MAY BEEF MONTH
offer producers various benefits
By CLAYTON RYE
ROCKWELL – Downsizing is a term that has a mostly negative meaning, but not for Dustin Pillard, owner of Pillard’s Miniature Cattle, of Rockwell, in Cerro Gordo County.
Pillard’s breeding program has the goal of raising cattle not more than 40 inches in height and then reducing their size in successive generations.
He calls his breeding program Western Heritage Miniature Cattle.
His goals are small calves for ease of birth, ease of care throughout the year, athletic conformation with graceful cows and muscular bulls, gentle disposition and a wide range of colors.
Pillard saw his first miniature cow at an auction in Kalona in 1992. Two years later, he bought a heifer and bull.
Currently, the Pillard miniature cow herd will number 20 cows at calving time, 50 head by the end of summer and 35 head through the winter.
An advantage of a miniature cow herd is that they are comfortable on the 15.5 acres where Pillard raises them.
Miniature cattle are not merely ornamental. They have been used at children’s rodeos, butchered by a family that does not need a 1,200 pound cow, sold to retired farmers who want something to care for and to teach their grandchildren about interacting with an animal.
Pillard sold one heifer to a family near Chicago who wanted to use it for dairying so their children would have whole milk. They bred it to a miniature Jersey bull.
Another customer from Maine wants a matched pairs of bulls he can train as oxen to pull a small cart.
“Most of my customers have farming in their background,” Pillard said.
Miniature cattle have a better feed conversion than a standard-sized cow and require minimal care, said Pillard.
With 20 years of raising miniature cattle, Pillard has been on the “Today” show with its satellite truck parked in his yard, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, interviewed by several radio shows across the country, and received comments on his website (miniaturebull.com), from people who say they simply enjoy looking at the photos of his cattle.
Pillard grew up in Cedar Rapids, spending summers on his grandparent’s farm near Coggon.
He did what farm kids do every summer, milking 80 head of cattle, chores for a farrow-to-finish hog operation, baling hay and more activities on a traditional farm.
When a friend of his got on a fire department, Pillard thought, “I could do that, too” and he joined a volunteer fire department.
When he was hired as a full-time fireman by the Mason City Fire Department, he moved to Rockwell and was able to buy the acreage he lives on now with his family a while later.
Today, he is a lieutenant with the MCFD and the cattle are how he enjoys his time off duty.
His cattle sales have taken place from coast to coast and let him see much of the U.S., frequently with a family member or his entire family traveling with him.
“It’s fun meeting all those people,” said Pillard.
He exhibits at the Cerro Gordo County Fair and the Iowa State Fair where his cattle will participate in the parade of breeds.
“I enjoy the cattle,” said Pillard. “Selling them is a bonus.”
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