hooves are smaller. Equipment maintenance is rare and you don't need the heavy duty equipment.

It's much easier to maintain a small herd as opposed to a solitary animal. Some folks with small acreage farms purchase one large animal to raise their own beef. Cattle are herd animals. You need more than one. A solitary animal just does not do as well as two or three together. With the small breeds it's possible to put two or three animals in the same area that you might put just one large animal. This is much better for the animals.

More animals per acre is the key here. Because you can raise more animals in the same amount of space beef production is twice to three times as much. It takes about five acres to raise two large animals, depending where and on the pasture available. On the same area you could raise one or two animals per acre with one of the small cattle breeds. It doesn't take a computer scientist to figure out total beef production per acre is much greater with the smaller cattle.

These smaller cattle are 25% more efficient in terms of feed conversion than their larger counterparts and therefore eat much less. About 1/3 the feed is typical. Miniature cattle come closer to a families needs than large commercial beef. One beef per locker is a lot more desirable than raising more beef than you need. Miniature cattle can also be a great investment and at the same time be helpmates with the grass and brush. They are also much less intimidating and easier to handle.

The truth of the matter however is that they make great pets. Most owners of these great little animals would probably never consider them for beef purposes. Because they are easy to work with it is very easy to give them names and develop bonding relationships. 

Large cattle are not very practical on a small plot of land. Two head of full-size cattle require approximately five acres to maintain, while miniature cattle can be concentrated at around two per acre, dependent of course on the available grass and supplemental feeding practices. Cattle are herd animals. Miniatures make it possible to have more than one on a small property.

The breeds most common in the miniature cattle world tend to be more docile than some of the larger breeds. Their small size from birth, as well
as the generally smaller numbers in a herd, means owners work with them directly, often training them to be led with a halter from a very early
age. Besides the inherited gentleness, their small size makes them easier to handle. Several miniature cattle enthusiasts note that, when one steps on your foot, it’s not nearly as bad as with a full-size animal. Also, if a miniature is being uncooperative, giving it a good push is much more
likely to yield results. The ease of handling can make miniatures more attractive to women and older retirees. Large cattle can be intimidating—not so with one that you can easily wrap your arm around and have to bend down a bit to do so!

Miniatures also have lower total maintenance costs per head. Regular cattle handling equipment can generally be used, unless your miniatures
are extremely small, and the wear and tear on that equipment is less. The costs of confinement and setup for housing are also lower. Fencing does not have to be as tall, representing less financial outlay.

The colors of the Jersey are far more varied than those of most European breeds and the full range spreads from almost black to the palest grays and biscuits, with all kinds of fawns, browns, chestnuts, golds and smokes in between, sometimes broken with white, sometimes broadly whole-colored but never solid.  There is shading over the body so that the tones are generally darker on face, neck and shoulders (especially in bulls), much darker on the front of the forelegs and much paler on the underparts in the typical manner of wild creatures such as deer.

In 1815 the colors included cream, cream-and-white, red, red and white, black, black and white, and black with a dingy brownish red back stripe. The 1834 breed standards set up by the Royal Jersey Agricultural Society and drawn up by distinguished island breeders showed parti-colored engravings of the breed but made no reference to the color of the coat as no importance was attached to such a superficial factor; however, the light colored muzzle ring was specified, and a deep orange color within the ears, while the skin was of a “good” color. In 1859 the favorite colors where light red and white, brown or fawn, but brindles were despised. By 1875 fashions in England and the USA decreed that coats should be whole colored rather than broken and that the skin should be yellow, the muzzle dark and the tongue and tail switch black, but the revised breed standards still did not specify colors. In the late nineteenth century the Jersey colors included tawny red, yellow, pale fawn, lemon fawn, smoky fawn, grey fawn, silver to frosty grey, brown, dun or black and these could be whole colored or broken by separate patches of white, large or small. Today the colors are more formally described as mostly fawn, mulberry or grey, often with a black pigmented skin. The point is that, whereas most British breeds are now basically black or red, with or without white, or roan mixtures of black or red hairs with white hairs, the Jersey has always accepted what might be termed a composite coat, with many more colors, and even then the color can change according to the season.

The above information is from Jersey-DK.  Read the full article HERE 

Additional information follows:

Brindle is a pattern of intermingled colors which are more marbled or streaked than roan. Also the two colors are black and red or yellow in brindle instead of black or red and white, as in roan. The genetic basis of this interesting pattern is not yet understood. Highland cattle, Texas Longhorn cattle, and Jersey cattle can be brindle


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