Unusual focus | Farm raises miniature and exotic animals and birds
SWIFT CURRENT, Sask. — When Glenda Allan says the ranching side of her southwestern Saskatchewan family farm has become smaller, she means it in the most literal sense.
The herd isn’t large — eight animals in total — but at a metre tall, Allan said the miniature Zebu cattle she imported from the United States draw big-time interest from passersby.
The Zebu add to a growing list of exotic animals — chickens, pheasants, geese and goats — that populate the family’s yard.
It’s one way the Allans have diversified. In addition to 13 quarters farmed with her husband, Delbert, Allan sells eggs off the farm and hauls animals to shows and events.
“I don’t ever buy anything that’s usual,” said Allan. “It’s always the unusual. I always like to stick with the critters that are different.”
She’s dubbed the operation Gramma Zoo Exotics, inspired by her six grandchildren.
The couple raised three kids on the farm. Today, Allan runs a shiatsu therapy business with her daughter, Jennifer Harrison, while her son, Monty, runs a hobby shop from the farmyard, selling parts and building remote-controlled helicopters.
“There’s no shops that I know of where people can say, ‘I want this, can you build this for me?’ That’s extremely rare,” said Monty.
Zebus are not raised for beef. Instead, they fill a niche as an unusual pet and could be used in 4-H programs. Allan is interested in tame and docile animals. As a result, she is breeding for height rather than weight.
“For whatever I sell, I have a waiting list,” she said. “But I want to build my herd.”
Allan visited an American breeder in March, returning with a bull, two heifers and three cows. Two of the heifers, weighing 15 pounds and standing 17 inches tall, calved earlier this year.
“There was a lot of rigmarole and it was costly. The thing is, I wanted to bring in enough and now I’m wishing I would’ve brought more because I’m running into bull problems,” she said.
“My two little heifers have the same dad as my bull, but if my one other cow calves and has a bull, I’m fine. She won’t calve until January, so we got a little bit of suspense until then.”
Allan said she became interested in Zebus because the breed is different than other miniature cattle in Canada. She’s one of two Canadians registered with the International Miniature Zebu Association.
“They have been bred up to make the breed we all know as Brahmas,” said Allan, whose goal is to establish foundation pure stock.
“When you look at the rumps on these ones, they look like a beef cow.… That’s breeding, and you have to be careful with your breeding.”
She said the animals like the sun so they’ll overwinter in a recently built hip roof barn, sharing a space with chickens and pheasants, a miniature horse and a fainting goat.