All About Irish Dexter Cattle

| 12/18/2013 4:05:00 PM

Tags: heritage livestock breeds, Irish Dexter cattle, Missouri, Mary Jane Phifer,

We first heard about Irish Dexter cattle while watching a program on television.  It was 2004, and we hadMary Jane Phifer Heritage Cattle recently moved from the mountains of North Carolina to 10 acres in Virginia, between Richmond and Washington, D.C. Our property was only partially open, maybe 4 acres, with the rest in a wooded swamp. It was here we began our farming adventure with a batch of hatchery chicks and two Spanish wethers. Could we handle cattle too? The Irish Dexters seemed to be the perfect animal for small-scale farming.

We realized the cattle would have to wait as our goat herd increased with the addition of three does and a buck. We had no permanent livestock fencing. The goat learning curve was steep enough and during a summer trip we realized that what we really needed was a bit more grazing land, so we put the property up for sale and located a farm in Missouri that had everything we desired. We accepted an offer on the Virginia property the day we were moving west and took it as an auspicious sign-

Our 82 acre farm in Missouri was in dire need of fence repairs, maintenance and renovation.  The big news was that it had actual grazing fields and paddocks that could support not only the goats but cattle as well. It was time to look into locating the Irish Dexters.

Why Choose Irish Dexter Cattle?

Why raise Irish Dexter cattle? Not only are they handsome cattle, but they are dual-purpose: they are great milkers and provide excellent beef. Irish Dexters need less space than full-sized cattle, are excellent mothers and produce lively calves. The cows we raise average 38 inches high at the hip, our bull is 44 inches at the hip. We wean our heifers at 5 months old and leave the steered bull calves with their dams. There is a market for Irish Dexters, and we sell our calves as registered breeding stock and as beeves.

I can easily milk a gallon from a cow while her calf watches and one-fourth will rise to cream (great forIrish Dexter Calf cheesemaking). With training, Dexter cows are gentle to milk. We butcher our beeves at 30 months old. This allows for their frames to be grown and filled out. No grain, just pasture.  The beef cuts are petite, not fatty, and have a wonderful flavor not found in store-bought beef. A 780-pound liveweight Dexter will not overrun your freezer!

Seven years into our cattle project, we feel they are indeed the perfect breed for us. The market demand for them continues and we have no problem selling our calves as registered breeding livestock or for beef. There are wonderful national and state organizations that support Dexter cattle and promote the breed. American Dexter Cattle Association and Missouri Dexter Breeders Association are just two great sources of information.

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