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  • Writer's pictureKatheryn

Mini Cows for Beef Production

Updated: Jul 28, 2021

With as little as one acre, homegrown, grass fed beef can be on your menu. Steaks, hamburgers, roasts, OH MY! We started raising beautiful grass fed cattle on just two acres of sandy, weedy, nutrient deficient pasture. The pasture may be malnourished, but the cows most definitely are not. In fact they seem to be thriving on just grass, weeds, and in the winter, hay.

When we decided we wanted to produce our own grass fed beef, our biggest hurdle was land. Or in our case the lack of. You could raise a full sized angus on 5 acres, but we only wanted to devote two acres to the endeavor and supplement with hay and feed as little as possible. This concern crossed most of the traditional meat breads off our list and left us with only a handful of options, namely the dexter and miniature zebu. Both breeds can convert more feed to beef than their larger counterparts which means more pounds of cattle per acre. when you're trying to make every square foot of your land count, feed conversion is key, especially on a tiny homestead.

The other huge consideration for us was the ability to be as self sufficient as possible. which meant we didn't want to purchase a calf every year to raise for slaughter nor did we want to have to purchase sperm or rent a bull to inseminate our own cow. We really needed to be able to pasture a cow, bull, and their calves to raise as meat all at once. This meant we would almost always have 3-4 cows on pasture at a time. No way can two acres support 4 full sized cows at a time and especially not without the aid of feed supplements. With miniature cattle you can have 4-5 cows on the same acreage it would take to raise 1 full sized cow. According to it takes approximately 1.8 acres to raise a full sized cow.

We also wanted the option to slaughter and break down the meat ourselves. This seemed more doable on a 350lb animal than a 1200lb animal. While we wouldn't be able to hang the carcass for a few weeks in a large refrigeration unit like a butcher would, we also wouldn't have to pay said butcher. Butchering ourselves also means lower cost, less waste, and ensuring we get all the cuts we want. With such a small animal compared with a full sized cow, we also wouldn't need to find someone to buy the side of beef we wouldn't be able to consume within a year.

And finally we had to consider our climate. We live in sub-tropical Florida, where the summers are hot and often wet and the winters are mild. This kind of climate can lead to high parasite counts. The breed that happened to be more heat tolerant and parasite resistant was the mini zebu.

We have been raising our minis for about 5 years as I write this article and I absolutely love our mini zebus! They are easy to work with and they are not lacking in the cuteness department either (which lets face it, is definitely a factor when choosing any animal for the homestead). I would say that currently, although our pasture is "technically" large enough to raise 8 mini zebu, I don't think we'll have more than 5 out there at a time. At least until we can increase the yield of our pasture i.e. less sand more grass.

Now if you're wanting more of duel purpose breed for milk and meat, I'm not sure if the mini zebu will be right for you. It has been my experience that after the calf eats, there really isn't much left for you. I get more milk from my goats than I do from my mini zebu. Maybe, if you bottle feed the calf and take all the milk there will be enough for your needs, but this brings me back to being as self sufficient as possible. If you need to purchase milk replacer for your calf so that you can drink the milk, then whats the point? Either look into a mini dairy breed or get goats. Personally, I recommend the later.

Our cattle are by far some of the most maintenance free animals we've had on the homestead. We de-worm twice a year and make sure they have enough pasture to graze and fresh water to drink. The only thing we purchase for them is the wormer at about $35. And hay in the winter, which is about $200 for 3-4 round bails (feeds cow, bull, and two calves). I don't feed hay in the summer months as long as they have plenty of green pasture and we don't buy grain or sweet feed. Minus the initial investment of the cow and bull (which for us was $1,400) we spend about $250/yr to raise enough beef to fill our freezer and meet our red meat needs for our family of four.

I hope you look into my articles about how we raise our mini zebus

And our experience on slaughtering and butchering our first cow

Until then, sweet homesteading

Katheryn Williams

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