Raising the right size for better efficiency and profit for small farms
“Mini” Cattle Breed
They won’t change the commercial beef industry
In this article, I will only be writing from our perspective of Miniature Herefords and Lowline Angus breeds. They are the breeds we have been researching and raising for two years. We have read where many people raising these breeds are complaining they can’t take them to local sale barns because their “minis” are seriously discounted because of their size.
No one should have ever thought they could raise cattle that are much smaller than commercial sized cattle that are totally raised for their beef. The processing plants are the main customer for their animals and the processing plants’ key objective is to get as much beef on each animal slaughtered at possible. That is the economics of the beef industry. If it costs $xx to process an animal, the more beef they can get from that, the cheaper the processed beef will be for them.
In 2015, the price of cattle started to dramatically drop. Forbes magazine wrote an article called “Cattle Futures In Free Fall Confirm Expectations For Collapse In Beef Prices”. The article mentions that the average weight of the cows has increased by 300 lbs. since early 1990s thus the processing plants don’t need to buy as many cows any more to get the same amount of beef to sell. The article also noted less beef is being eaten by consumers in this “healthy eating” period.
Minis were never going to “change” the beef industry because smaller cattle require less feed. Some mini breeders will state “you can raise the same amount of beef with two minis as one commercial size animal and it did not take any more feed.” That really does not get you anywhere if you have to purchase two cows to give you the same amount of beef that one commercial animal produced and the one commercial animal probably cost less than just one of the minis. They will also state the minis have lower birth weights with their calves. This should not take a rocket scientist to understand a 700-800 lbs. cow should have a smaller calf than a 1,300-1,500 cow.
So people considering raising “mini” cattle need to clearly understand why they want to do that and define the objectives for raising them. Here are some of the objectives we focused upon when entering the “mini” cattle industry.
It is a niche market, a unique animal compared to the commercial beef herds. While commercial cattle may be going to the sale barn weighing 500-600 lbs at 6-7 months and bringing $1,000, we were selling, private treaty, 300-400 lbs calves at 5 months old for around $2,000. That is because the people buying them we not planning to fatten them up for a processing plant a year later. Many people are buying them for their kids to take to livestock shows.
Minis are smaller animals, easier to handle and less likely to tear up pasture fences. All of our buyers have come from small acreage farms and don’t have the space to run commercial size cows.
Several buyers, with small farms, would like to raise their own beef for their self, their family and possibly sell some beef. A commercial size carcass is a large amount of beef. Even a half of a carcass is a large amount of beef. Minis have a smaller size and it can be a better fit for a family freezer.
Other buyers are just looking for something that would look nice in their pasture and they enjoy being around them. Minis require much less feed than commercial size cattle so it is not nearly the same expense with the minis.
Mini breeders don’t have to have a semi-truck to haul them around like a commercial herd breeder needs.
If you are considering raising “mini” cattle, make sure you don’t have any expectations of getting rich selling them at a sell barn. It is not going to happen. Also, you are not going to find a market selling your minis to commercial breeders to add to their breeding herd. Realize you will be in a “niche” market, focus on that and you will be much happier and more successful.