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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Miniature Herefords (great cattle for short girls like me).

Steve started looking into miniature cattle breeds a few years back. Our farm is only 5 acres so raising full sized beef cattle here really isn’t feasible even with feeding hay.  We’ve been raising bottle calves for about 6 years now, partnering with good friends who own pasture and it’s been a very rewarding set-up.  However, Steve really likes working with and observing our calves, so it just kind of progressed into doing research on what types of breeds we wanted to get started with. I was interested in Scottish Highland and Steve was looking at Lowline Angus.  The first thing we noticed was that there wasn’t a lot of options on the southern Oregon Coast.  As a matter of fact, there was nothing close by, at least on the internet.  The second setback was cost.  We might be able to save up money for a heifer (a few thousand dollars), but then we’d have to pay for transport and that just wasn’t in the budget.  We put it out of our minds, grateful that we are able to raise our own meat with our friends.

Steve was doing his nightly search on craigslist and facebook and discovered that there were mini’s in our area after all.  Three purebred Miniature Herefords at an affordable price were located only 45 minutes from our farm.  The plan was that we would buy one heifer.  Then we started talking about it and decided that two would be okay. Then we saw the bull and decided that it would be okay to buy him and let him hang with the cows a while to ensure they were bred.  Thanks to good friends who agreed to help us finance us and other good friends who loaned us a trailer, we brought all three of them home that day.  Fast forward from September, 2015 to now, March, 2016.  We sold the bull and now are the proud owners of the two cows, a bull calf born in February and a beautiful little heifer born the other day (March 21).  We are debating whether we should sell the bull calf or put him in the freezer. Because I’m hoping to encourage others to raise this breed, I’m leaning towards selling him as a breeding bull.  Though the cows are naturally polled, he isn’t, so we’ll have to dehorn him soon.  The heifer will stay here to become a part of the “herd” and provide us with more calves.  Since we don’t have any bulls close to pasture breed, I’m starting to research AI (Artificial Insemination) as an option.

I have shared baby pictures like crazy on social media and a lot of folks have asked if they are pets, for meat, etc.  Some people do buy them for pets, as the breed is actually quite social.  We will be raising the offspring for meat if we don’t sell them first.  Steve did a lot of research regarding Miniature Herefords after we brought them home and he found out a lot of stuff that make them the perfect fit for our small farm. Please note that links to the various websites that I got this information from are at the bottom of this post.

Our cows are not registered, but they are purebred.  Miniature Hereford can be registered with the American Hereford Association just like their full sized counter parts.  Herefords are beef cattle and once again, just like the full sized cattle, Miniature Herefords are beef cows designed to be raised and slaughtered for the freezer.  We ultimately raise cattle for beef and the miniature version has the added benefit of better efficiency using less feed.  They also exhibit an improved cow/calf weaning ratio, greater rib eye per hundred weight, a higher dressing percentage and increased tenderness due to shorter muscle cell structure, genetics and early maturity.   These traits are outstanding when compared to the modern beef animal.  You can also have more more head per acre (which helps those who have an ag exemption), they are not hard on fences or land and they have a calm nature, which I like because our livestock is a part of our family.

Miniature Herefords, while smaller in stature, are still beef cows.  An adult female weighs anywhere from 650 to 800+ pounds, while an adult bull can weigh 1,000+ pounds.  A newborn calf typically weighs anywhere from 35-45+ pounds with bull calves weighing more than heifer calves.  There is quite a difference when compared to traditional full sized cattle weighing 1,200 to 2,200 pounds.  They are proving to be a hearty breed. Our girls seem to be doing well in our rainy coastal weather.  The calves are out in the weather and mud at a day old and show interest in sharing their mom's hay at just a few days old.

I don’t know for sure where this adventure is going to take us. We need to do some fencing on our hillside to get everyone moved out of the mud.  And we need to find some “cow” hay (traditionally cheaper than horse hay due to the texture and protein content).  Cheaper is important right now, as cattle waste a lot of hay.  I love our girls but I’d love to eventually get some registered stock to offer for sale.  We certainly aren’t experts, but I’m not afraid to research and I believe it’s okay to learn as you go.  If you have questions or would like to meet our herd, please get in touch with us.


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