Anybody with miniature cows?

deanna_in_nh(5a/4b)July 10, 2010

My husband has always been interesting in having a cow. I know, however, that they require daily care, and that is not something he's interested in. He has been reading up on miniature cows and has declared that they are almost maintenance free, graze on your lawn, and need minimal barn room (we don't have a barn) along the lines of a shed.

Let me finish this by saying that he loves the idyllic farm life, but would like to be more of a "gentleman" farmer (maybe a landed noble). I have become very cautious of any new idea because the work generally falls on me. He works very hard at his job, but does not see weekend maintenance as enjoyable, and thus doesn't want to do it. I just don't have enough time to do all the work, nor do I feel like being the staff for his farm. We have reached a bit of a happy medium. We now have chickens, which I and the kids enjoy taking care of. We have a roughly 100x30 vegetable plot which he informed me (after it was put in) that he just wouldn't have time to cultivate so it would be my job. The happy medium is that if it is my job it will be done completely on my time line. So, he provides the means for us to have these things but is not pushy about what is required. He also appreciates the work I do and how things like the flower beds make the house beautiful and enjoyable.

I'm afraid a cow, any cow, even a miniature cow, would upset that balance! Does anybody have any experience with them?

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I would say don't get a cow until you get better co-operation. The every day things aren't so bad or even too time-consuming altho it will take some time each day, it's the unusual circumstances that will get you. Cows sometimes have to go to the vet. Who will do all that? Ever put a bolus down a cow? Ever pull a calf? Where/when will you breed it? If you want milk it has to be bred.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2010 at 4:35PM
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oregonwoodsmoke(5 OR Sunset 1A)

My first thought is that I'd tell him I have enough work so that he doesn't need to find any more to keep me busy, and if he wants a cow it is going to be 100% his responsibility because I wouldn't be taking care of it. Put your foot down, woman, and stand up for yourself.

That being said, I loved my beef cattle. They aren't much work if, and it's a big if, you have the right facilities for them. Cattle need really strong fences and you will need to have at least 2 of them. They are herd animals and a lonely cow will figure out how to escape and look for company.

I would not be allowing a cow to graze on my lawn. Cow poop is one of the nastiest things in the world to step in, and it is difficult to clean up because it is so loose and gooey (and smelly).

Cows do not really need a barn. If you have a barn, they will never go inside of their own free will. They need some shade trees, and some sort of barrier to get out of the wind.

Daily chores would be to clean and fill their water bucket. visually check them over for health, and with mine, I always gave a small handful of grain and a scratch to keep them tame and easy to handle.

If you give them a bit of feed every day, you can train them to come to a whistle and they are a lot easier to treat with their wormers and insecticides.

Unless you like to waste money, they need some sort of hay feeder that keeps them off their hay. The ones that work aren't cheap.

You'll need a safe dry place to store hay and grain.

They need a salt lick that is sheltered from the rain and a mineral feeder.

DO NOT EVER GET A MILK COW! You will never have another free minute and you are tied to both your farm and the clock.

As long as you are raising a cow, get a full sized one. There is a lot more meat for the same amount of work and the same equipment expense.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2010 at 4:45PM
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Trust me, oregonwoodsmoke, I have stood up for myself. I've made it clear that I would not be doing anything with a cow (or a goat, which has also been suggested recently) and that I was not his staff. That's why we don't have either and aren't making plans. My saying the garden will progress at my pace without him demanding certain things be planted, or how much, was also standing up for myself. I want a veggie garden, but if I'm the only one then I make the decisions. Thanks for the pep-talk, though! I did ask the question on the forum to see if I was wrong and a mini cow would be something I and the kids (oldest age 10) could handle (we homeschool so they are not out of the home most of the day). I haven't told the breadwinner I am asking this question, and probably won't, too! He's very supportive and earns a very good living, and him accepting my boundaries is working out well. I do need to lime the garden and have informed him that I can't do that myself. He has said he will help. Small victories count!

Thanks to both of you for the detailed info on having a cow. Much of that I hadn't though of. I would love to have fresh, healthy milk, but some of my family are dairy farmers and I know they could barely leave their farm. He had read something about mini cows with a calf not needing daily milking so we could travel more easily, if necessary, etc., etc. Thanks for the input and setting some things straight.

I sure wish we lived nearer some dairy farmers who were willing to make the sacrifices required of dairy farmers so I could buy their fresh, raw milk (which is legal here)! It's always easier when other people sacrifice, right?!

    Bookmark   July 10, 2010 at 5:27PM
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Yea, I would veto the cow (of any size) until he proved to be more helpful or promised he was 100% responsible. We share the duties of our pigs, chickens, cats and dogs but sometimes when DH schedule gets out of whack and I spend several days doing everything...I get a little resentful and it takes the fun out of having the critters to begin with. DH really enjoys tending but if he gets home late those creatures still count on their supper at a decent time. I usually enjoy it but not if I'm running short on time because the pigs require that you be covered with poopy muck from head to toe ;) Lori

    Bookmark   July 11, 2010 at 10:34PM
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goodhors(z5 MI)

Getting a cow, any size, sounds like a problem you don't need right now. Sorry, this got very long before I knew it!!

Cows, even the minis, are NOT small dogs. They weigh several hundred pounds even if they are short! You need to have livestock knowledge and skills to handle them and manage to care for them well. I see you are in New Hampshire, where you would need shelter for the cow/cattle over winter. This will include having winter hay supplies, bedding and ice free water supplies no matter HOW cold it gets. Cattle drink a LOT of water daily. No water means they get sick, they can't eat enough snow to manage to survive.

Just getting any old calves or cows you find could mean they are unhandled, unfriendly, DANGEROUS if cornered to do things with. They might consider you a predator and fight, you or kids could be badly injured!

We have had cattle before, so when daughter asked for a Christmas calf for her present, we said yes. Her other specification of it being a bottle baby for 4-H Prospect Beef project did put me in a new area of cattle handling! Our previous steers were several months old, weaned and eating hay, SORTA tame and came haltered! This calf we picked out was only 4 days old, nursing a cow, not bottle trained. Calf got chilled on the way home, would not suck the bottle and milk replacer ($50 a bag) so we ended up at the Vet's. Calf spent 3 days in "calf ICU" getting IVs and a heat lamp to rehydrate. He was sucking his bottle when we brought him home, but we did have a BUNCH of other problems with being cold, drinking well, keeping him in the heated tack room for a couple weeks, before things settled down into "sort of normal" like other folks calves are!! I was pretty sure he was going to die, am surprised he did not, and it was a LOT of work too. I will NOT EVER be buying another tiny calf that needs a bottle. The money invested at that point with Vet, had put the cost way up, so he was worth about $7 the pound then. And only a week old!

On the plus side, this calf is REALLY easy to deal with, comes when called, and after lots of handling, he is as nice to work with as one of our horses.

While searching for the calf, I also found out about the small breed and mini cattle. They are CUTE, but are REAL CATTLE, with all their stubbornness and cow thinking. I decided we needed a small cow who could graze our extra pasture grass and keep the calf company. Read up on the Dexters and other mini size cattle types. Minis have a number of issues, with dwarfism being a major one. Found a 10 month heifer, Dexter, which is a small, old breed, with an established history, not new breeding design animals.

We did our homework ahead, visited some Dexter breeders, looked at SUPERB breeding animals, some mediocre to poor specimens, learned about the good and bad of the Breed and how to spot problems. Very helpful breeders taught us quite a bit, they are national Champion breeders, didn't want us to get stung. I would love to have bought there, just the prices were kind of rich for the budget.

The heifer we purchased was nice, but being unhandled she had a very low price. That part should have rung a bell for me, but I was happy she was dehorned and registered, older so I could get her bred this year.

Again the learning curve was STEEP. She had never been haltered, we had to wrestle her a long way over to the trailer because the barn had not been plowed out. Amazing how 350pounds against 3 adults can take a long time to load!! Unloading was much more exciting, she came out like a bullet, daughter on halter rope could NOT hold her. Good thing I had put up some fence panels, they funneled her into the barn where husband slammed the door and yelled "score!" We got her stalled then and the handling process got started. It is a daily thing, and took a couple months before she got reliably able to be handled safely 95% of the time.

She now leads where you want, can be tied for long periods, can be washed, loads into the grooming chute and trailer. She likes brushing most of the time, HATES being stared at in her stall by strangers, will act like she wants to fight. Likes most folks she meets out in the pasture. She wears a collar and bell to know where she is all the time. She HATES shots and throws herself all over in the grooming chute, we REALLY need a headgate to hold her as she keeps growing. And she is only now at about 500#, should finish at about 700#. Her height is about 42 inches at the shoulder, should not get much taller, just deeper bodied with maturity. She has been vaccinated for all the local cattle diseases, plus Tetnus and Pinkeye. Still have to get her RFID eartag in. Seller gave it to us, matches registration papers. The guy we purchased her from didn't do it and I only recently got an eartagger. We are going to haul her to a friend with a headgate because she is going to be VERY ANGRY getting her ears punched for ID. She is off to another friend with a Jersey bull for breeding next week after tagging. I thought about AI breeding, but not practical without a headgate and chute to contain her.

Have to say husband has had more fun telling his customer's cattle stories, getting more laughs than one person deserves. He says the stories would not be nearly as funny if he plain made them up!! Reality is stranger than truth, and his customers are always asking about the recent "cattle tales" from our place.

If I was to get another heifer, I would buy it young, small so I could physically manage it much better than the larger one I started with. Young calves are not settled in their ways yet, not much independent thinking if you handle them daily. Daughter's steer calf is terrific to work with, thinks he is a dog. Leads easily, picks up his feet for hoof care, stands quietly for grooming, tying, bathing, loading in the trailer, just acts much sweeter because he has been handled so much since birth.

We also do the extra handling DAILY with stalling both cattle each night, which does add up in our time and rewarded with better training for the cattle. Lots of folks can't do that kind of time to tame down their purchases as we did with the heifer. Took daughter and me a couple weeks of both of us leading her in and out, before just one of us could manage her to put outside. She dragged a long rope for about 6 weeks so we could catch her at the beginning. I am lucky we have good fence and nothing to get snagged on while she learned manners.

I really would advise against getting cattle at this point in time from what you have said. You and children could do a study on cattle, learn about them and perhaps join 4-H for more practical skills in learning. There is just so much to learn! I felt like I "knew" about cattle with previous ownership, but found out how WRONG I was!! The learning curve is steep, and the bruises hurt too.

Things have settled down for now, but will be changing as Fair approaches. Heifer is going for breeding, hoping she comes home with monthly hormones settled as a bred heifer. Calf will probably be sold at Fair, so her buddy will be gone until she calves. She has always had a buddy, not sure how that will go over with her. She does keep an eye on the calf even though he is her size now and will continue to get bigger. She calls to him when he is away getting his bath or daily fitness walk as a project animal.

A suggestion of smaller animals for the "empty fields" husband views would be sheep. Goats are VERY creative, always testing the fence, getting into things. Sheep are the less busy cousins. Easy sizes to handle, can be pets too. You can buy gelded males, called whethers that would be pets and not need to be eaten if the kids object. You can get wool or hair sheep, depending on if you want to get them sheared each year. You still need good fences to contain and protect the sheep from predators.

A suggestion on fences, is to have them installed by a fencing company, save your body. Professionals can do a great job much faster than you can, and the price is worth saving your body! Lay everything out on paper, make gates large enough to get machinery thru for mowing, seeding. Get gates in handy locations, so you are not walking miles to get from here to there. We have MANY gates on our farm, husband complained bitterly about the expense until he had to walk thru pastures several times checking fence and I pointed out how MANY of those gates he had used! He did see the convenience once he was using the fields.

Don't jump into any projects, livestock, without a great deal of study, lists of changes needed in daily routine for you or kids, time spent on these projects. Hunting for winter hay, bedding, bringing it home, loading into the barn is only one step with cattle. We clean those cattle stalls daily, not into deep bedding as other cattle keepers are because I don't have loader machinery to clean barns with. Who would think shots and eartags would be so difficult with my heifer? Calf was no problem with either item. Our numerous horses all stand well, shots are no issue, no wild reactions. Live and learn! At least next year she will only need one booster of each shot!!

RESIST the lure of cute tiny cows!! At least until you have some practical cow experience, know what you are getting into. The link will make you laugh, it was sent to me when I said I got the Dexter heifer.

Here is a link that might be useful: Mini Cow Video

    Bookmark   July 11, 2010 at 11:29PM
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Can't you just buy a couple Dexters in spring, and then sell or butcher them before winter? If you have the acreage and good pasture you wouldn't need hay or a barn. You'd need a fence and a water tank. Doesn't seem like that much work to me.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2013 at 4:40PM
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