Half-Pint Hooves is bringing new faces to the field — miniature dexter cattle.
At the Jones farm in Reading, Kinsey Jones took her fourth-generation cattle farmer roots in a different direction than her feeder cattle relatives. She opened Half-Pint Hooves Miniature Cattle.
“I kind of like doing different,” Jones said. “We (her family) have feeder cattle, and that’s what it’s always been. My grandpa used to have a cow calf, but it was a regular-sized, and I just wanted something to be different. I feel that different stands out.”
Different is not the only thing the miniature cattle are; dexters are more docile than other cattle breeds, making them safer to work with, especially for children learning animal responsibility and agricultural fundamentals. They also only require half an acre of land per head, provide a manageable amount of meat and milk for a family, are easy to use as 4H/show cattle and are 25 percent more efficient, in terms of feed conversion, than larger beef cattle.
“If [someone has] wanted cattle and don’t have acres and acres of land, then they can achieve it with five acres or less with just a few head,” Jones said.
Jones recommends having more than one miniature, in order for the cattle to thrive and for the purchase to be financially responsible. One miniature raised for slaughter would not be financially responsible, “unless you just want to have really expensive steak,” she said.
Jones feeds her cattle hay and grains, so they are not solely reliant on grass.
“It is pretty economical if you are just kind of a hobby farmer or just a person that wants a few head of cattle and you just have a couple of acres,” she said.
The dexter breed is naturally smaller than other cattle breeds; in addition, there are four types of miniatures — midsize, 42 to 48 inches; standard, 36 to 42 inches; micro, 36 inches and under. Miniatures may also be chondro positive, meaning they possess the gene that makes their legs shorter.
The smaller and shorter the cow, the more desirable it is, Jones said. A herd of white miniature dexters is the most desirable.
Jones aims to breed white miniature dexters. Miniatures mature faster than full-sized cattle, are able to breed after 17 months and again a month postpartum.
Jones bought her first miniature cow four years ago after realizing her deep attachment to the other beef calves. She wanted something more pet-like and easy to interact with.
Luna, Jones’ first miniature, was a playful calf, following Jones around the yard and playing with Jones’ black lab.
“She was a big dog, basically,” she said.
“A lot of people just really surpass that whole viewpoint, and just look at them as beef or milk or money. Well, it is money, it is finance, but at the same time, they have feelings. They have their life, too. They don’t know that they’re put on this earth to feed us or to comfort us.”
Jones now has six calves, four cows and one bull.
“They’re just such intelligent creatures,” Jones said. “Getting the minis and being out here with them so close, I’ve really been able to observe a lot of how intelligent they really are. They express feelings. They mourn when they’re hurt or lose a baby. They’re so similar to humans, it’s pretty ridiculous … They come when they’re called.”
The bull, Hickory, is father to three of the Half-Pint Hooves calves, one of which is expected to be chondro positive like him.
“That bull definitely keeps it interesting on a daily basis,” Jones said. “He’s a pretty big lover dover, but when there’s food involved, he definitely likes to try to get first dibs.”
Hickory has a tendency to get his head stuck in the fence, and helping him out of it on multiple occasions are some of Jones’ favorite memories with her cattle.
Jones has always had a hand in agriculture and is happy to educate anyone who is interested in miniature cattle farming.
“Growing up, I helped on the farm, but after high school, I kind of moved around Kansas and got a few degrees and realized that agriculture was where I wanted to be,” she said.
Jones has a mentor in Haysville who raises miniature dexters, too. She has helped educate Jones on the breed, as well as helped raise Jones’ awareness of breeders and popular areas from which Jones can purchase them.
“It’s a hidden market because you can’t just go to a sale barn and buy miniatures, unless you go to a specific breeder, so you kind of have to find your breeders and find your areas,” she said.
While miniature dexters are more common throughout the south, they are a rare sight for Kansas.
“Up here, I get made fun of,” Jones said. “A lot of the reactions I get are not very nice … I don’t know how many times I have heard, ‘They can make sliders instead of hamburgers out of them.’ The people that are genuinely interested, I love educating them about them. I’m learning about them (the cattle) every day still, too.”
Half-Pint Hooves became official Jan. 1 of this year.
“It’s really taken off a lot, better than I thought it would,” Jones said. “There’s been a lot of skeptics and people that are uneducated about them. I started my Facebook page, expecting maybe 300 people to follow it. I just post every day stuff that happens and educational information here and there, and it all of a sudden boomed to 3,000 people, and it’s still rising every day. People message me almost weekly and express how much they love the page and how much they love seeing the cattle.”
Jones invites anyone who is curious to visit the farm and learn about Half-Pint Hooves. She is hosting an open farm day all day this Saturday.
“I had so many people from all over the country be like, ‘Can we come see these?’” Jones said. “Come out, and we’ll designate a day.”
This is an opportunity for the public to see what daily Half-Pint Hooves operations entail and to learn more about miniature dexters. It is also an opportunity to pet the calves and indulge in “pasture candy,” a common nickname for miniature white dexters. Half-Pint Hooves T-shirts will be available, too.
To learn more about Half-Pint Hooves, visit the Half-Pint Hooves Miniature Cattle Facebook page or hphminimoos.com.