"A Jewel in the Rough"
My Life's Joy: The Miniature Durham
By R. David Wilcoxen, Proprietor - Hill Valley Farms & Aviaries Breed Registry Chairperson -
Miniature Durham cattle for the IMCBS
Growing up on a farm with cattle, both dairy and beef, I have always admired those curious creatures called cows. At that time, there were many small farms and each featured a particular breed or had a mixed herd with cross or native cattle. Included in these mingled herds, amongst Jerseys, Guernseys, Air shire, Brown Swiss and Holstein, was a small dual purpose cow known as the Durham.
In my opinion, these sturdy cattle were the unrefined shorthorn, one of a breed of dual purpose cattle originating in England.
This breed came in both the polled and horned varieties featuring bold colors in shades from red to white and a host of combinations betwixt and between that embraced both spotted and roan including red brindle and blue roan. The color always remains varied which also adds luster to the wonder of the birthing process.
Tractable is the temperament of this breed that is well known for traits of gentleness and ease of handling. Whether milking, or moving them about in the pasture, this certainly has to be the hallmark of the Miniature Durham. Couple this to their excellent milk production, that can easily nurture 1 to 3 calves per year, and you have the ideal family cow. This dual purpose dairy and beef animal has also been known to serve adequately as an obedient draft animal for its handlers in past years.
Hardiness is synonymous with this breed that is known for growing heavy coats of fairly long hair during the colder seasons. Although I certainly suggest shelter for all farm animals, the Miniature Durham will utilize trees or whatever there is available for cover and are noted for being good foragers. Besides raising a calf and providing goodly amounts of milk, capped with the thick layer of wholesome cream, these robust cattle balance out with a fine layer of fat going into the winter months helping them not only to survive without a good sustainable body weight but also facilitates a fine, healthy calf come spring. This penchant of the Miniature Durham to be winter hardy is particularly important for farmers in the damp, cold Pacific Northwest.
The size of the breed is meant to be small but not delicate. The Miniature Durham is an earth-friendly animal that lends itself to the needs of those with small acreage. Along this line, the wear and tear on grazing fields and holding facilities, even with larger herds of miniature cattle, is minimal is comparison with the ongoing maintenance problems incurred by owners of even smaller herds of cattle. Market bases also target the development of the Miniature Durham to fill the niche for those who enjoy something that is defiantly different in the more exotic form. Sporting beautiful color patterns that provide a veritable feast for passing eyes, the perfect presence of these miniature cattle is hard to match.
Breeding of Mini/Mid Size Durham cattle requires that basic standards be maintained and include:
- Animals must be 42" or under at maturity (three years) to be classified as Miniature, or over 42" up to 48" at maturity to be classified as Mid Size. All measurements are at the hip.
- Registration Certificates are temporary until maturity (three years of age) at which height measurement is required for permanent registry.
- Animals must be originated from purebred parentage, or bred up with usually 7/8 percent being considered pure.
- The small Durham should resemble their larger counterpart completely in every aspect as to beef and dairy type of individual. Reflecting this dual purpose breed, they must exhibit a body type suitable for this purpose. The typical bull will show a masculine appearance with ample substance with a mature weight that ranges from 500 to 900 lbs. Disposition should be very tractable and quiet. Gentleness is a must. The typical cow will also show a refined, feminine appearance with ample substance. Neither dairy nor beef type should be emphasized but the dual type always adhered to. The color of the Miniature Durham can be any shade of red, white or mixed of those two colors with brindle and blue roan being acceptable.
Some years ago, I came across some of these little cattle and they immediately brought back memories of my childhood. I purchased the small herd and brought them home to Hill Valley Farms & Aviaries. Others, of a suitable type, were found for breeding and today, I maintain a continuous herd of about 20 head of these Miniature Durham cattle that have never been a disappointment and certainly have exceeded even my greatest expectations in providing a challenge to my continuing commitment in the development and research of this breed.
I suspect that I'm not the only admirer of this wonderful, earth-linked creature known as the Miniature Durham.
International Miniature Cattle Breeders Society and Registry®
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Professor Emeritus Richard Gradwohl. ® 2003 RHG