By P.J. Huffstutter
9:59 PM PDT, May 22, 2009
Reporting from Tekamah, Neb. -- Walking through their lowing herd of several hundred cattle, Ali and Kenny Petersen were like two Gullivers on a Lilliputian roundup.
The half-sized cows barely reached Kenny's waist. The ranch's border collie stared eye-to-eye with wandering calves.
"Aren't they sweet?" asked Ali Petersen, 52, shooing Half-Pint, Buttercup and a dozen other cattle across a holding pen. "They're my babies, every little one of them."
The Petersens once raised normal-sized bovines on this stretch of Nebraska's rolling eastern grasslands, but with skyrocketing feed costs, the couple decided to downsize.
They bought minicows -- compact cattle with stocky bodies, smaller frames and relatively tiny appetites.
Their miniature Herefords consume about half that of a full-sized cow yet produce 50% to 75% of the rib-eyes and fillets, according to researchers and budget-conscious farmers.
"We get more sirloin and less soup bone," Ali said. "People used to look at them and laugh. Now, they want to own them."