Have you heard of Irish Dexter Cattle? Irish Dexters originated in the southern part of Ireland. They were brought to this country in the early 1900s. Dexters are the smallest breed of cattle – they are not a miniaturized breed…God just created them smaller! They are about half the size of a Hereford.
Dexters have been considered a “heritage breed” and were fairly rare some years ago but they are gaining in popularity for many reasons. Dexters thrive in both hot and cold climates, do well outdoors year round, fertility rates are high and typically they drop calves out in the field without much trouble. (Read my post on Toolie for more about that!) They are very good at taking care of themselves.
Meet Sonny our herd sire (bull). Sonny is massive (about 1400 lbs.) but a complete gentleman. Dexters tend to be a very intelligent, curious, gentle breed – even the bulls! For some perspective, Elijah is standing next to Sonny and Elijah is a little over 6 feet tall. Sonny is also standing “down hill” just a bit.
It’s very important that you purchase a bull with good genetics if you want a quality herd. Your bull is going to influence every baby born in your herd. Choose wisely! Our bull came from a breeder in Wyoming with a very good reputation. He has excellent form, makes beautiful babies and has a gentle temperament – which will also pass down to babies. Do your research, talk to other breeders, check out the Dexter Cattle Association.
We chose Dexters because they are a dual purpose breed – they provide beef and they also make great milk cows! Some people have even used them to work like oxen so maybe that makes them a triple purpose breed. Dexters forage a little differently…they love the grass and hay but they will eat many plants that other breeds don’t touch. They’ve been cleaning up our pastures and our fence lines, which is always a plus. Because they are smaller, you can keep more Dexters per acre than you could other breeds like Black Angus, Charolais, Black Baldy’s etc. This makes Dexters a good choice for small homesteads. Pound for pound, Dexters cost less to get to the table than other breeds! They produce rich milk and quality, lean meat. These ticked all the boxes on our wish list!
Dexters come in black, red and dun (think milk chocolate). They come horned or polled. We didn’t want cattle with horns so we chose a bull that was naturally polled (no horns) and he will only throw babies who are naturally polled. Problem solved! Genetics are everything!
The yield of milk on a daily basis is between 1 to 3 gallons with a butterfat content of 4 to 5 percent. Yields of cream up to a quart per gallon are possible. Be still my heart! When I heard that, visions of butter, cheese, sour cream, and more danced through my head!
If raising them for beef you can plan on them reaching maturity in 18 to 24 months. Dexters typically dress out at 50 to 60 percent. The beef is a slightly darker red than other breeds and it is delicious!
If you want to raise beef for your homestead or if you are looking for a family milk cow, I encourage you to check out Irish Dexters!
Grace & Peace y’all!