The Dexter breed of Cattle is believed to have originated in Ireland. The first American imports of Dexter Cattle arrived in 1905 and the registry was founded in 1911.
The American Dexter possesses many desirable characteristics. It is a very hardy animal, thriving in both hot and cold climates with little difficulty. It is tractable and easily trained, either as a pasture animal (kind on fencing) or a show animal (great with children and young adults). It is a thrifty animal and capable of thriving on a half acre per head of good pasture, given the typical Dexter's small size. Registered cows measure between 36 and 42 inches in shoulder height at three years of age, and weigh approximately 750 pounds. Bulls are slightly larger at 38 to 44 inches shoulder height, and weigh in around 1000 pounds. The breed comes in three colors, predominately black, but also in red and dun.
Dexters produce both meat and milk. The meat has a delightful unique taste and the cuts are small in size in comparison to the larger breeds. It is ideally suited to a boutique meat market or the home freezer. For their size Dexters are prolific milkers. They can easily rear two calves at a time and have the potential to be used for commercial dairy purposes.
Their size and versatility makes them an ideal smallholders cow.
Pound for pound, no bovine can match the diversity of Dexter cattle, one of the smallest cattle breeds. 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.
"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.
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.
Dexter cows produce about 1 1/2 to 2 gallons a day of about 4 percent butterfat milk - over a full 305-day lactation-when fed for production. (Some exceptional cows can put out up to 5 gallons per day at the height of their lactation.) The fat globules in Dexter milk are very small, which makes the milk more easily digested. The cream easily separates and makes outstanding butter and ice cream.
When producing just for the calf, the cow's milk production will adjust down to the calf's needs. Many small farmers share the milk output with the calf - two quarters for the calf at each feeding and two quarters for the milk pail. Dexters have also been used successfully as "nurse cows," providing milk to two or three calves.
Dexters are a hardy breed that performs well in a variety of climates. In North America, Dexters are raised from Alaska to Florida. Many breeders note that all the Dexter needs is a place to get out of the wind and sun. Many animals even prefer to stay outside in the snow in the middle of winter instead of going into the barn.
Easy and economical to keep, a Dexter consumes about half of what an Angus or Hereford would under the same conditions. A half acre of good green grass per animal, or 12 to 15 pounds of hay and a little grain each day is enough in temperate climates. The cattle are ideal for grazing on older or overgrown pastures.
The cows usually give birth without assistance, and using a calf puller is virtually unknown with Dexters. Calves weigh about 45 pounds at birth, and by the time there weaned at 7 months, they may weigh between 350 and 500 pounds. Both sexes will continue to grow until 5 or 6 years old. Some Dexters have lived to more than 20, and many continue to calve for more than 15 years.
A horned breed, they have dramatic white horns tipped in black at maturity, although same owners choose to dehorn their animals for safety reasons.
"Dexters are not going to take over the feedlots," says Conroy, "but they are good for people with small farms, like me."
Dexter beef is very popular with consumers because of its excellent flavour and small joints. Nearly all Dexter breeders enjoy their own home-raised beef while an increasing number supply Dexter beef to the market through farm shops, farmer's markets and private sales. In some places, efforts are being made to establish Dexter beef as the beef of choice in the hotel and restaurant trade. The raising of Dexters in natural and organic regimes means that this beef is highly sought after and usually the demand cannot be met.
Dexter cattle are usually viewed as early maturing. Dexter beef is generally tender and tasty (though like all beef, this can be dependent on the slaughtering and butchering process). In the UK, Dexter steers can finish on grass at 20 to 24 months of age without supplementary feeding. However, as with any dual-purpose breed with a variety of different breeding lines, average carcass weight can vary, with the UK carcass data being between 145 and 220 kilograms (320 to 485 pounds). Dexters have a particularly favourable meat to bone ratio with a killing-out per centage of over 56 achievable.
Growth rates of beef cattle vary considerably with feeding regimes, climate, selective breeding, and individual characteristics. Whatever the general characteristics of the breed, however, the experience of Dexter beef producers is echoed in the comments made in November 2004 on a Dexter Discussion Board - "We sell by word of mouth, direct to our own customers... We find we can't keep up with demand and the customers don't quibble about the price because it is a premium product."
Dexter breeders can come to develop a close relationship with their cattle. There are a number of reasons for this. The first reason is that most Dexter breeders are smallholders so they have few cattle and get to know each of them individually. Secondly, Dexters themselves often seem to be friendly and can even become attached to a person. Thirdly, many Dexter breeders show their cattle at fairs and shows, and spend a lot of time training them to lead, grooming them and getting them to be comfortable when in close contact with people. Fourthly, some Dexter breeders start off as new to farming - perhaps they are city folks who buy a smallholding and decide to raise Dexters - and so they don't start off with traditional agricultural ideas about farm livestock being just animals to raise for profit. Their Dexters become their pets, companions and even friends.
The vast majority of Dexter breeders breed cattle that are suitable for smallholdings. They tend to cull aggressive individuals. Dexters have consequently developed a reputation for having a friendly character and being easy to handle. These qualities, along with their smallness, led a German farmer who belonged to the Rudolf Steiner Society to import Dexters - he worked on his farm with mentally handicapped people, and Dexters were the perfect cattle for this situation (as reported in the Australian magazine The International Dexter, Issue 1, September 2002, page 26).
Some landowners have chosen to run Dexter cattle because their impact on the land is much less than larger cattle. This applies especially to farms with steeper slopes and wetter ground. Dexters are also hardy and eat a wide range of forage. They can be used to control a variety of weeds.
There are about 50 registered cattle breeds in this country and by and large if you are in the commercial beef and dairy business, the bigger the better.
But for a growing number of hobby farmers on small acreage, size is important too.
They are after quiet, compact cows that will not eat them out of house and home, like the dual purpose "Dexters".
This beefy little milking breed is undergoing something a growth spurt here and overseas judging by the turnout at the Second World Dexter Congress staged recently on the Gold Coast.
It's a long way from Ireland's Kerry Mountains to Mudgeeraba in the Gold Coast hinterland, yet these hardy little animals seem to have taken it all in their stride.
Dexters require the same facilities as other cattle, but because of their size, they are well suited to smaller acreages. Generally they have good temperaments and yards and fences need not be as high as for larger breeds. As a dual purpose breed appealing to the hobby farmer market, consider milking facilities. There is a consistent market for house cows. Dexter calves gain weight rapidly.
Dexter beef carcases average 55% dress out, and are typified by smaller, leaner, but still tender, cuts, suitable for the home freezer. Where Health Regulations permit, there is a significant market for custom kills. Because of their lower feed requirement, about 40% more Dexters can be run than other cattle breeds.
We are proud to announce that we are marketing 100% pure, natural Dexter Beef ! Additive Free, Antibiotic Free, Guilt Free. Just great beef for you and your family. Pasture Raised This beef does NOT have to come with a tenderizer or with special cooking instructions like some pasture raised beef!
Humanely Cared for Purebred Dexter beef for YOU to put on YOUR table without the worries of where it came from, what type of life it had to endure or what drugs it was given before it came to your family. Honey Creek Beef is free from all those worries. We treat our steers with tender loving care. You can feel confident these animals were raised and treated humanely, fed a high quality natural diet and loved. AND you can be confident that YOU are giving YOUR family safe, nutritious, tender, delicious natural Dexter beef. Taste the difference! We used to raise Angus Cattle and Hereford Cattle.., and this beef is by FAR, in our opinion, SUPERIOR to either of those breeds. Best in taste, texture and tenderness & with all of the added health benefits to your family and the feeling knowing you are helping a lesser known Heritage breed soar in popularity.., it really is great beef you can feel great about.
Honey Creek Dexters
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2680 N 300 E
Monticello, IN 47960
Monticello, IN 47923
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