People love pets. According to the 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association, approximately 85 million families in the United States have a pet.  The number of Americans with pets has climbed from 56% in 1988 to 68% in 2018. Americans don’t just love having pets, but they love having a variety of pets.
According to the same survey from 2007, there are 88 million cats, 74 million dogs, 16 million birds, and tens of millions of other smaller animals kept as pets in the United States.  Even non-traditional animals like pigs, chickens, and mini-horses have gained popularity. And now, we can add a new animal to the growing list of pets people like to keep:
Woah Woah Woah, cows? How on Earth could a person be expected to keep a cow at their home? They’re big, loud, and pretty smelly too, right? You would be correct about that if not for Lovable Little Ones, a specialty mini-cow breeder based out of Colorado. According to Lovable Little Ones, cows make “exceptional pets that demonstrate a great deal of affection, are very social, and are easy to take care of.”
And they’re not wrong, particularly about the personalities of these mini-cows. Cows tend to be viewed as an animal with a singular mindset in life, mostly based around grazing and mooing. But in reality, cows have big personalities that can be as varied as our own. According to Rosamund Young, farmer, and author of the book The Secret Life of Cows, no two cows are the same.
“They’re all so different,” Young said in an interview with the BBC.  I do think they need to be respected as having massive differences – as many differences as us, quite probably.” In her view, cows can be very smart, or a little bit harder to teach. They can be shy, bossy, sweet, or a little more aloof.
But before you go running out to find yourself a miniature cow, there are quite a few details that you need to take into consideration. A mini cow isn’t the same as, say, a dog or a cat. These miniature cows are actually still quite large, generally about one-half or one-third the size of a standard, full-sized breed of cow.  If all you have is backyard space, a mini cow is likely going to be much too large.
But if you’re a small-scale homesteader, a miniature cow may actually be an excellent addition to your little farm. Mini cows can be raised for meat, but many farmers choose to keep them for their fresh dairy products. A self-sufficient family farm doesn’t necessarily need to have a full-sized cow worth of dairy products every day, making a miniature cow ideal. These mini cows produce usually around 1 gallon of milk per milking.
Being smaller, mini cows require quite a bit less food as well. The advantages don’t stop there though. Mini cows are more feed efficient. They require about 25-30% less food, pound for pound, than a full-sized cow would. So while your mini cows maybe half the size of a regular, full-sized cow, it will likely only eat about one-third as much feed.
And of course, less feed going in has another benefit: less waste coming out. Mini cows poop much less than adult, full-sized cows meaning you have to dispose of much less waste. And being smaller means they require less pasture land, making it a great deal easier to divide up your pasture, let them graze one half of it, and then rotate to the other half while the first half recovers.
While I imagine most of you reading this article are interested in mini cows as pets, some farmers do choose to keep them as meat livestock as well. As with milking them, the meat of a miniature cow is just the right amount for a single-family. One mini cow can feed a standard family of four for months, and being more feed efficient than a full-sized cow, the meat comes out less expensive pound-for-pound.
That said, even vegans can get on board with the mini cow craze. These cows are excellent pets and tend to be very gentle. Think of them as just giant dogs. The animals are being kept more often as therapy animals and they tend to be extremely gentle with smaller children. These cows make a great pet for children learning about caring for an animal as well as kids interested in animal agriculture.
There are lots of different breeds of mini cattle to choose from as well. According to Big Picture Agriculture, there are 26 recognized breeds of mini cows. Many of these breeds can be kept as show cows too, making for a really fun family project.
There are some potential disadvantages to keeping miniature cows as pets though. Livestock laws vary from town to town, meaning you might not live in a place where they would be allowed, even if you have space. Miniature cows can be a bit more difficult to find to, and once you’ve located a breeder, you should expect to pay at least $1,800. Additionally, miniature breeds of livestock, in general, have a tendency to be more prone to genetic problems, especially if the breeder has not been careful about in-breeding.
And maybe the most important consideration is safety. Miniature cows do still weigh a few hundred pounds, and all animals can be a little bit unpredictable, even small cats and dogs. Mini cows are cute and fluffy, but it’s easy to underestimate just how strong they can be. Most of the time they aren’t aggressive, but accidents do happen and, when you’re dealing with several hundred-pound animals, those accidents can be costly.
So proceed with caution if you’re considering a miniature cow as a pet!
Featured Image: Courtesy of Janet Rose Photography
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