About the Breed
The Dexter is a small breed of dual-purpose cattle originating in south and southwest Ireland. Originally kept in mountainous regions by small landholders, they were known as the "poorman's cow". Owners today can have confidence in the breed's history of quality and performance. The Royal Dublin Society records go back to 1879; their first herd book was printed in 1890.
Today, the Dexter is known for its hardiness, docility, thriftiness and calving ease. They are used as beef cattle, dairy cattle, and as oxen. Their meat is well marbled and tender, and an average Dexter cow can produce two or more gallons of milk per day. They do well in all climates and pasture types, and given proper feed and shelter they can survive just about anywhere. Their size makes them ideally suited to the small property owner as well as the farmer who understands that small-framed cattle can be more efficient than larger-framed cattle.
Dexter bulls make excellent crosses on traditional beef breeds since they reduce the stress on first calving heifers. Calving problems are virtually eliminated and the crossed calf is vigorous when born due to no calving problems. The cross-bred calf usually grows to 7/8 the size of the dam.
Traits of Dexter CattleDexters are popular with acreage owners; their size makes them easier to handle compared to many other breeds, and their docility allows for easy training to new situations. Dexters prosper on less feed than larger breeds and their cuts of meat are in line with public demand for smaller servings and fewer leftovers. Although temperament varies from animal to animal, Dexters generally are mild mannered and a joy to have on your property.
Dexters require about one half the feed and space of larger breeds making them perfect for the small landholder. Great converters of roughage into meat and milk, they thrive under a variety of climatic and feed situations. Dexter calves are usually born easily, and quickly get to their feet with little or no human assistance. They grow rapidly on their mother's rich milk and soon are eating grass and grain with the adults. Dexters are a long-lived breed and are fertile at a very early age; care must be taken that very young heifers are not accidentally exposed to the bull.
Cows: 38 to 42 inches, weight approx. 750 lbs.
Bulls: 38 to 44 inches, weight approx. 1000 lbs.
Black, Dun, Red. Reds must either be born of DNA'd red parents, or be DNA verified for registration as Reds.
In the past there has been some confusion on how to tell the difference between red and dun Dexters. As we become more familar with the two colours, we will more readily be able to identify the difference. Most of the confusion lay in the fact there were few red Dexters. This photo provides a good example of how different the two colours truly are. The red animal is on the left and the dun animal is on the right (click image to enlarge).
White is permissible on cows on the udder and vulva and on bulls on the penis sheath and testicles. Animals with Holstein or Simmental or brindle marking patterns on the face or sides are not eligible for registration.
The fat globules in Dexter milk are very small, which makes the milk more easily digested and is recommended for people with digestive problems. An exceptional cow can produce five gallons (23 L) per day of 4% butterfat milk, average cows yield 2-3 gallons per day (9 to 13 litres).
Beef from Dexters is of excellent quality with a high dress-out percentage,providing greater yield of lean, tender, tasty meat. Comparison studies are being done with animals in feedlot situations to determine the best way to feed for the optimum product results. Read more about grass-fed Dexter beef.
Dexter owners profit from their animals in a variety of ways:
- Breeding stock sales
- Freezer beef sales
- Heifer bulls for commercial 1st calf heifers
- Nurse cows for extra calves
- Recreation: oxen teams, 4-H, etc.