Miniature cattle vs dexter cattle

Discussion in 'Cattle' started by cc-rider, Nov 25, 2009.

  1. cc-rider

    cc-rider Baroness of TisaWee Farm Supporter

    Jul 29, 2003
    flatlands of Ohio - sigh
    Are minis smaller than dexters? I can buy a "mini" cow for a lot less than a dexter, but I'm not sure what the difference is. I want something that will do well being outside a lot (in zone 5), will thrive on grass, and will give only enough meat for a family of 2 (without having a freezer full for YEARS from one cow). I really, REALLY like the dexters....but if the "minis" are the same thing...just not a designer label cow... then that is OK, too. I really don't care about having papers, as long as the cow is a good cow.

    Any info would be appreciated! Also....any for sale in/near Ohio??
  2. Mark T

    Mark T Well-Known Member

    Jan 7, 2003
    Central Virginia
    If the size of the beef is the issue, I'd recommend getting a regular sized cow - whatever breed is popular in your area. If you want less meat, calve in the spring and then put the baby beef in your freezer come winter - the same amount of meat as a mini without the two year wait - and you don't have to mess with three animals at the same time - mom, yearling, calf.
    smwon and lityear like this.

  3. 65284

    65284 Well-Known Member Supporter

    Sep 17, 2003
    The most commonly seen small cattle in the US are Dexters, Zebu, original small Jerseys, and to a lesser extent the Lowline Angus. In my opinion the mini cow fad is a scam and a high dollar sucker hustle. The designer "mini-cows" are mostly cross bred mutts based on Dexters to pull down the size crossed with something to achieve a certain color pattern or look.

    Under the hide no matter the color or pattern beef is beef, and in spite of what some breeders and breed associations would have you believe almost any properly finished and slaughtered beef animal will make very good meat.

    I would suggest you go with a known and proven breed. The requirements you listed in your post pretty well fit the description of a Dexter. You should be able to find an unpapered Dexter cow quite reasonably priced.
  4. madness

    madness Well-Known Member

    Dec 6, 2006
    Central Texas
    Wow, minis are cheaper in your area than dexters? Just the opposite here. A mini heifer can run you many thousands of dollars.

    Are you interested in milking or just meat? If just meat, then probably go with a breed that you know what you will get. Some of the minis are a bit hit or miss since they are only a few generations into breeding.
  5. Levonsa

    Levonsa Well-Known Member

    Dec 17, 2008
    Henagar, AL
    You can find minis at a reasonable price, if you look and are patient about the search. Several of the cows we have came from Ohio. They were cheap enough that I drove from Al to get them. I want to raise my own beef without buying a new steer each year. The animals that we have collected are crosses of lowline, miniature hereford, zebu and pineywoods. Everyone will have a different opinion. Listen to them all and decide what will work best for you and your situation.
  6. genebo

    genebo Well-Known Member Supporter

    Sep 12, 2004
    A lot of the minis are actually crossbred with Dexters to get their small size.

    Mini's aren't consistent in their characteristics. You have to refer back to the breed that they are a miniature of to determine what their characteristics will be.

    In other words, a miniature Hereford won't make a good milk cow and a miniature Jersey isn't a great beef cow. That's the niche that a Dexter fills. The dual purpose, beef and milk.

    If you're encountering prices too high for Dexters, check out a different breeder. In most areas, the mini cattle are really high priced (overpriced?), while Dexters are quite reasonable.

    You should be able to get a good registered Dexter heifer for $1200, and even less if you're willing to take a range heifer and tame her yourself or an unregisterable one.

    The best part of a Dexter is the temperament. They're very pleasant to be around.

    The hustle that 65284 referred to amounts to this: A Dexter/Shorthorn cross heifer sells for less than a fullblooded Dexter, but if you call it a mini Shorthorn and ask a ridiculously high price, someone will come along and buy it. It's marketing. There's even a so-called "registry" where you can register anything that moos.

    There are some really fine small cattle out there. I've sold a few Dexter crosses. With Jersey, Hereford, Charolais and Shorthorn dams. Each one inherited some of the dam's characteristics and some of the sire's characteristics. I always sold my crosses for less than a fullblooded, registered Dexter.

    I wasn't so particular when I picked a dam for cross breeding. I'd get an unregistered cow of the target breed, but I wouldn't know her ancestry, because she didn't have a pedigree. I judged her solely on what she looked like when I bought her.

    When I buy a Dexter, I examine hundreds of pedigrees. I look for ancestors with known good traits that will complement the breeding bull I'll use. It's all very scientific. Not surprisingly, I get consistently good results from breeding a high quality bull, whose ancestors were high quality, to a high quality cow, whose ancestors were high quality.

    The pedigree of a registered Dexter means something. You can often trace the ancestry of a registered Dexter all the way back to England, nearly a century ago.

    When you buy a mini Jersey, you need to make sure you're buying a true small Jersey, that can trace her ancestry back to the original small Jerseys that were imported here. Otherwise, you could be buying a runt from a standard size mother, who is only small because she was bred when she was still a calf and so never developed. A sickly liability that someone else is unloading.

    I know this is rough reading, but it needs to be said once in a while, just to keep the unscrupulous "mini" sellers honest.

    I'll leave you with one piece of advice: go visit the cows before you buy. See the mother. Check out her shape, her legs, feet and tailset. Inspect her udder and teats. Get a look at her sire. And if possible, look at the sire's mother. She'll have more to do with the style of udder and teats your cow will have than anyone else. Make sure the cows are gentle enough for you to feel comfortable around them.

    Paradise Farm
  7. copperhead46

    copperhead46 Well-Known Member Supporter

    Jan 25, 2008
    Cherokee Nation, Oklahoma
    One of the biggest problems with "minis" is that they are dwarfed cattle. Although some are crossed with a naturally small breed, like Dexters, Zebus and such, a lot of them are dwarfs. They have a problem in that their organs are not dwarf and a lot of times the organs grow to normal size and the animal dies a horrible death. They will make it a couple of years but the insides are crushed, thus, suffocating the animal. I know this because I bought a "mini-herford" and bred her to my Dexter bull and she died about 5 months along. I had the vet check her earlier because her breathing was so labored. He explained what was happening to her and I was helpless to do anything about it. He thought she might carry the calf to term before she died, but it didn't happen. If you do go with a mini, make sure it's a natural small cow, not dwarfs that have been bred down.