By STEVE BROWN
ROY, Wash. -- It took a decade of working with miniature cattle for John Bartheld to produce a perfect "Panda" calf, one of only about 40 in the world with the distinctive markings.
"Peanut" was born June 28 to a miniature Hereford that had been artificially inseminated with semen from an American miniature Belted Galloway bull. To be certified by the International Miniature Cattle Breeds Registry, a miniature Panda must come from a combination of five different breeds and max out at 42 inches tall at 3 years old.
"He'll be between 40 and 42 inches when full-grown, and weigh 600 to 800 pounds," Bartheld said.
Miniatures are perfect pets, he said. The animals are docile so they're good around kids, they eat less and their size suits smaller parcels. An acre will sustain two of them, "and because they're small, they're easier on the pasture -- no mudholes in the winter," he said.
The next step for him is to make Pandas less rare.
Bartheld, whose ranch is in Pierce County, has plans to partner up with a friend, Stormy Glick, with an eye toward breeding more Pandas so the calves are more affordable to family farmers.
His herd turns out about five miniature calves a year and has found that the sale of one will pretty much cover a winter's worth of hay for the herd. "Peanut," he figures, will sell for about $3,000. "What would be perfect is for some Chinese businessman to set his helicopter down right over there and buy him and take him home."
Bartheld described himself as a hobby farmer whose animals mostly pay for themselves. His in-town job is working for a concrete supplier in Tacoma. His 11 acres are part of a property that has been in his family for four generations, starting as a dairy farm in 1910.
His partner wants to take "Peanut" to the Washington State Fair in Puyallup, but the calf won't be weaned yet and taking his mother would complicate the arrangement.
The miniatures are not considered meat livestock, he said, "unless you want $100 steaks."