MINIATURE CATTLE FOR BEEF OR MILK PRODUCTION
Many people may be appalled at the thought of eating these adorable creatures, but the reality is beef/dairy production is most cattle's primary purpose in life. I'm a Registered Nurse and I always strive to feed my family the best foods possible. If you been to whole foods and priced "Organic Grass fed Beef", you may be shocked at the cost. $15-$20+/lb in some cases! I never thought I could eat my "pets", but at the end of the day, the animals I raise for food have had a good life with green pastures and no added hormones or antibiotics. They are always treated with care and respect and when the time comes for them to be put in the freezer, I am very thankful to be able to provide healthy food for my children; food that I have personally raised and know exactly what it was fed/exposed to. As a mom, that brings tremendous peace of mind.
To read about the benefits of miniature cattle for both beef and milk for your family, check out this article from Rural Living Today. To read about some of the benefits of home raised beef, check out this article at Health.com.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN CATTLE INTENDED FOR BEEF PRODUCTION
Is miniature cattle better for beef. Simply, no. It IS good for small families who have limited space for cattle, and just want to raise beef for their own family. Miniature cattle are easier to house, manage and feed. They are more efficient for producing beef compared to full size cattle. Is there a particular breed that is recommended? Not really. I will not typically recommend a micro mini for your home raised beef project as they are typically bred for reduced size. I look for an animal that has simply a "beefier" look. Squared off with a nice hip.
You can obviously eat or milk any cow, but some breeds concentrate on "carcass yield", while others breed for udder quality above all else. That being said, there are several multi purpose breeds that are bred to be useful for both, the Dexter's are a good dual purpose breed for example. You certainly don't need a "purebred" for either purpose though. Cross bred cattle are often excellent for both purposes, but if you are looking for something to produce a fairly high yield of beef to feed the family, look for something a little more boxy/thick looking with a fuller hip. If you come to my farm I will usually point you to one of my Hereford cross bulls/steers. I have several that were sired by very thick/beef bred bulls. The Highlands are an good multi purpose breed, that offer a very lean beef due to their reduced content. None of our youngsters are given hormones or antibiotics and they are all pasture raised with minimal grain. If you take a weanling steer right of his mommas milk, your can finish him entirely on grass if you choose and know exactly what environment he was raised in.
Notice the bull on the right is thick through the middle and has a full hind end compared to the dairy bred cow on the right. The one on the left was bred for beef production, and the one on the right bred for milk production and udder quality. You could certainly eat either one, but the "thicker" one is going to give you more beef. If you are exclusively looking for high yield milk production, you would probably best with a miniature Jersey, Jersey cross, or one of the dual purpose breeds.
HOW MUCH BEEF WILL A MINIATURE PROVIDE
Smaller cattle do far less damage to grass and are more efficient grazers. How much more efficient? As it turns out the Trangie Research Center in Australia wanted to see what happened when you bred Angus to be both bigger and smaller. The resulting cattle were 30 percent smaller than the full sized cattle and could be grazed with more than twice as many animals per acre. The resulting beef yield from this ratio? For every one lumbering mega-cow tearing holes in the sod we could have grazed two (the statistic is actually 2.3 but who's counting?) cute little miniature cattle on the same amount of pasture and produced almost twice the amount of steaks!