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Small Cows, Big Dreams

There is joy. There is hope.

Sometimes they come in little bundles.

When Darren Wilson was born he weighed 5 pounds and 14 ounces. When he was 2 months old, he weighed 10 pounds. He’s the one wearing the playsuit. When Sugar was born she weighed 37 pounds. She’s the one with the right ear covering Darren’s left eye.

The gentle, watchful mother is Lil Mom, one of the miniature Hereford cows on Zoe and Burton Weiss’ 13 acres in Metcalfe County.

Didn’t know there was such a thing as miniature cattle?

I didn’t, but I do now—have mercy, there’s everything from miniature Angus to miniature Zebu.

After small portions of tomato soup, little tuna fish squares, tiny bites of strawberry shortcake, and midday small talk, we went out to the wee barn on Bobby McCandless Road just down the way from Knob Lick. You know where that is—it’s in the general neighborhood of Wisdom and Echo in northwestern Metcalfe County. That’s east of Mammoth Cave. Living proof that everything doesn’t have to be huge. A time and place for the small scale. A new day, a new way.

Burton led out 2-year-old, 865-pound Barney the bull and invited us to curry his favor. You’d think little Barney might butt, but he has maximum gentleness in the minimum amount of rawhide. Little by little is the way to go in the miniature cattle industry. According to 72-year-old Burton (“I won’t have anything that can’t be led around”) and Zoe (a self-assured 5-feet 4), as well as other miniature cattle lovers of various sizes, here’s how to do it.

“You need a little acreage. With irrigated pasture or high rainfall area, two or three miniature Herefords may be maintained on one acre of land.

“You need a little fencing. Any fence that will hold a sheep or goat should be sufficient. Fences do not need to be as tall as a fence for standard cattle.

“You need a little purchase. It only takes two to make a little one.”

There’s a small magazine, Miniature Cattle Around the World, full of pictures of family farm possibilities. The prices understandably are not small—a heifer for $6,200, a bull for $10,500. You knew there had to be a catch?

Well, there’s either a market for something or there isn’t. From the Plum Lick point of view, miniature cattle bringing maximum prices is not, or at least should not be, a case of gouge, greed, and gee-haw whimmy diddles (toys to fritter away the time, hoping to attract the gullible).

Conventional wisdom holds that he or she who gets there first with a novel idea is going to capture the market, then skedaddle to the laughing sidelines. There’s an element of truth in just about every pearl, so it behooves the prudent to study the miniature cattle situation before investing significant amounts of money. “All hat and no cattle,” like all mouth and no common sense, leads to foolishness and one more disappointing outcome regarding market.

Writing in The Back Pasture for Miniature Cattle Around the World, Kenney Petersen says, “1% of 1% of the small acreage or ranchette owners have ever heard of miniature Hereford cattle and until all prospective buyers know about them, the ground floor is not in place.”

The same thing could be said about another well-kept secret—Kentucky. When Burton and Zoe Weiss decided to leave Colorado for a more promising place to live, they chose the land named Kentucky. “We love it here,” they say, and it’s going to be fascinating to watch how they blossom on their 13-acre Hidden Springs Farm.

An inner voice tells us, the family farm doesn’t have to come in 100-acre bundles of huge and costly machinery and deepening, cavernous debt structures. Sometimes, it just takes two people with a small idea and a richly honest belief system.

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