Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Eight years ago when my husband retired from law enforcement and I retired from nursing, we wanted to do something with the 40 acres that we had bought years before as a place to get away and unwind. We had to take into consideration that we did not live at the property full-time, there was no electricity and we had only one well that used a generator.
After looking at many different options (including raising wild boar), we decided on miniature cattle and have never regretted it. It has been an amazing journey for two people who had no experience at all with cattle. We’ve had many ups and downs, including losing our original three when they broke out of our fence upon delivery, the death of my favorite cow during calf birth, and having to cull out two bulls due to their instability.
But out of the downs came ups— we recovered our cows after four days and learned how to make a correct fence, the calf (we named her Karma) of the dead cow was found eight days later (that is an amazing story in itself) and we nursed her back to health. This year she had her first calf— beautiful and healthy. And the bulls ended up in our freezer and we haven’t bought beef for years.
Before we started, I purchased no less than 10 books on cattle care and have found that even though they were packed full of information, a lot of it wasn’t anything we could use. Our land is extremely rugged and untamed and the nearest vet is miles away. We didn’t even have any fencing when we bought the cows and had to build a corral and pasture on our own before they were delivered. Most of what we learned we learned by experience. We now have a beautiful purebred Dexter bull, one highland cow, two purebred Dexter cows and we have had some beautiful calves. We have sold many as pets, for petting zoos and to folks who want to start breeding their own herds.
The miniatures offer many benefits. They are extremely hardy, nimble and have great personalities. Our standard-cow-owning friends say that our minis seem to be more active and play more. And the calves are adorable. We have been able to leave our cows alone for days and weeks at a time without problems and they are always there waiting for us when we come back. They use less pasture, eat less hay and love treats.
Because we have a home in a more populated area, we put out signs asking for used pumpkins every year. This year we have gotten at least 400 pounds of pumpkins. The cows love them and it cuts down on their hay consumption. They reward us by trimming trees, knocking down the nasty brush and giving us wonderful, clean poop for fertilizer. Since I know how natural my cows are, I feel good using their manure and this year had the best garden ever.
I know that as long as we have our property we will always have our miniature cattle.
Photos courtesy of Corinne Talkin