Farm, Garden and The Land > Live Stock, Critters and Aquaculture

Cows vs mini cows vs goats ... dairy and meat

<< < (4/4)

OK, I see that this thread is a little on the old side but felt the need to tell of my experiences so far. We live on 18 acres, mostly wooded. We have a field that is about three acres, mostly blackberry thickets. We did some research on goat/cow/mini cow and we came to our conclusion based on that research. We decided to get a full size jersey cow. The prospect of trying to install fencing that would keep a goat in on our rocky super hilly property was not at all appealing. We considered staking the goats out and moving them every couple of days but with the bears and wildcats we have I can imagine a scene right out of Jurassic Park were the t-rex eats the goat with nothing but a bloody leash remaining. The Mini cow option was very appealing. After some research we found that there were no local sources for the mini cow nor a local AI guy to breed it. The main factors in our selection was availability of the cow and the ability to be bred either AI or another bull locally. Then there is the cost. You will pay a premium for the smaller size, which would be recouped in lower feed bills. So in the end we decided on the full size cow. Now, the term 'full size' when referring to a jersey is a little misleading. A full grown jersey is still very small when compared to other breeds like a Holstein. I am a smallish guy and do not feel intimidated by her. Jersey cows also have a very gentle disposition.

We bought our cow from a local farmer almost a year ago. We also got 3 bull calves with her. Our intention was to keep one of the bulls for breeding and eat the other two. After some careful consideration we did not want to keep a bull around just for the once a year breading and had all three of them castrated. Since they have been castrated they have been very gentle and easy to manage. We fenced off the field and some woods for them to graze on with 2 strand electric fence and they don't even try to escape.

I know that this is a little long winded so I will end here for now. If anyone is interested I can share our experiences with the jersey meat. Also let me know if you have any questions. I am by no means an expert but we have been learning a lot over the last year and I love to share what I learn.

Another consideration is teat size. The teats on our cow are a little on the small side. I can imagine someone with larger hands than me not being able to properly grip them. I don't recall anything on the minicow teat size, but some goats have really large ones and some have really small ones and that will make a difference on milking efficiency if doing it by hand.

The first consideration for which type of dairy cow would be how many family members are there? A full sized dairy cow can/will produce upto 4 -4.5 gallons of milk per day,milking twice daily as recomemded. A minicow will produce 1.5 and 2.5 gallons per day, again milking twice per day. A regular size dairy cow will require at least 2 acres of GOOD pasture land per cow/calf unit. A minicow requires about 1-1.5 acres of GOOD pasture per cow/calf unit. minicows reach maturity, breeding age a little sooner than full size cows. That will reduce feed, as well as when they are grown they will require less feed. Minicows , depending on breed have different amounts of butterfat  cream etc in their milk, same as fullsize dairy cows. So as far as dairy cows are concerned how big is your family and how much milk do you want. 4 gallons of milk is a lot of milk and unless you have other farm animals that will drink your excess a mini or 2 would do. Pigs love the excess milk that can not be used.
If you are looking for beef the same is true for the feed and age. One other benefit of the mini is that at slaughter time the average return of processed beef is about 60-65% of live weight where the average for a full sized beef is in the 50-60% range. When you consider that it takes less time to raise the mini than a full sized beef, the mini wins hands down. ull sized beef takes 18-24 months where a mini takes 10-14 months. If you are worried about the taste and texture of a mini, the only thing different about them is their size, not taste. well most mini farmers that raise and sell their beef charge extra as SOME tests point to better nutricinal values for minis. As for the beef, there are mini angus, mini herefords etc, and the dairy side has the mini holsteins (the black and white ones) and others. The way it was explained to me was if you have a mini farm go with mini animals. If you have lost of land, go with the full sized animals. What else do you plan to do with your farm land? less pasture means more for "truck" farming or the end of the lane produce stand for sale.

you can look up minicows on the web using you search engine. They are becoming more available all the time in the midstates region of the US.

Jack Crabb:
Years ago there were all kinds of breeds of cattle, pigs, chickens, etc.  As farming became more specialized, the breeds were reduced in number, and the surviving breeds were changed through selective breeding to fill a very particularized niche - egg production, milk production, weight gain, etc.  The selective breeding of domestic turkeys has yielded animals with high quantities of desirable breast meat (let the snickers begin) but left them incapable of natural reproduction.  Lard was in great demand decades ago and the pigs were breed for high fat content.  People now want leaner meat and the pork industry has brought leaner hogs.

The Holstein cow can produce all kinds of milk (as well as manure).  They also need all kinds of food.  The Hereford and Angus steer has great weight gain and high quality flesh, but requires lots of high quality feed to do it.

For homesteading/small farm circumstances, some of the older/heritage breeds are more economical.  It is easy to produce milk and meat when the grain and high quality feed is being pushed to the animals.  But, how will they fare on grass and hay? 

Jerseys and Guernseys are small cows, eat less, and produce less milk.  However, on a basis of input to output, they do well.  There are Dexters, Milking Shorthorns, etc.  These, and other dairy breeds, are not used in commercial dairies.

There was a disease outbreak several years ago in the Caribbean Islands.  US pork producers wanted the foreign pig herds eliminated to prevent the spread of disease.  The industry offered to replace the hogs with US factory farm hogs.  Problem was, the US hogs needed a higher quality of diet and housing than what the people had.

Up through about WWI, the US diet was largely grains, fruits, and vegetables.  Coming into WWII, new machinery, seeds, fertilizer, etc. yielded too much grain for human consumption.  So, we started feeding it to animals and moved to a meat based diet.

In the homesteading/small farm situation, you want the animals to eat whatever the humans can't.  For instance, in India cattle eat the inedible grasses and produce milk.  The cattle take plant matter that is not usable by humans and make milk/butter that is.

So far as utilizing the nutritional value of food most efficiently, humans consuming crops directly is more efficient.  Animals eating crops and humans eating animals is inefficient.  However, the "mini" breeds may be less inefficient than the usual commercial breeds.


[0] Message Index

[*] Previous page

Go to full version