Have you ever heard of Dexter Cattle before? Well, I’m about to tell you about my experiences on my ranch while researching the breed for everyone out there! I have some excellent news for all my homesteaders and preppers- let me tell you about it!
Dexter cattle are an old-time dual-purpose breed of miniature cattle originating in Ireland in the nineteenth century. All over the world, its good forager abilities, friendly character, and good-natured temperament have made it a must-have for all off-grid homesteaders! Now I’m about to dig into these friendly small cows’ history, characteristics, and benefits! Let’s get into it!:
The Timeless Story of Dexter Cattle: An Enduring Heritage
For centuries in their native Ireland, Dexter cattle have been prized for their meat, milk, and work abilities. But by the end of the 20th century, their numbers had dwindled to near-extinction in their homeland. Thanks to modern-day efforts to preserve this breed, however, small-but-sturdy Dexters have once again found a place in American hearts – and stomachs!
The Importance of Dexter Cattle in America
Legend states that the first Dexters set foot on American soil in the late 1700s. But it wasn’t until 1892 that the American Dexter Cattle Registry was established to keep records of all away for all to see. The US government put a stop to all imports of the breed in 1985 to help keep it pure. But by 2003, this ban had been lifted to help ensure its re-emergence at home in Ireland. Today over 12,000 registered Dexter cattle live in America!
Characteristics of the Dexter Breed
Mature cows weigh around 600 pounds, while bulls are about 900. They give out an abundance of creamy milk and can get back into calf quickly, plus they have no calving issues. Bulls also have a good libido and can live up to 25 years! Dexters can be in red or black with a white stripe down their back; it also has small horns with ear tips that curve up into points. Though calves are born small, growth is rapid, but even so, they remain compactly sized! In terms of taste: expect well-marbled, juicy pleasure when tucking into any Dexter protein! Keep it calm, too, since these guys have a docile temperament making them an easy choice if you’re looking for a tranquil nature!
Discovering the Enchanting Qualities of Dexter Cattle: Exploring Characteristics and Size
Height, Weight, and Color
Maturity in Dexter cows is measured by a height no greater than 38 inches at the shoulder, and their male counterparts can be up to 42 inches at their maturity. The average weight for Dexter cows is between 750 to 900 pounds, but for bulls, it can be higher at 900 to 1,000 pounds. Whatever color or pattern variation of cow or bull you are looking for, it can most likely be found in Dexters!
Calving Ease and Longevity
Dexter cows have well-known calving ease with plenty of milk for their tiny offspring – all while concentrating on low-maintenance hay or sparse pastures! Cows can live a productive life span of up to 20 years and bulls up to 15 years due to their resistance to stress on account of early maturity and hardiness!
Their natural mating season is in-between July to August. Still, thanks to hormone implant in each ear of two period-long injections at once per animal, it can also take place in March-April! A service period of 30 days is the norm but has been known to last up to 90 at maximum!
Behavior and Look
Both sexes of Dexters have horns, but it is more common for them to appear on bull specimens than cow ones. Both males and females have calm behavior yet livelily playful movement – typical characteristics of all animals!
Calves and Butchery Outcomes
At birth, a calf weighs, on average, about 30-35 pounds but can go up to 40! As their growth progresses, there is no significant difference in endowment. Still, heifers get to full stature sooner before steers reach that point. In terms of butchery outcomes, have it on good authority that by 24 months of age, a Dexter steer will dress out at 60-65% of his live weight. At 18 months, heifers will have a 55-60% notation on theirs! All that aside, expect gourmet quality beef derived from Dexters since it is generally tender, flavorful, juicy, and low cholesterol!
Weighing the Advantages and Disadvantages of Owning a Dexter Cattle Breed
Pros of Dexter Cattle
Dexter Cattle are small-framed, which can be both good and bad. They have less back fat but less muscle in their body weight compared to larger-framed breeds. So it can be harder to get them up to butchering weight by the American standard of wettability.
But for homesteaders or those who have difficulty lifting heavier items, it can be convenient to have bovines of more petite stature for everyday use. Also, Dexters come in rainbow colors – that’s pretty cool! And you can choose between having them horned or polled – so you have many options.
Cons of Dexter Cattle
These small-framed bovines have a lower milk output than other breeds available today. But suppose you need milk for everyday use on a homestead for yourself, your children, or other livestock. In that case, more than one is generally required, and it is recommended to have at least two for milking all year long.
Also, it is excellent for more prominent families to have a bigger bovine like a Jersey for ease of use and convenience. But at the end of the day, it all comes down to what is suitable for your own homestead/ranch/farm/free-range/etc.
Discover the Benefits of Raising Dexter Cattle: Your Guide to Getting Started
Why choose a Dexter for your homestead?
The Dexter breed of cattle is small in stature, yet it can be used for milk and beef! Not to mention, this breed is naturally horned but often has its horns removed for safety purposes. But why choose one for your homestead in particular? Consider all the good things about selecting a Dexter for your small-scale production.
Small size for backyard pastures
One of the main benefits of the Dexter is its small size – it requires less feed to get to butchering weight than standard-sized cows. This also makes it easier for children to show at 4-H or FFA. This could be perfect if you want something smaller for a backyard pasture or pen!
More butterfat in milk & ease of calving
When it comes to milk production, Dexters give around 1 to 2 gallons per day – which is all it needs to get to butchering weight over time! But that’s not all; they have higher amounts of butterfat than other cattle breeds. Plus, their ease of calving helps keep costly vet visits at bay in case of an emergency.
Ease of rearing young without help
In addition to having ease in calving, the Dexter also does not need help rearing its young. All you need to do is let the baby get cleaned up by its mother before it starts nursing on its own — no need for assistance!
No bad characteristics like lack of disease resistance
And on top of all that, there are no terrible characteristics to worry about when dealing with Dexters — like lack of disease resistance or temperament issues! All in all, it’s clear why a Dexter can make an ideal choice for your small-scale rural production.
The Prepper’s Guide to Homesteading with Dexter Cattle
Small Size is an Advantage in Many Ways
Dexter cattle are small, but this is good for many reasons! For one thing, you need less land to raise them on. This is great for those of us in cities and towns who want to get into raising cows but need to have all the free land in the world! Dexters need a lot less space than other breeds of cattle. Also, they eat much less than their larger counterparts – it can help to save on feed costs!
Calf-Watch is Super Cute and Adorable
If you have kids (especially if you like them regardless of their cuteness), it can give them an ‘awww’ moment to see or help out with the birth of a calf that is much smaller than they are! Imagine how easy it is for even young children to help bottle-feed a calf no taller than themselves! What’s better for kids than having cute, cuddly animals to play with or getting free milk or meat later in life?
An Essential Source of Milk and Meat
One of the main reasons most people want to get into raising cattle in the first place is for the source of milk and meat it provides. But let’s take a look at some of the potential downsides before we go further into our exploration of Dexter cattle.
They produce less milk per pound of body weight when compared to other dairy breeds. Larger breeds can give more milk at once, but such cows also have more significant problems if something goes wrong in labor and delivery. It might be worth it for preppers to have a smaller cow give birth over a large-boned one.
It also takes longer for Dexters to get to butcher size, But this should be fine for those who aren’t in a hurry to put fresh meat in their freezers.
The Price Tag of Dexter Cattle: What You Need to Know Before Investing
Size of the Herd
When it comes to Dexter cattle, size is an essential factor in determining the cost of your herd. How many cows do you want? Are you looking for a small herd of up to five cows, or are you aiming for something more significant? Larger packs can cost up to $2,000 for each cow, but small herds of up to five usually come in at about $1,000 for each cow.
Age of the Cow
When buying into a Dexter cattle herd, buying young and into all of the same age groups at once is highly recommended. The age determines how expensive it will get! For example, young calves can be purchased for around $350-600 per calf. But on the other hand, mature cows can range up to over $2,500!
Gender Matters Too
When buying into a Dexter cattle herd, it is essential to consider not just the size but also the gender makeup of your pack. Heifers need to outnumber bulls for no in-fighting over aspects like dominance over the rest of the herd. Bulls can cost up to 20-50% more than heifers, usually due to their greater use on farms for meat production rather than dairy production associated with heifers.
Location Is Also a Factor
You also have to take into consideration where these cows are going to live and whether you have suitable grazing land on-site or if they need extra travel costs factored in if renting off-site grasslands! Also, consider additional transportation and insurance costs when driving them long distances.
Raising Dexters: Sizing Up Your Pasture Needs for a Single Cow
Getting into raising Dexter cattle can seem like a big undertaking. One of the most common questions on my YouTube and on Mother Farmland is, ‘How much land do I need for a Dexter cow?’ And it’s a challenging one to answer!
It All Depends on Your Set-up
The amount of land you need ultimately depends on how big of an operation you want to have. If all you want is to keep a small herd of Dexters, then obviously, your land needs will be less than if you also want to keep chickens, goats, horses, pigs, and sheep in addition to your cattle. You get the idea!
Recommendations for Larger Set-ups
Generally speaking, it’s good practice to have at least 1 acre of grazing pasture for every 2-3 cows in the herd. But to keep your pastures in good condition and help avoid over-grazing, it is recommended to have at least 3-5 acres of pasture for one cow.
For larger set-ups that need to keep up with the demand for animals like chickens and goats, it is also recommended to have at least ½–1 acre of pasture for every 20-30 chickens and at least ¼–½ acre of pasture for every 4-6 goats. Logistics vary depending on what type of forage is available in your area and local climate conditions.
Do Dexter Cattle Need Shelter? Exploring the Breed’s Ease of Handling
Manageable Size for Small Farms
Most of our customers tell us that Dexter cattle are very easy to handle due to their manageable size. People who have never owned cattle often find them exceptionally straightforward to look after. On the other hand, those who have come from having large, modern cattle breeds also comment on how detailed it is to move Dexters by simply walking them in the right direction.
It can take some getting used to if you expect a full-sized cow to look like many of the breeds bred by humans over time to get bigger and bigger. Dexters look small in comparison, but it is natural for cows of this size to exist!
Their small size also makes them ideal for smaller farms or homesteads – they need at least a quarter of an acre of grass per head of cattle in optimum conditions. Still, it also depends on the quality of your pasture.
No Need for Lack-of-Weather-Shelter
Another plus point for raising Dexters is that you don’t need to give them weather shelter. All breed members have evolved to have double-layered coats of hair, which keep out bad weather and off offensive heat in the summer!
So long as there is a natural shelter for use in bad weather like gale-force winds, no specific protection is needed for everyday use. That being said, in climates with long freezing periods and intense snow, it can make sense to give them some extra shelter away from Mother Nature’s worst!
Lower Cost Maintenance All-Round!
This lack of need for shelter also translates into costs much lower than raising larger breeds – no need for land-clearing before building any shed! Also no need for fencing off once it is up in its place either! Just set up a trough for drinking during summer. One feeder in winter will keep them all nourished, depending on your decisions on mainly-pasture or mainly-bale grazed scenarios.
Not only all this, but you also avoid needing to keep up with ongoing maintenance all year round by removing all poo out of it every day! Cows, like all animals, like old habits when relieving themselves at points each day!
It can help maintain comfortable temperatures during summer by having at least two or three sides that provide shade but need not be anything lavish! It can be a good idea to set up small bore piping to spray water over in case it gets unbearably hot!
So, overall, Dexter cattle are easy to handle. Still, it depends on your initial expectations about how big a full-sized cow should look. But there are plenty more benefits for choosing these bovines over others, thanks again to their manageable size and lack of need for shelter in bad weather situations!