These are just a few things I've found important along the way. These are the questions I had or the things I wish I'd known. Please feel free to message me with ideas, (or corrections,) and updates to add or edit. I am by no means an expert, but that might make me a good person to offer up starting information. I want this information to be for you, not me. If there's something you want to see... let me know!!
First things first...
What kind of cows do you want? A better question, what do you want to do with them??? Are you raising your own beef? Plan to milk? Need a tax exemption? Just pets? Fancy pasture jewelry?
Then, do you plan to have calves? If so, what do you see happening with them? Do you plan to show? Involved in 4H or FFA? Beef? Pets? Petting zoo? Are you going to sell them for mini buckers for kids rodeos?
Next, look around. Find breeders who do what you plan on doing. Go visit or at least ask questions, we all like to talk about our cattle :)
Back to Basics
After a few conversations, I realized people are starting with even less of a background than I had. So I wanted to include a little basic vocabulary, and Wikipedia probably says it best... check out "Cattle - Simple English" for some basic terminology and definitions.
How small are miniature cattle anyway? It depends on whom you ask. There are a lot of different ways people measure to get those heights. Be sure to ask how the animal was measured. Eyeballed in the pasture? While in a chute? To the hook, top of the hip, behind the wither or what? You can see the illustrations, they are all correct ways of measuring, and they will all give you different heights on the same animal. My number one tip - ASK QUESTIONS!! Lots of questions. Have a list and keep adding to the list. You don't just want to know about the calf, you want to know about the sire and dam. You want to know about maternal traits, temperament, horned or polled, dwarfism, size, and age (to start your list). Keep adding to your list and write it down so that you remember what you want to ask. Happy shopping!!
What do you need?
A good fence is a must. The fence needs to keep your cattle in and predators out. It needs to not allow your calves to roll underneath. The fence needs to be in good repair with the post on the outside and wire strung on the inside. This keeps the stock from pushing the wire out. I prefer no climb fence, but I have horses too. Field fence is bit more economical and just as effective. At some point, you will need more than one pasture. You need to be able to wean calves and separate your bull.
You should have some kind of shelter. Your weather will decide if you need a barn, run-in shed, or just some trees, and I've had some people debate the need for anything. My guys definitely like being in during bad weather. When I have little bitties, I really like having the ability to put them up during nasty weather.
You need to have a veterinarian, a way to get there, or a squeeze chute if you expect the vet to come to you. You can buy vaccinations at a feed store or tractor supply but there are some vaccines that are required to be given by a veterinarian. You should definitely consult with a vet or your local ag extension agency to know what vaccinations are needed in your area. There are services that only a vet can provide and drugs that can only be purchased through a vet. Having a relationship with one is crucial. Establishing this relationship prior to an emergency makes life much easier as well.
Nice but not Necessary
There are definitely some things that are nice to have, but maybe not an essential first purchase.
First of all, if you don't own a trailer, get one. That would have been my first purchase. I did have a trailer so, the first thing on my list for is a way to cool down. Texas summers are HOT. This is probably more crucial for fluffy cattle and black cattle. Mine hang out under the trees and really enjoy the pond in the summer. I've seen pictures of cattle standing in baby pools (I think mine would destroy one, they play with everything!) I also bought a cheap mister system from Home Depot that everyone on my place loves to stand under. (Yes my cattle are spoiled.)
The next thing on my list is a squeeze chute. I have to admit, the squeeze chute eventually became necessary, not just nice. I made do for about a year before I couldn't live without one.
It's also helpful to have more than one pasture to wean the littles. There are nose weaners than work for nursing, but separation is part of the process. Panels have been a life saver when I needed to separate or even for a little help to load in a trailer.
The next thing on my list is a tractor. I've made due so far, but it would definitely make my life easier.
My place seems to be a permanent work in progress!