|If you are looking at purchasing a Miniature Jersey or any small family milk cow, there are several questions that could be good to ask a prospective seller to increase the chances of getting exactly the kind of milk cow that you want. It is extremely important to know what you are getting before you invest a money, time, energy, and hope into your future mini dairy cow. Here is my list of things to know and my definitions.
How to Buy a Miniature Jersey Cow – Terms and Things to Know – Click on Each Question to go Directly to the Answer
What is a Miniature Milk Cow?
|How tall will the miniature milk cow be when it is full grown?
Buying a Miniature Milk Cow Questions
Answers to Questions about Buying a Miniature Milk Cow, Jersey or other Mini Cow
What is a Miniature Milk Cow?
The easy, fast answer is a any milk cow that is under 42″ tall when it is full grown.
This Miniature Jersey cow is an emerging miniature breed that has generally been created by breeding small Jersey cows to very small Jersey bulls (some with varying percentages of purity) with the result being a wonderful small milk cow that is 42″ or less in height. Some of the first breeders of Mini Jerseys selectively bred small Jersey to small Jersey while other early breeders introduced small beef cattle into the lines. As a result, there is variety in the conformation in the Mini Jersey breed with some looking similar to standard Jerseys but much smaller and others sporting a more beefy conformation. Not all cattle listed as Miniature Jerseys are 100% Miniature Jersey. Often, breeders have crossed other small dual purpose or milking breeds such as White Park, Dexter, Galloway, and Milking Normandy with Mini Jersey bulls to create a more versatile Jersey type mini dairy cow.
|Where are Miniature Jersey Cattle registered?
Currently there are three places to register Miniature Jersey Cattle:
1. The Miniature Jersey Herd Book (MJHB),
2. The American Miniature Jersey Association and Registry (AMJA)
3. International Miniature Cattle Breeders Registry (IMCBR).MJHB – This is the place I prefer to register my purebred Miniature Jerseys. This registry tracks pedigrees and requires DNA on all animals. It showsA2 status and chondrodysplasia (bulldog gene) when available. The website gives you access the pictures and pedigrees of the animals listed in the Herd Book. Deb Riding is the founder of this Herd Book. The Herd Book website offers a “for sale” page, “bull semen” page, AI technician page, and much more.
AMJA – The AMJA is dedicated to Foundation Pure Miniature Jerseys, Native Pure Miniature Jerseys, and Percentage Miniature Jerseys. Fonnie Thoman of Riverview Farms was major force behind the founding of this registry. I have had my animals registered with the AMJA but no longer register animals there because they take too long to return registration papers (I have been waiting over a year for my last papers) and do not require DNA on their cattle. This registry mainly tracks pedigrees with no other services of which I am aware.
IMCBR – Michelle Gradwohl wrote the following in an email to me March 2013, “Our registry was based on height requirements alone and still is. If you want to register your animals based on purity you need to register them with the AMJA.We do not deal in percentages! We do not have rules just for the Mini Jerseys – it again is based on height since it is a miniature cattle registry.” I have never used this registry. It is probably the best registry for crossbred miniature cattle since purity is not required. This registry mainly tracks pedigrees with no other services of which I am aware.
All registries are relatively new. Until about 10 to 20 years ago, very few records were kept on the miniature jerseys so there are no long range pedigrees for these animals. Some breeders have chosen to track their own pedigrees and create their own terms for their cattle and are not associated with either registry.
What is the difference between the following types of Miniature Jersey Cows:
Foundation Pure Miniature Jersey
Crossbred or Percentage Miniature Jersey
Native Pure Miniature Jersey
| Foundation Pure Miniature Jersey: Ideally only jersey genetics are found in these animals (95% – 100% pure jersey) and the mature animal is between 38″ to 42″ tall, although that is not always the case. The American Miniature Jersey Association (AMJA) registry uses the term “Foundation Pure” while the International Miniature Cattle Breeders Society and Registry (IMCBR) simply uses the term “Miniature Jersey.” A small Jersey looking cow or bull that is under 42″ can be given foundation pure status through the AMJA even when the background in unknown.
Lessor Jersey: This term is another name used to describe Miniature Jerseys. It is essentially the same animal.
Crossbred or Percentage: This is a designation given to mini dairy cows that are less than 88% pure Miniature Jersey by the AMJA. These are any dual purpose/milking breed of cow that have been bred to Miniature Jersey Bulls. Once a percentage miniature cow has been bred to the point that it 88% miniature jersey (4 generations), it is considered Native Pure Miniature Jersey at the AMJA registry. For more information on it see https://www.miniaturejerseyassociation.com/BreedingProgram.htmNative Pure: This is a designation given to cows that are between 88% to 93% pure Miniature Jersey. Once it is 94% Mini Jersey, it is given the status Foundation Pure by the AMJA.
|Where can I find a breeder of miniature milk cows?
There are several possible options. 1. Surf the web and hope you find a webpage of a good, honest miniature milk cow breeder. 2. Join a talk group on Yahoo such as Mini Jersey Talk and Small Family Cow and ask about breeders in your area. 3. Consult the list of Miniature Jersey breeders on the AMJA website although it is not up to date. 4. Contact a breeder and then ask for references.
|How do I know if the Miniature Jersey Breeder is honest and reputable?
It is very important to find a reputable Miniature Dairy Cow breeder. There are many, many honest and reputable, Mini Jersey breeders. However, there are also dishonest, disreputable scammers who would love to take $2000 to $5000 of your money. I recommend calling and talking with the breeder and asking lots of questions such as those presented here. A reputable breeder will be willing to talk about their animals, give you complete answers, real time tables, plenty of pictures, and pedigrees (when available) on their animals. Good breeders will be willing to let you visit the farm and see the animals and living conditions for yourself before purchasing your miniature cow. I recommend getting on a Yahoo list such and Mini Jersey Talk or Small Family Jersey and asking about the breeder you are considering purchasing cattle from. Ask other breeders about the breeder.
In the last 2 weeks (Aug 2011), there has been 2 cases of different breeders scamming potential customers. One has a wonderful website with testimonials located in New York. He takes large deposits (scammed people out of $10,000s and $1000s of dollars) on animals that are not born and never are born. He refuses to provide pictures of the animals and you are not allowed to visit the farm. He is a smooth talker and easily believed. Another scammer stole pictures of miniature jerseys from a reputable breeder’s website and listed the animals for a cheap price. He offered to send the buyer a check and the buyer got to cash it and pay the haulers. Another sure sign of a scammer.
If you are willing to send $2000 to $5000 on a calf, a plane ticket to visit the farm is a small price to pay for peace of mind.Another way to verify animals parentage is through DNA testing (we currently do not do DNA testing because the bull’s semen has not been DNA tested – hopefully in the next few years, we will be able to DNA test all of our Mini Jersey cows). Currently very few breeders DNA test.
Requesting Pictures and a Pedigree
Never put down a deposit on a mini calf or mini dairy cow without first seeing a picture of animal you are going to purchase. I recommend a picture of the calf with its dam – very soon after birth and then pictures periodically of the calf until the time when you actually pick up the calf. Pedigrees can be a little harder to come by than pictures. A breeder who has been in the business for several years should have pedigrees on their dams and sires (unless the sires are AI sires). Because of the new nature of the registries, not all breeders have chosen to register their animals with them and instead have chosen to keep and track their own animals.
Calves will often not have official registered pedigrees by the time you put a deposit down on the animal and sometimes not until the calf is 6 months old (members of the associations are hoping to get the process sped up but for now the AMJA registry takes a long time to return papers). Breeders will have sent in papers to registries and likely not received them back. In this case, I would ask for pedigrees on the parents, and copy of the registration submission papers for the mini calf. If you are paying a high dollar for the animal, insist on a pedigree regardless of whether or not the animal is to be registered with the AMJA or the IMCBR. The owner should be able to provide you with the lineage on your new animal before you purchase that animal or at the very least, at the time you pick up the mini milk cow. If not, do not pay the high price.
When should I make a deposit for a Miniature Milk Cow or Mini Jersey?
|Do not make any deposits until after the calf is born and you have seen a picture of your new miniature calf and asked lots of questions. Make sure you feel comfortable with the decision. If possible, go to the farm and see the animal before making a deposit. This is a huge investment of time and money. It is your new future. Know what you are getting before you purchase it.
|How tall will the mini milk cow be when it is full grown?
Miniature jersey cattle should range in size from 38″ to 42″ tall. Mid-sized jersey cattle will be 42″ to 48″ tall (42″ to 46″ with the AMJA). There are several indicators that will help you predict the final height of your miniature milk cow. Just because a seller says is will be a miniature milk cow does not make it so. Too often buyers purchase a calf assuming it will stay small only to have the calf grow into a tall midsize or even a standard sized cow. Here are a few ways help to determine mature height.
1. How tall are its parents and grandparents? One of the biggest factors effecting the height of a miniature milk cow is the height are its parents. If both parents are 42″ and under, you should end up with a cow under 42″, although that is not guaranteed. Almost all miniature jerseys have the potential for some tall genes and on rare occasions a mini sized jersey will throw a midsized jersey. A midsized dam bred to a miniature bull often produces miniature sized offspring. If possible, obtain a picture of the dam and sire (grandparents when possible) of the calf you are planning on purchasing to verify height.
2. Birth height and size of the cannon bone can be a good indicator of how tall a miniature cow will become. Cannon bones should measure 5″ or less (mid joint to mid joint measurement) to help insure the cow will stay miniature sized. A birth height of 22″ or under will usually result in a miniature sized milk cow.
|Determine your milk needs.
How much milk does your family want and need? Mini dairy cows give anywhere from 1 gallon to 5 gallons of milk a day. It varies greatly from animal to animal. The variations are caused by genetics and animal management. A Mini Jersey cow can be cut back to once a day milking after its calf is 3 months old. This usually reduces the milk quantity by half. Decide if you will be milking by hand or with a machine.
|What is the udder attachment and teat size like on the dam?
|It is very important to have a good attachment on a miniature milk cow because they are so close to the ground. Udders should attach high in the rear and attach well forward under the belly. Good attachments will allow for a regular sized milk pail to be placed under the udder. Get pictures of the udder attachment on the dam if you are purchasing a calf. Udder pictures of the cow you are purchasing is a must. I prefer teats that about 3 inches or longer for hand milking. Teats less than 2 inches long are extremely difficult for hand milking and you will need to purchase a milk machine. Find out how many quarters are working. Normally the cow will have 4 working quarters but on occasion, due to mastitis, one quarter will be dried off. If a cow loses a quarter, it likely will never come back.
| How will you get your new mini dairy cow bred each year?
It is very important to determine how you will breed your mini milk cow before you buy a mini dairy cow. Mini cows should not be bred to standard sized bulls since it creates a risk of having animals that are to big to deliver. Mini cows can be bred to mini bulls of any variety or to Dexter bulls. I encourage people to find an Artificial Insemination Technician in their area. If you have one and they will store semen for you, then breeding via AI is an ideal way to go. You can purchase a Mini Jersey bull but be sure you have adequate facilities to contain a bull. I took a class from my local extension office on AI breeding and learned to breed my own cows. I purchased a semen tank (about $300 used) and then buy semen straws from other breeders to breed my cows. It is easiest to detect heat signs from a cow if you have two cows. I recommend owning at least two mini cows. Do not put a mini cow in the pasture with standard sized cows for heat detecting purposes. The larger cow could injure the smaller cow.
|Has the miniature heifer calf you are buying been in the same pasture as a bull?
No mini heifer calf should be in with a bull over 6 months old until the heifer becomes 15 months of age. I have heard of people who purchased young mini cows and have had them deliver calves at 14 months of age because the previous owner did not realize a young bull would breed her. Mini cows should not be bred before 15 months old!
|What is the health like in the herd I am buying my miniature milk cow from? What kinds of diseases does the breeder test for?
Some breeders have great facilities while other breeders have very inadequate facilities. Some breeders are careful about what they feed their animals while other are not. Find out about herd management practices. You can read about some of our herd management practices on our Organic Milk page. Because these are milking animals, we test them for brucellosis, TB and Johnes. We believe that is a safe practice for all herds. We vaccinate our young calves at about 5 months old. From that point on, we only vaccinate every other year. Some people want vaccinated cows while other do not.
|What is required to transport your new miniature milk cow across state lines or down the street? How will the animal be transported to its new home?
|It is advisable to learn how much it costs to transport a mini dairy cow before putting money down on the cow. Costs for transporting are not cheap and should be figured into the total cost of the cow. If a cow costs $3000 and transportation in $1000 then the cost of your cow is $4000. There are professional haulers (some are good and some are not). Occasionally , we will transport animals if the new owner pays for the gas. Calculate how much it will cost for you to come and get the animal. We have transported 3 month old mini calves in the back of our mini van 1/2 across the United States. All animals should have health papers before being transported. Check with your local veterinarian for your states requirements. If testing is to be done on the animals to meet transportation regulations, the buyer usually pays for those tests. The tests may take 2 weeks to get results on.on.