Do you want to raise animals, but are a little tight on space? Perhaps you have been looking into miniature livestock breeds as the perfect solution. Options abound—tiny cattle, miniature horses, pygmy goats, bantam hens….
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a silver bullet. Miniature breeds, like everything else, have both advantages and disadvantages. Weigh your options carefully before buying miniature livestock and decide if the pros outweigh the cons. Here are a few considerations.
- Small-acreage solution. Yes, miniature livestock fit well into small spaces! This is probably the #1 reason to consider a mini breed. Of course, you will still need to check your local zoning regulations to make sure livestock of any kind are legal in your area.
- Low feed requirements. Miniature cattle, horses, sheep, and goats need less hay and pasture than their larger counterparts. Bantam chickens eat less feed and scratch.
- Less manure. Especially important in small areas.
- Easy handling. Most miniature animals are a little easier for children to work with. Small goats and sheep are easier for adults to pick up and carry, as well! The only difficulty you may have is with sitting on the floor to milk a pygmy goat or even a miniature cow.
- Homestead-sized production. It can be difficult finding room in the refrigerator or freezer to store eggs, milk, and meat. Most miniature livestock breeds produce just the right amount of food for homesteaders. Even a miniature cow will fit comfortably in a standard upright freezer.
- Just plain unique! What’s wrong with choosing a miniature breed just because it’s different? Miniature animals can make an interesting addition to your family farm.
- The fad factor. Miniature livestock breeds are currently a fad, which has attracted some unscrupulous breeders to the market. Of course, responsible breeders do exist, and they offer animals with great potential value to homesteaders. But the old adage holds true here: “Let the buyer beware!”
- Price. Because mini breeds are in short supply and high demand, the prices asked for quality breeding animals can be staggering.
- Attitude. Some miniature animals seem to have an inferiority complex. They are either timid, or stubborn and sassy. While temperament does vary by breed and bloodline, part of it comes from the animal’s past experience with humans. It is tempting to spoil a little horse or sheep, but the animal needs to be taught to trust and respect people as “herd leaders.”
- Genetic defects. There are some defects associated with small size in animals, most notably dwarfism. Dwarfism may result in a malformed skeleton and difficulties breeding and giving birth. It is wise to buy miniature livestock from a source that checks for such defects.
- Vulnerability. Miniature livestock can be easy pickings for predators. Their small size makes it harder for them to defend themselves. Also, any mini breeds kept with larger animals can be seriously injured by their pasture companions when playing or fighting.
- Breeding challenges. Miniature livestock should never be crossed with standard-sized breeds, which can make it harder (and more expensive) to get your tiny cows and goats bred. In addition, smaller size may make artificial insemination more difficult in mini breeds.
One of the keys to avoiding many of the cons listed above is to purchase miniature livestock from a reliable source. Do your homework! Stay away from fad breeders out to make easy money. Go with someone who is dedicated to providing a valuable service to country families. This will help ensure that your miniature livestock provide you with years of enjoyment.