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What to know about
BREEDS of Homestead & Miniature Cattle

HomesteadCattle.com ~ white paper article

Written for the Homestead & Miniature Cattle Directory
Subject: Hard to Find Facts about Breeds of Homestead & Miniature Cattle
Source: Homestead & Miniature Cattle Directory (HomesteadCattle.com)
Author: Donna Grace Vickery, HomesteadCattleDirectory@gmail.com

• Homestead Breeds of Cattle: Homestead Cattle may be defined as gentle, efficient cattle with grassfed genetics, that do well with low input, on small acreage. Although Miniature Cattle are often the first to be recommended, they are not the only breeds that work wonderfully on homesteads.

• Homestead & Miniature Cattle are not Frivolous Fads: Although still rare, and many are heritage breeds, the numbers and popularity of homestead and miniature cattle is on the rise, and has been for some time. There has been a stable market for "value-priced" cattle (cattle that are priced according to their true or realistic value), that probably won't change in the forseeable future. The increase in numbers of small family farms and homesteads is likely to continue as long as the economy and finances remain uncertain; while the trend for more self sufficiency continues, and more and more people decide to produce their own safer, home-grown food.

• Miniature Cattle are small homestead breeds that range from one third to one half the size of standard breeds. The term Miniature Cattle does not refer to their breed -- it refers to their Frame Score (FS) classification. Miniature cattle range in frame score from 0 to 000000 ("6-aught"). Most registries qualify cows as miniature when they measure up to 42--43 inches over the hip, at 3 or more years of age. Bulls are expected to be 1 to 3 inches taller.

There may be no simple way to classify miniature cattle, but most fall into one of these categories:

  1. Natural Miniature Breeds of Cattle: In North America, there are 2 major breeds of naturally miniature cattle: The Irish Dexter and the Miniature Zebu. Neither is found in large, standard sizes. The miniature Zebu is the smallest, and most Dexters are miniature, measuring below midsize. The Irish Dexter breed carries a unique dwarf gene (that is neither encouraged nor discouraged by Dexter registries) which additionally shortens their chondro carriers by a few more inches. Both miniature Zebu and Irish Dexter cattle have been used for decades to create many more composite (or percentage) miniature cattle breeds.

  2. Miniature Beef Cattle Breeds: In some old breeds of cattle there are (mostly heritage) bloodlines of small framed cattle that have endured over the years. Some have been selected to restore the shorter, old style. The Miniature Hereford and the Lowline are the most prevalent examples of these. Both are small frame cattle that can range from fairly small miniature sizes to larger classic midsizes. The larger midsize Miniature Herefords and American Aberdeen Angus cattle are many times found on larger ranches, bringing down frame scores and adding more efficiency to commercial beef and grass fed operations. The smallest miniature Herefords and Angus are found on homesteads alongside other grass fed homestead and miniature breeds.

  3. fullblood Shorthorn bull - J Bar J RanchRare Miniature Cattle: Most North American cattle breed registries do not enforce the frame scores in their breed descriptions, and occasionally healthy fullblood miniature cattle are found in larger breeds. These are actually the rarest of miniature cattle--although their breeds may not be rare, their frame scores are. These small cattle, registered in their breed registries alongside their standard size herdmates will usually include the miniature Texas Longhorn, a few fullblood miniature Jersey, miniature Scottish Highland, miniature Shorthorn, miniature Galloway and miniature White Park cattle. These rare miniature cattle breeds are often of vintage bloodlines, and like any fullblood, will have pedigrees that can be traced back to their breed's oldest herdbooks. Some can be found at very reasonable prices in herds owned by purebred breeders that do not select for smaller frame scores.

  4. Percentage Miniature Cattle Breeds: Many new miniature cattle "breeds" have been created over the past decades, and more are usually in the works. Percentage breeds may be purebreds, upgrades, composites or crossbreeds, depending upon their breed composition & percentage. Percentage miniature cattle were created by starting with naturally small miniature cattle and crossing them with full size or small frame cattle. Some started their upgrades with Dexter cattle carrying BD1 dwarfism.

miniature cow size comparisons

• Fullblood and Purebred: What do these terms mean? Simply put, these are the most widely used terms to define and classify the breed purity or blood percentage of an animal. When choosing a breed of cattle, most buyers are not overly concerned about breed purity. But once purity is traded for the advantages of an outcross (eg. heterosis or blending the favorable traits of multiple breeds, or changing an old breed, or creating a new breed), it cannot be reclaimed. Therefore, in cases where breed purity is a factor, (for example, when preserving rare breeds in danger of extinction) it is important to ask the right questions, to clarify everyone's definitions when using these terms. Breeds of cattle that are 100% pure might be defined as "fullblood" or "purebred," depending upon which breed, person, or registry you are dealing with. There may even be breed specific terms used that indicate purity, such as "native" (Milking Shorthorn) or "traditional" (Dexter), used to identify heritage fullbloods with no known outside genetics in their pedigrees.

Fullblood, Purebred, Percentage & Composite Chart from Homestead Cattle Association, herdbook registry

Breed Purity in cattle is often referred to with the following terms:

  • composite breed cattle: 25% -- 49.99% blood percentage
  • percentage breed cattle: 50% -- 87.499% blood percentage
  • purebred breed cattle: 87.5% -- 99.99% blood percentage
  • fullblood breed cattle: 100% blood percentage

This is only a guideline ...
Sometimes these terms are used interchangably in different breeds.
Sometimes these terms have different definitions in different breeds.

Sources / Resources:

International Livestock Registries (internationallivestockregistries.com)
Breeds of Homestead & Miniature Cattle (miniature-cattle.com)
What to know about Breed Registries
GENETIC MUTATIONS: 12 Fascinating Facts about DNA that your geneticist won't tell you
Directory of Heritable Diseases, Genetic Conditions, and DNA testing in Cattle Breeds
Homestead Cattle Directory (homesteadcattle.com)
Homestead Cattle Association of herdbooks, a registry for Homestead & Miniature breeds of cattle
Dairy Cattle Registry
What is a Breed. A simple, concise history of type & purity of British & Continental breeds of cattle. Beef Magazine
Creating Breeds and Composites. TX Cooperative Extension Agency & Texas AMU
From Big to Small to Big to Small: A 3-part Pictorial History of Cattle Type Changes Over the Years, by Harlan Ritchie


publisher: Vintage Press, LLC.
owner: Bucking V Outfit, LLC., Maricopa County Arizona
published online: 01-01-2018
author: by Donna Grace Vickery (HomesteadCattleDirectory@gmail.com)

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Bucking V Outfit LLC cattle brand ©HomesteadCattle.com, Miniature-Cattle.com
and Homestead Cattle Association herdbook,
are Bucking V Outfit, LLC. enterprises, circa 1990
this pg published online: Nov 2018 by Vintage Press, LLC.
author: Donna Grace HomesteadCattleDirectory@gmail.com
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Homestead Cattle Association (HCA) Herdbook Registry
is an associate of the International Livestock Registries (ILR)
if you have cattle that need pedigree registration,
or a herdbook that needs a database service, contact ILR

HCA is part of the International Livestock Registries family of Herdbooks