Backyard Cows: Too Lovable For Hamburgers?

image via.International Miniature Cattle Breeds Society and Registry

We’ve been here before.
First it was backyard chickens. We had a nostalgia-tinged notion of endearing creatures, deliciously fresh eggs, and serious locavore status. The dream ran up against the reality of filthy, shrieking fowl that barely edge out snakes in cuddliness, and are prone to ailments like poultry mites and pasty butt.

So we turned to goats.
All that fresh goat’s milk! Maybe we’d get a little chevre-making hobby going. And a goat is so much more pet-like, even willing to walk on a leash and play fetch. Then we confronted the ruminant reality of their special country smell and incessant bleating. Oh, the bleating.

I’m thinking that this third time will be the charm.
A miniature cow is about the size of a golden retriever, only slightly less cuddly (hooves, you know), and a whole lot smarter. It doesn’t need much more backyard space than a dog, and what you have will never need mowing. It can even be a better ‘watchdog’ than the genuine article. Your property taxes might be assessed at a lower agricultural rate. And then there’s the milk— about 1½ gallons of milk each day, fresh, pure, and raw. Try that with a golden retriever.

Miniature cows are nothing new. Most minis are descendants of centuries-old heritage breeds, while it’s the large-framed commercially-raised cattle that are the newcomers. They are more environmentally friendly than standard dairy cows and cattle; given comparable land use, the minis produce about twice the milk and three times the beef, while consuming two-thirds less feed and releasing one-tenth the methane gas of full-sized cows.

Pets or meat?
Miniature cows are beefy. Pound for pound, you’ll get more meat from a mini than from standard cattle, and a greater proportion will be higher-grade cuts. You know it’s grass-fed, since it’s munching on your lawn, and of course there is no reason to introduce hormones or antibiotics. A backyard cow will raise a calf each year, giving a steady supply of beef, and it’s just the right amount to fill a home freezer. That’s because it’s so little. And so cute. And your kids have named it Daisy or Taffy or Buttercup. And it’s a fluffy little thing with a patch of black around one eye just like a panda bear.

Too cute to be a hamburger? Not when you consider the hormone-filled, methane-spewing ginormous cattle that produce most of our beef now.

There are about 20,000 miniature cows in the U.S.

You can learn more from the forum at


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5 Responses to Backyard Cows: Too Lovable For Hamburgers?

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  2. The concept of more beef from a mini cow than a regular sized cow is hard to grasp. Never heard of miniature cows before today. I guess it is just a matter of time before they are the next hot thing. It would be hard to take Bessie Jr to the butcher . . .

  3. Janice says:

    A little lesson in animal husbandry:
    The dairy cow has a calf every year that is raised for beef (you can have her artificially inseminated if you don’t have a bull handy). That’s also what keeps her producing milk. You need about an acre of hypothetical backyard for every 2 mini cows.

  4. Michael says:

    Don’t I need two mini cows in my back yard simultaneously, if I want to be able to butcher one for the meat you tout while another one keeps the lawn in shape and gives milk even after her cousin is toast (no, hamburger)? How much back yard does that take?

    The question is academic for me, since I have no back yard!

  5. Monet says:

    Oh my goodness…I’ve never seen these before, and they are pretty darn adorable. Thank you for sharing. Continue to enjoy great food and good company!

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