Ideal Small Farm Cows: Dexter Cattle

MOTHER's staff discovers a little-known but productive small-farm cow: Dexter cattle. These cows are a perfect project for children, produce quality milk and are a hardy breed that will thrive on a smaller homestead.


| December 2001/January 2002



Dexter cattle often have beautiful, curved horns.

Dexter cattle often have beautiful, curved horns.


DARYL FRANK

Learn about the ideal small farm cows: Dexter cattle.

MOTHER EARTH NEWS discovered the best small farm cows: Dexter cattle. Pound for pound, no bovine can match the diversity of Dexter cattle, one of the smallest cattle breeds. Standing just 36 to 44 inches at the shoulder, Dexters are the perfect old-fashioned, family cow. Gentle, versatile and economical, Dexters efficiently turn pasture into rich milk and lean meat, if you're so inclined. In recent years, interest in Dexter cattle has surged worldwide. Here's why:

They're the perfect size for the family homestead. One Dexter cow will give about 1 to 2 gallons of milk a day, a much more manageable amount for a single family than the 8 to 10 gallons a typical Holstein yields. If you raise a Dexter for beef, you'll need room in the freezer for about 400 pounds of meat, rather than 600 to 800 pounds you'd get from a typical full-size steer.

Owning a Dexter is like owning a piece of history and doing your part to help preserve genetic diversity. They are one of the world's smallest true breeds of cattle, not a miniature developed from a larger breed.

They are believed to have originated in Ireland, and were imported into the United States in the early 20th century. "When I think of Dexters, I think of little, small farms on postage stamps 100 years ago," says Drew Conroy, associate professor of applied animal science at the University of New Hampshire. Conroy says Dexters' small size has contributed to their numbers growing by leaps and bounds today. It also has been their biggest genetic disadvantage: Dexters, especially the smaller ones, are prone to a genetic disorder which occasionally causes cows to give birth to stillborn "bulldog calves," with deformed faces.

Looking after a Dexter can be fun for children and can give them a sense of accomplishment. With proper attention and training, a Dexter can be easily handled by even the greenest homesteader. Don't expect that dazed-cow stare, though. "For their small size, they're pretty lively," Conroy says. Dexters can be trained like oxen to plow or pull wagons, and their strength belies their size. At the same time, that size makes them less intimidating to children and adults.

brent
3/13/2015 9:49:19 AM

what other breed of cattle can you breed to with a dexter bull


sam_38
9/12/2010 12:25:11 PM

My family only has about 2 acres of level land. Would this be enough to raise a Dexter cow and calf? Also, where what price range should I be looking at for purchasing a Dexter?


terry_40
8/22/2010 9:38:59 PM

I have a 2 year old dexter what other breeds can I breed with her


judy_48
7/8/2010 10:24:38 AM

I have two dexters, my bull has a white and black face is it because he's mixed with something else? I bought him and the cow at the same time and he was already 1 1/2 yrs old and the cow was 3 yrs old. She aborted her calf about 2 months premature, should I be concerned about that happening again and what, if anything, can I do to prevent it from happening again? They are penned together.


sharon king
8/15/2009 10:14:36 AM

Cows are herd animals, so they really like being around other cows. The biggest concern is whether you have horned animals mixed in because our horned cow is definitely "boss" over our dehorned one! I was concerned about this thinking that I would not be able to detect heat for them because the younger, dehorned cow wouldn't get close enough to the other--boy, was I wrong--when it came time for heat, they were licking on each other and 'riding' each other just as the books say they should! We've had a goat in with our Dexters with no trouble, though haven't tried horses--they have pretty easy going personalities though so I think you'd have no trouble. Good luck with your venture!


brittany_2
4/22/2009 10:00:42 AM

I want to have a heard of Dexters. i have a few questions about them. Do they get alone with each other, if a few of them are in the same pen, at a time? Do they get along with horses and mules?


brittany_2
4/22/2009 9:52:53 AM

I want to have a heard of Dexters. i have a few questions about them. Do they get alone with each other, if a few of them are in the same pen, at a time? Do they get along with horses and mules?






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