Irish Dexter Cattle—”the breed for all reasons!”
Dexters appeal to families who have pursued their dream to live on a small farm, who want a more sustainable lifestyle on a small acreage, and who want a few low-impact animals for their own use. Dexters are, historically, dual-purpose animals. Records on milk production are mostly from England, and milking is not something I do regularly, though I have milked several of my Dexters for a few weeks at a time. But I can speak more authoritatively about their tender and excellent meat on a forage-only diet. As a breeder, I have animals that suit such families to the degree that they want a gentle, handle-able animal to use for breeding, especially the bulls.
Dexters also appeal to those with an interest in preserving historic breeds of domestic animals. (See also Livestock Conservancy.) For this interest group, I have a few animals who are from very early bloodlines that are perhaps as “pure” to the early ideal of the “survivor cow” without modern “improved” genetics for production as any in the mid-US. They are “Legacy-approved.” Part of this group is my “mini-Woodmagic” herd, begun because of my respect and admiration of Beryl Rutherford, which started in my first year of Dexters through reading The Life and Times of Dexters by Ted Neal.
A few people come to Dexters because of their triple-purpose billing and want a pair for oxen. For this interest group of buyers, I have a very small and select group of cows with which I put one of my gentle bulls—who is himself out of one of my gentlest cows. I try to keep the male offspring from this group especially close to the house so that they will have a great deal of human interaction even while I leave the calves with their mothers. On year I began the training of a pair of “shortleg” (chondrodysplasia-carrier; also extremely cute) males for oxen for myself. I did not manage to get them “parade-ready” though and eventually gave up. Maybe I will try working with a single next.
For Dexter breeders, those of us who are almost obsessive fanciers (!), I also have breeding stock of various colors and types, red, dun, black, polled, horned. In purchasing my original stock I went for the best bull, in particular, that I could find, sending to Washington state to purchase him, so my bloodlines have something to offer many breeders around the country. I used select AI sires on my traditional girls at one time, and currently am using a Legacy bull on my Legacy and Traditional cows as well as a few others. I used the bulls listed in my Herd Sires section according to the aAa system for best matches with my main herd of cows. This internationally recognized system aims to aid the breeder in achieving better structural balance in the offspring from every mating. No matter how good my current Dexters are, I want the ones from my breeding to be “all they can be” and “live long and prosper”! I have been using aAa because I want to contribute my little bit to keeping Dexters the “survivor cows” that the breed has been famous for being!
In the earliest days that the chondrodysplasia DNA test was offered in the US, I tested almost my whole herd. Therefore, I can tell buyers of definite non-chondro-carrying animals if that is what they choose for their purchases.
I keep chondro-carrying animals as well. In my opinion, it is too early in our knowledge of how the gene operates fully and what goes with it for me to believe that we are wise to drop the carrier animals from the gene pool. However, for practical or aesthetic reasons, some breeders will prefer one or the other type, and I am able to provide them with tested bloodlines. I kept and used PHA carriers (a limited number) as well, and tested offspring, but currently have no PHA carriers.
I have a great deal of variety and enjoy showing visitors some of that range within the Dexter breed. Beyond color and polledness, I also have taller and shorter animals. For those who want a larger frame (but still a Dexter-size) for breeding bigger beef, I have some. For those who want smaller “pet-type” Dexters, I have some. My own ideal for looks is probably my Lenny P for a bull (at 43 inches [at 3 years], and a non-carrier of chondro, he has quite nice beefy hindquarters for a Dexter but carries some dairy characteristics according to the aAa analysis which lists him as a “612”); I like a cow of around 40-42″ whose claim to fame comes from her temperament and structural correctness, her easy-calving, longevity, fertility, and well-doing on forage alone more than her looks in such categories as “pretty,” “feminine head,” “style,” or color or even lack of minor flaws. Temperament and intelligence, to me, are the real hallmarks of a Dexter. But such fine qualities as these don’t necessarily mean they always behave as owners prefer, or that they don’t provide interesting stories to tell!
Dexters For Sale