The Los Angeles Times reports this morning that ranchers are downsizing…their cattle. Writer P. J. Huffstutter reports from Nebraska about some ranchers who are raising minicows, stocky little critters with smaller frames and smaller appetites. These “miniature Herefords consume about half that of a full-sized cow yet produce 50% to 75% of the rib-eyes and fillets, according to researchers and budget-conscious farmers,” Huffstutter reports. “We get more sirloin and less soup bone,” said Ali Petersson (above, with cow). “People used to look at them and laugh. Now, they want to own them.”
There is a trend, according to the Times. Dairy farmers are picking up mini Jerseys, little cows that can produce two to three gallons of milk a day. The mini Herefords weigh in at between 500 and 700 pounds each. There are more than 300 mini Hereford breeders in the U.S. and there are now 20,000 minicows in the country, up from 5,000 a decade ago. (Okay, there are more than 94.5 million head of cattle in the U.S., so the minis aren’t taking over.)
These cattle aren’t genetically engineered to be small. They come from the original breeds brought to the U.S. from Europe. As U.S. farmers and ranchers produced more grains, they didn’t worry about the price of feed as much as the amount of beef on a single cow. “Feed prices were relatively cheap, and grazing lands were accessible,” a Purdue University professor said. “The plan was to get more meat per animal. But it went way too far. The animals got too big and eat so much.” The microcattle are a return to earlier times. And, hey, there are even been a mini bucking bull rodeos!