AP NEWS

Hutchinson woman raises mini-steer named Cuddles

April 5, 2019

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Mix a city girl with a love for cattle, and the outcome is a pet mini-steer with its own Instagram account.

Traci Hansen, of Hutchinson, grew up in Houston and first found out about the existence of mini-steers from her mother. Always wanting a cow for some inexplicable reason, Hansen looked up and found miniature cattle at Falster Farm in Winnsboro, Texas, about 100 miles east of Dallas. She made the trip with a friend to the family farm and found an 8-month-old Hereford cattle with a No. 4 ear tag.

“As soon as I knew there were minis out there, I wanted one,” Hansen said. “Our eyes met, and I knew he was mine. I looked at him, and I said ‘I will never let anything bad happen to you.’”

She hasn’t.

Besides dodging a bullet and a lifetime of humiliation if her husband and children succeeded in naming the mini-steer Slider, the most dramatic days in the life of Cuddles since March 2013 have been visits from the veterinarian, who’s made the nimble, 600-plus pound steer skeptical of men, and losing a horse friend in the neighboring pen.

“He was beyond sad,” Hansen told the Hutchinson News , adding he leaned his head against Phannie’s when she died alongside the fence next to him. “Cattle are known for having best friends. In a herd, they will pair off with a best friend.”

Maggie Holland, the owner of Hillside Acres, gave Hansen’s three daughters horseback riding lessons out at the ranch she owns just north of the Hutchinson Municipal Airport. That’s where Hansen pays to board Cuddles.

“I’ve had cattle all my life, but I’ve never been around or owned a miniature,” Holland said. “I’m surprised she wanted one.”

Holland said Cuddles used to run around the ranch dog Madden — a Labrador retriever and Rottweiler mix — when the two were younger. They still sniff at each other and occasionally play. Cuddles also interacts with the horses.

Cuddles always starts to liven up whenever he hears Hansen’s car approaching. He will moo and start to run around, Holland said, adding he usually tucks himself in the back corner whenever the vet comes.

On nice days, Hansen takes Cuddles into the big pen to play.

“He is like an overgrown dog,” Hansen said. “We go for walks, play ball, and romp around the pen like a couple of goofballs.”

No matter the weather, Hansen makes daily stops on her way home from work as the director of marketing and business development at the Hutchinson Clinic to see Cuddles and feed him carrots and apples. She sees the trips as therapeutic.

Hansen also brings friends and family out to meet Cuddles. Rachel, her youngest daughter, set up the Instagram account in 2017. He has 99 followers.

“They roll their eyes to a point until their friends decide its cool,” Hansen said.

The Instagram photos and video capture the life of Cuddles: posing with visitors or selfies with Hansen, hanging out with the Hansens’ now deceased English bulldog Izzi, playing with a big red ball and a kiss for Hansen with the caption: “Happy birthday MOOmy” alongside two hearts.

Cuddles will gallop around the pen but stops dead in his tracks for a treat and petting whenever he comes up to Hansen. His horns were filed down in case Cuddles ever has a hard time stopping.

Cattle have an average lifespan between 18 to 22 years. Minis can live anywhere between 12 to 25 years, depending on how well they are cared for, Hansen said.

“So he will probably live to 50,” Hansen said. “One of the few cows in history that will die of old age.”

Nancy Falster started breeding mini-cattle with her husband, Karl, at Falster Farm in 1998. She said the price varies from a couple to a few thousand dollars, depending if the cattle is registered with the American Hereford Association.

Falster doesn’t have Cuddles registered, but his pedigree can be traced back to Largent Ranch in Texas and then directly back to the native land of Hereford cattle in England.

Falster called mini a “misnomer,” since the size considered a mini is much closer to what the breed used to be before being bred bigger. If anything, she said, they should be called “original.”

The mini, or original, Hereford range from 45 to 48 inches up to the hip, she said, while a standard cow reaches about 58 inches. Additionally, the weight between 600 to 1,100 pounds is about a third of standard cattle.

The Falsters also have mini Lowline Red Angus and Jersey cattle and “midsize” Normande cattle. They raise between 20 and 30 grass-fed minis each year, for eating or as pets.

“I would say every single week we get calls for people who want a mini cow for a pet,” Falster said, adding not all of them end up buying.

Falster Farm also touts the beef as “healthy and delicious, in fact, the best” grass-fed beef. However, ending up on a dinner plate is off the table for Hansen, who has been a vegetarian since having a golf-ball-sized tumor removed from her brain as a teenager. When she woke up, she no longer had a taste for meat.

“Once you get to know cattle, they are like big dogs,” said Hansen, who has two dogs and a cat in a “neighborhood that would frown on livestock” as a pet.

“You would never eat your dog,” Hansen said.

Falster said she wasn’t surprised to find out a cow from her farm had an Instagram.

“My dog, farm dog Stuart, has its own Instagram account,” said Falster who wrote a book from Stuart’s perspective about being a rescue dog. She plans a sequel about Stuart’s life on the farm. “It doesn’t surprise me at all that someone would have an Instagram for her cow.”

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Information from: The Hutchinson (Kan.) News, http://www.hutchnews.com