A Saskatchewan farm family is hoping a herd of miniature cattle will produce big returns for their operation.
Mickey Ireland and Shelly Smith Ireland are raising the animals on their farm in the Delisle area, about 40 kilometres southwest of Saskatoon.
The mini-cattle come in a number of different breeds, but they all have one thing in common: about one metre tall, they are about one-third smaller than regular cows and bulls.
"They're really easy-going," Shelly Smith Ireland told CBC News in a recent interview. "They're good-natured.
"We can take any of the kids out when we're in the middle of calving season and check pens. We don't have any issues. They're not an aggressive animal. They're little 20-pound calves, so to kids they're like a dog."
'They're very tender, from what I heard.' —Shelley Smith Ireland
Mickey Ireland says he started raising the miniature cattle after he retired from the rodeo circuit and bought one for a pet.
After showing off his animal, he found other people were also interested.
"I had a lot of people looking for the pet type of thing and they wanted something cool-looking," Ireland explained. "Something different from your commercial cow — your plain black, red, that type of a thing.
"People took a liking to ... the different, unique look," Ireland says, "So we went with the pet aspect."
Caring for small cattle is also less work, compared with full-sized animals.
"They eat half as much," Smith Ireland says. "It doesn't take me as long to feed in the morning. I have a full-time job, full-time with kids. So, with Mickey being gone it's easier for me to handle these little guys than having 80 head of big cows."
For now, the plan is to raise animals for sale to hobbyists.
The couple are also looking at the animals' potential for beef production, noting a miniature cow consumes less feed than a regular animal but yields almost as much meat.
"They are a leaner animal," Smith Ireland added. "They have less bone mass, so you get more out of them. They're very tender, from what I heard."