Small Beef Breeds for Home Production


Australian breeders of Miniature cattle        New Zealand breeders of Miniature cattle
Those who are able to grow their own meat are in an enviable position. But when we come to kill a cattle beast for our own use, it would be useful to have a smaller animal so most of it can fit in the freezer. And the naturally smaller sized cuts fit in perfectly with todays smaller family size. If we are 'weekend farmers' on small holdings, we need to have easy care beasts. Small breeds of cattle have these traits, plus fast growth and naturally 'marbled' meat.
As cattle are selected for increased size and faster growth rate, their fertility rate drops, and the efficiency of conversion of grass into meat (kg meat per hectare) falls. It has been difficult to select for increased carcass yeild in catttle, as yeild is governed by many interacting traits. Small beef breeds have a reputation for efficient pasture conversion, better fertility, with more of the higher value meat cuts per hectare, as 'up to' two times the number small cattle as against normal breeds can be carried on the same area of land.

Miniature Herefords
The cows are about 1.08 metres/3½ feet tall, and average weight range is 300-350 kgs. The calves have a birth weight of around 26 kgs/57 lbs (with a range of 24-30 kilograms), and at weaning the average weight is 170 kgs/375 lbs. Carcass weights can be over 60%, and rib eye over 10%.

The advantages of this breed are the smaller cuts of meat, the higher stocking rate per acre, high feed conversion rates (efficient converters), less damage to pasture, especially on wet soils, less damage to handling yards, easy calving, and excellent weight gains.
A picture of a Miniature hereford is at the Diamond R Cattle Company website
Miniature Herefords in New Zealand - details of bloodlines in NZ and breeding history in Texas. Commercial site.

Derived from a cattle research project started by the New South Wales Department of Agriculture in 1974. Lowline cattle have been developed soley in Australia.

A fully grown bull is about 1.1 metres/just over 3½ feet tall (at the shoulder). A mature ( 3 year old) bull can weigh up to 450 kgs. Cows  can weigh up to 420 kgs at 3 years, but more typically average 320kg/705 lbs. Cows are about a metre high at the shoulder.

Lowlines have a carcass yeild of up to 81% saleable meat.
One of the interesting traits of the lowliner is that the meat is naturally 'marbled' even when soley pasture fed.
Lowlines are noted for the efficiency of production of the prime meat part of the carcass. While Lowlines are no more or less efficient at feed conversion or overall production than other meat breeds such as Simmental and Angus, they produce almost double the eye - muscle area ( about 23 square cm/100 kg ) than Angus ( 14 square cm/100 kg ) or Simmental ( 12 square cm/100 kg ) when measured in kg/ha.

The hind quarters of this breed are well developed, which increases the proportion of prime cut meat.

Again, the higher stocking rate means more production per hectare. Lowlines are one of the most docile breeds of cattle, and are easy calvers.
Pictures of lowline cattle are available at the Gunna Gumpy Lowline Stud website.
 At birth weigh an average of 20kg/44lbs
Lowline Cattle in New Zealand- extensive notes on the origin on the lowline breed in Australia, and some general notes on lowlines in New Zealand. Commercial site.
Dexters are a hardy breed of small mountain cattle, originally derived from the Celtic cattle of ancient Ireland. They are the smallest British breed of cattle with a cow being from 90 cm/36 inches to just over a metre/ 42 inches at the shoulder. An average cow weighs about 350 kg. The coat is usually black, but it can be red or dun brown.
They are very hardy, requiring no pampering, yet remain efficient converters of feed to meat. Like most small breeds, they require only half the space a conventional animal would take.
Pasture fed animals can finished early, at 18 to 24 months and 350kgs liveweight, without supplementary feeds, and still have good marbling and meat flavor. Dexters have a good meat to bone ratio, and can kill out at around 56%. As with all small breeds, the bome-in joints are smaller and better suited to smaller modern families.

Heifers are precocious, and can be mated at 15 to 18 months. The Dexter is noted for easy calving, and the breed is known for the long useful breeding life of the cows - up to fourteen years, sometimes more.
Pictures of Dexter cows and bulls are at the Dexter Cattle Societies' website.
Miniature Zebu
Miniature Zebu (Brahma cattle) are still extremely rare (about 750 purebred animals in USA). The advantage of the miniature zebu is that that are better adapted to heat than most European breeds.
The maximum allowable height is just over a metre/42 inches behind the typical Bos indicus hump.
Pictures of Dexter cows and bulls are at the Heerman Homestead website.
Miniature Longhorns
These attractive cattle stand just under a metre/about 40 inches at the shoulder in a mature bull. They are horned cattle, which after all, is one of their breed features.

Picture of a 3 year old bull at Foresite Ranch website.

Miniature Galloway
A breed originally from from County Galloway, Scotland, they are remarkable for their docility, and their 'double coat' - a heavy, hairy outer coat, and a soft downy undercoat (the only other bovines with a double coat are highland cattle and bison). The down, which is often shed in the summer, can be spun. They  are both cold hardy, and tolerant to heat.

Galloways are naturally polled (hornless), and are hardy, and easy calving, The cows are good mothers and have good udders and are good milk producers. It is claimed that Galloways will form a crescent to protect young against dogs, and that a Galloway amongst sheep will usefully act as a protecter of the flock against dog attack.
The breed standard for height is:
Bulls 10-12 months old - 110cm at the hip maximum height.
Females 10-12 months old - 105cm at the hip maximum height.

Well grown calves average between 15kg - 20kg at birth.
Steer calves, mature later than a lot of larger size breeds, but have tender, flavorsome, juicy meat, with good color; and achieve marbling on grass. In tests in the USA, (full size) Galloway crossbred meat was measured as top of the breeds for flavor, tenderness and juiciness, supporting the long standing claim that Galloway beef is exceptionally good .

Miniature Galloways are non-selective grazers, don't damage trees and fences, make relatively little impact on the pasture, and are therefore very well suited to the small farms.
Picture of Miniature Galloway cattle at Nadinna Miniature Galloway Stud.
Galloway breed information from the Oklahoma State University. The notes on the full size breed apply equally to the small form. Authoratative and comprehensive
Miniature Murray Grey
Newly developed by Rick Pisaturo, NSW, Australia there is relatively little information on this new breed as yet - except it has gained the name 'Squaremeater'! The animals are said to grade out at around 80% top of the grade, can be stocked relatively intensively, and have a high feed to meat conversion ratio.
 Red Poll
Not strictly a miniature bree, nevertheless, the Red Poll is a smaller cattle beast, and worthy of a mention because it is docile, fattens its calves quickly on the particularly rich milk, has exceptionally tender meat, is permanently hornless and needs no de-budding, and has a reputation for 'doing well' even on poor weedy pasture.

An excellent short history of the breed is at the Oklahoma State University animal breeds site-

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