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Dexter Cattle on our new small homestead... (Less than 6AC of Pasture)

 
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We are a few weeks out from our first two new arrivals here to the property. So now is a good time to post up a thread about it I suppose.

We decided to go with Dexters mainly because of the next few reasons but there are more...

1) They are known to be extremely easy birthers. I have seen folks who have to pull calve every time (and I have helped) and it is not fun! It is also dangerous for both animals.

2) A fully grown cow (girl) averages around 600 to 700 lbs according to breed standards (About 1/2 the size of normal) which...
a. Makes them easier to handle (which they are know to be calm as well)
b. Makes them easier on the land. Bonus when our place turns into a mud hole.
c. Makes them....

3) Known to do very well on just grass without the need for grain. Their small size requires less energy to move around and grow out.

4) When you do harvest meat... the smaller size (steer will be around 1000 lbs) =
a. A smaller freezer required for storage. I do aim to keep my spare meat aside from that freezer stored "On the hoof" Aka... another backup steer.
b. I may start doing my own butchering at some point and handling a smaller carcass sounds much nicer on the ol' back.

5) They are dual-purpose... making high quality A2/A2 milk if you aim for those genetics. So they have high butterfat levels for making butter and are great for those lactose intolerant folks out there. I do not aim to ever milk. But I will totally go start milking a quart or two if the stores go bare again.

6) Taste: Dexters are consistently ranked among the top in blind taste tests.

Chef Gordon Ramsey will only serve two types of beef at his restaurants worldwide… and Dexter is one of them allegedly.

There are more things but those are the ones I found most important to me for now.

We aimed for good genetics and halter-trained calves as our seed starters. These two ladies will live long full lives here so long as they remain healthy. A good Dexter cow can put out a calf every year up to the age of 24 from what I hear.

Those good genetics will fetch a premium for their future offspring. Which makes those calves... and lifetime supply of free steaks and burgers... much more affordable (or even free if we do it right at some point). If I can get the grasses growing extremely good on my property; I should only have to buy minimum hay. Which means selling a single calf every year will bring my inputs costs to near $0 at some point. Second calf will be a bonus... with an occasional bonus of steaks/burgers.

The genetics we went for are...
1) A2/A2 milk
2) Red or Dunn colors (flies won't be stuck to them like glue like they do on black ones... and they won't get so hot in the Summer, so they keep eating and get better weight gains)
3) Polled (no horns) - Either Heterozygous or Homozygous
4) Non-Chondro carriers (Dwarf)
5) Non-PHA carriers (genetic lung disease)
6) Grass-fed only. This mostly just means they have the right gut biome and the genetics have not walked away from grass yet by getting grains (which is a MAJOR problem for a lot of other cattle strains these days)
7) Halter Trained! I know it is not genetic. However, starting off with every cow in the herd being comfortable around us and easily handlable makes all the difference. Their calves will likely be more safely approachable as well. Good disposition seems to be a dominate trait.

Here are some pics of the calves we just recieved the other day for an update. One was born in the tail end of April and the other was born on July 4th (her name is Independance!).


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Marty Mitchell
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Here are the pics of their parents... These were both the first calves of the two cows.

Miriam (the smaller/lighter one) was also the first registered calf of Half Mile Rex... so he is young and filling out still.

FF Freedom's CJ (the bull that looks like a buffalo) has sired many calves and seemed to really love his job when we visited. He was like a large pet dog coming up for a petting and treats. Very laid back and relaxed.

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FF Freedom's CJ (Independance's Sire)
FF Freedom's CJ (Independance's Sire)
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Independance's Dam (I forgot her name and am too lazy to look it up)
Independance's Dam (I forgot her name and am too lazy to look it up)
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Miriam's Dam several months back. You can tell she is very young.
Miriam's Dam several months back. You can tell she is very young.
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Miriam's Sire - Half Mile Rex. She is first registered calf. He is very young and looking good.
Miriam's Sire - Half Mile Rex. She is first registered calf. He is very young and looking good.
 
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Congratulations on those good looking ladies. I hope to get some Dexters in the future, as their gentle disposition and smaller size appeal to me. I have heard that the beef it tastier as well, although that could just be an opinion of pro Dexter folks.
 
Marty Mitchell
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Ted Abbey wrote:Congratulations on those good looking ladies. I hope to get some Dexters in the future, as their gentle disposition and smaller size appeal to me. I have heard that the beef it tastier as well, although that could just be an opinion of pro Dexter folks.




That is right! I totally forgot to mention that part. Taste is extremely important.

I always thought I had lost my ability to taste as well since beef didn’t taste as good as I remembered as a child. Then a few years back I had some actual grass-fed beef from my distant relative in Tennessee (Usually "Grass-fed" from the store was for a while before heading to feed lots with GMO feed and is NOT actually grass fed). Then I realized it was not me… it was the meat that had changed.

That is what lead me to where I am in the first place.

Dexters are consistently ranked among the top in blind taste tests.

Chef Gordon Ramsey will only serve two types of beef at his restaurants worldwide… and Dexter is one of them allegedly.

I shall add that to my list. Thank you for the reminder and congrats! You will get there. We are excited to getting closer to reaching our goals.

Should possibly bet getting our first steaks by around 2027. 😆
 
Marty Mitchell
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Links and useful places for data on Dexters...

Here is the official DCA website. There is all kinds of useful information on here. There is another one out there as well.

https://dextercattle.org/

From things like breed standards, registered farms map, to buying animals or straws for AI from registered bulls, to looking up the entire lineage of an animal you are buying (if you are going the registered route which I highly recommend). I even found charts showing the genetic probabilities of outcomes for colors of fur, horns, etc based on what genes both parents share.

For instance, both of my calves are in the Red category (but carry other genetics), so their calves will ALL be Red if I crossbreed them with a bull that is Red (no matter what genetics he carries). Same goes for horns. Both of mine will be polled (I didn't ask if Heterozygous or Homozygous), so if I breed them with a bull that is Homozygous polled, 100% of their calves will be polled.

I even looked up the owner of "Half Mile Rex" and shot them an email to get that pic I posted. He is not at the same farm as the buyer I am buying from. You could do the same to help make a decision with your purchases.

This following FB page (just one of many) is where I found my seller. The name of the FB page is "Dexter Cattle Breeders". She and her husband seemed like very nice folks down in South Carolina. There are MANY sellers on there. As wells as a LOT of Knowledge. Everyone will chime in with any questions you may ask.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1043824415706481

And lastly... these are just two of the many genetic documents they have on that website from above. They have mapped out the genes for all genetics if you are interested. Even milk protein types.

Filename: 7-adca-fact-sheet-color-genetics-update5-7-20-1.pdf
File size: 167 Kbytes
Filename: The-Facts-of-Horned-and-Polled-Genetics.pdf
File size: 205 Kbytes
 
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Thanks Marty, and Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours..
 
Marty Mitchell
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Ted Abbey wrote:Thanks Marty, and Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours..



Thank you too Ted! Happy Thanksgiving...
 
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I had a couple of Dexters here years ago.  One of them was so wild, it took four men to crosstie her into the van she was transported in (seats taken out).  I had to sing to her to calm her down because I was afraid she would break out the windows.  We drove into the pasture to unload her because she was definitely not halter broken.  For a month I could not get near her, but one day she went into the barn with goats and into a stall.  I shoed the goats out and latched the door.  Took a broom, put my jacket over the end so it would have my smell on it and just slowly drug it over her face and shoulders,  left her alone a bit, repeated and gave her a treat of apples in the feeder tray as she would not take it from my hand.  I also made sure she saw me petting up the goats and how they liked it.  She watched intently, although still nervous.  A few more weeks passed and one day I was leaning on the fence, looking up into the sky and just feeling grateful for this beautiful world we live in.   She surprised me when she walked over and licked my bare arm.  We were buddies ever since.  She would come when I called her, let me handle her udder and when she had her first calf, would let me milk while out grazing, not even in a stanchion.  Of course she was walking and eating so I had to run beside her with a milk jug in hand.  Every now and then she would turn her head and lick me.  I didn’t need much milk anyway, so let her calf take most of it.  She wasn’t a heavy milker, some of the Dexters are bred for it and produce much more.  The butterfat is high, tastes sweet and creamy.  

As long as you have clovers, or other legumes in the pasture for them to graze they get their protein needs met.  I fed no grain except as an occasional treat.  She stayed roly poly almost fat as long as there was plenty of pasture and browse.  They like tree leaves too.  I’m so impressed with Dexters, if we were younger, and had more land, would definitely do it again.  Wish I had pictures, but computer crashed and lost all pics.  
 
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Faye Streiff wrote:
As long as you have clovers, or other legumes in the pasture for them to graze they get their protein needs met.  I fed no grain except as an occasional treat.  She stayed roly poly almost fat as long as there was plenty of pasture and browse.  They like tree leaves too.  I’m so impressed with Dexters, if we were younger, and had more land, would definitely do it again.  Wish I had pictures, but computer crashed and lost all pics.  



That was a wonderful story! Thank you for sharing. I can only hope we will get the same thing.

I definitely have lots of red and white clover going out there. I went around this Fall and spread out a LOT more clover seed too. So hopefully, we will have a good blanket of it to feed the cows, bees, and grass over the coming years.

I just started keeping bees this year as well. Caught my first two swarms. One was a micro swarm and kept getting robbed out... then left for greener pastures. The large hive is still rocking along.
 
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We only have about an acre and a half of pasture land, so I have reluctantly decided we'd better go with hair sheep for meat production, rather than Dexters.  However, we are surrounded by a large pasture and hope to be able to rent at least part of it, and then Dexters are definitely back on the table (literally!).  
 
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Marty Mitchell wrote:We are a few weeks out from our first two new arrivals here to the property. So now is a good time to post up a thread about it I suppose.

We decided to go with Dexters mainly because of the next few reasons but there are more...

1) They are known to be extremely easy birthers. I have seen folks who have to pull calve every time (and I have helped) and it is not fun! It is also dangerous for both animals.

2) A fully grown cow (girl) averages around 600 to 700 lbs according to breed standards (About 1/2 the size of normal) which...
a. Makes them easier to handle (which they are know to be calm as well)

Marty, congratulations! We did the same thing as you, only we are using Devon cattle. We considered Dexter, but we were concerned about a mutation gene they were known for. But I DO know what you mean about hardy - we've done jersey and braunveigh- and our Devon are more healthy and do much better in our 6 acres then both the jersey and the braunveigh we had previous.
Our bull was a bottle calf, so we had him since he was a month old. We got our heifer when she was a yearling, so, not great to start with, but I've been working with her. If she's not great I can always just rely on her to be my breeder, and train her first heifer to be a easier keeper. Yes, we are working on growing winter grass, too. Hay has gotten more expensive, and my neighbor doesn't sell anymore. Bummer, but it'll work out!

Yes, premier one sells some nice electric fencing that you can use for rotational grazing when you get those grasses in. We've moved ours all over our property.

And the butchering isn't too bad, depending on the size.... If you've done sheep before (witch we started with sheep), you can get the hang of it. But cows have thicker hides, so a gun is necessary for slaughter over just using knives.
It took my husband some getting used too. Make sure you have a good hoist for the job! They can be heavy.
We invested in all this during the 2020 craziness when we thought the whole world was going to hell, and while many stores were out of meat and milk, we were just fine.
I made steaks, TONS of roasts, bone broth, butter, farm cheese, yogurt, cream cheese, ice cream, and as a bonus the raw milk dissolved my digestive problems that I normally have with milk! I truly believe the reason why many can't drink store bought milk is because of pasteurizing. All the digestive enzymes are burned from the process.
All our cows are naturally polled and red, as well.
My only issue at the moment is getting our heifer sired. I think they're trying, but I noticed her in heat this month. If something doesn't happen soon, we need to figure an ai situation. I want HIS genetics, though. We'll see!

 
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Kathleen Sanderson wrote:We only have about an acre and a half of pasture land, so I have reluctantly decided we'd better go with hair sheep for meat production, rather than Dexters.  However, we are surrounded by a large pasture and hope to be able to rent at least part of it, and then Dexters are definitely back on the table (literally!).  




I can understand you on that one. The number of sheep one can have per acre compared to cattle is a big difference. Hopefully, you guys will find that you have all you need with what you have. However, sometimes more is totally better. lol

There is a small farm near me that sells specialty pasture raised meats. Dexter is one of them. I wonder if you have that somewhere near you? It may be worth taking a look at. You could potentially just do some even trades for meat to avoid the tax man.
 
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Rachel Elijah wrote:

Marty, congratulations! We did the same thing as you, only we are using Devon cattle. We considered Dexter, but we were concerned about a mutation gene they were known for. But I DO know what you mean about hardy - we've done jersey and braunveigh- and our Devon are more healthy and do much better in our 6 acres then both the jersey and the braunveigh we had previous.
Our bull was a bottle calf, so we had him since he was a month old. We got our heifer when she was a yearling, so, not great to start with, but I've been working with her. If she's not great I can always just rely on her to be my breeder, and train her first heifer to be a easier keeper. Yes, we are working on growing winter grass, too. Hay has gotten more expensive, and my neighbor doesn't sell anymore. Bummer, but it'll work out!

Yes, premier one sells some nice electric fencing that you can use for rotational grazing when you get those grasses in. We've moved ours all over our property.

And the butchering isn't too bad, depending on the size.... If you've done sheep before (witch we started with sheep), you can get the hang of it. But cows have thicker hides, so a gun is necessary for slaughter over just using knives.
It took my husband some getting used too. Make sure you have a good hoist for the job! They can be heavy.
We invested in all this during the 2020 craziness when we thought the whole world was going to hell, and while many stores were out of meat and milk, we were just fine.
I made steaks, TONS of roasts, bone broth, butter, farm cheese, yogurt, cream cheese, ice cream, and as a bonus the raw milk dissolved my digestive problems that I normally have with milk! I truly believe the reason why many can't drink store bought milk is because of pasteurizing. All the digestive enzymes are burned from the process.
All our cows are naturally polled and red, as well.
My only issue at the moment is getting our heifer sired. I think they're trying, but I noticed her in heat this month. If something doesn't happen soon, we need to figure an ai situation. I want HIS genetics, though. We'll see!



Thank you for the congratulations!

Which mutation gene are you talking about? If it is PHA (lung) or Chondrodysplasia (Dwarfism) then you just have to find registered animals that have been tested not to carry the genetic disease.  If it is something else let me know... because this is the first I have heard of it. lol

Glad to hear others are working to get that Winter grass growing. I have lots of ideas in my head of things to do at different times... but it will definately be a lot of work. Still.... cheaper and easier than buying hay equipment and haying. Not easy work at all with square bales.

I actually spent the last several months getting my fences in order. I now have two large/sunny pastures surrounded with woven wire (pulled uber tight with the tractor) and concreted wooden posts... with double electric bands. Then a third 1AC sacrifice pasture up on the dry lot in the woods. Which is where the animals will be headed when the deep Winter muck arrives, and the pasture needs protection from the animals.

For Electric Power I used a Cyclops unit that Greg Judy recommends... and is WAY oversized for my needs. But should work well to also keep the bears off of my beehives (which are also tapping into that same system). It is also strong enough to burn through plants that grow onto the fence line.

Then I got several reels with high quality poly braid on them spooled up. So I can sub-divide the pastures as big or small as I need based on what the grass/weather/and animals dictate that year.

It sounds like you guys are much further down this road that we wish to be on. Not sure if I will ever have the time to try dairy products with them, however, it sure does sound nice!!!

I know that there are many pages of bulls to buy AI straws from on the Dexter page. I saw one guy that was selling 10 straws for $300. I bet your breed has something similar available. We decided to go that route instead of maintaining a bull that would be bored with 2 heifers... and I can keep more ladies this way or steer growing out. That being said, I looked at some of the AI kits, and I am NOT looking forward to doing that. lol

However, I am too much of a cheap bastard. So, I will learn to ID when they are in heat, do the procedure, and learn to check if it took later on.
 
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Marty Mitchell wrote:

Kathleen Sanderson wrote:We only have about an acre and a half of pasture land, so I have reluctantly decided we'd better go with hair sheep for meat production, rather than Dexters.  However, we are surrounded by a large pasture and hope to be able to rent at least part of it, and then Dexters are definitely back on the table (literally!).  




I can understand you on that one. The number of sheep one can have per acre compared to cattle is a big difference. Hopefully, you guys will find that you have all you need with what you have. However, sometimes more is totally better. lol

There is a small farm near me that sells specialty pasture raised meats. Dexter is one of them. I wonder if you have that somewhere near you? It may be worth taking a look at. You could potentially just do some even trades for meat to avoid the tax man.



We actually live only a mile or two from Chris Slattery, co-author (with Joel Salatin) of Polyface Designs (and he's currently working with Justin Rhodes on another design book).  We've been buying grass-fed beef from him, and plan to continue doing that.  But I do want to produce more of our own meat, and we need something to eat down that little pasture, and the cow pasture that completely surrounds us no longer has cows in it, so...we'll see.
 
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Here is the Cyclops model we went with… the “Brute”

Our old charger was .6 Joules and this one is 10 Joules. Strong enough to when my poor dog slapped her tail into it she screamed and kept screaming until she got to the back door of the house. Poor thing…. She thought the horse kicked her and was afraid of the horse for several weeks. 😆

What is cool about the Cyclops is that they have fused lightening protection in both input and output lines… and you can order/replace parts for internal components.

I also put mine on a weather strip so it is switched… and far off of the ground so as to be away from my dogs and small kids.

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Marty Mitchell wrote:Here is the Cyclops model we went with… the “Brute”

Our old charger was .6 Joules and this one is 10 Joules. Strong enough to when my poor dog slapped her tail into it she screamed and kept screaming until she got to the back door of the house. Poor thing…. She thought the horse kicked her and was afraid of the horse for several weeks. 😆

What is cool about the Cyclops is that they have fused lightening protection in both input and output lines… and you can order/replace parts for internal components.

I also put mine on a weather strip so it is switched… and far off of the ground so as to be away from my dogs and small kids.



Thank you for the information on this charger.  I watched one of Greg Judy's videos two or three times, trying to figure out what he was saying, and never did come up with Cyclops (my hearing must be going).  I have a solar charger that's sufficient for now, but will keep this one in mind for next time.
 
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I checked out the link, but there wasn't a lot of descriptive info on the breed; I am wondering how well they might be able to defend themselves outside in the pasture, against a bunch of coyotes or dogs, anyone know?  We had full-sized grass=fed mixed breeds in the past and they did fine; but coyotes are a problem here.  Maybe those with horns...?

Info appreciated, I like the small size and great taste combination!!!  
 
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Betsy Carraway wrote:I checked out the link, but there wasn't a lot of descriptive info on the breed; I am wondering how well they might be able to defend themselves outside in the pasture, against a bunch of coyotes or dogs, anyone know?  We had full-sized grass=fed mixed breeds in the past and they did fine; but coyotes are a problem here.  Maybe those with horns...?

Info appreciated, I like the small size and great taste combination!!!  



Even the big cows can lose their calves to coyotes under certain circumstances.  One of my cousins is a ranch manager in Oregon, on the coast, which has a pretty mild climate.  One year they had the cows calving in January for some reason, a time of year when the coyotes are having a hard time finding enough to eat.  They had coyotes coming into the pastures and killing calves as they were being born, before the mama cow had a chance to get up onto her feet to defend her baby.  I have a friend who has raised Dexters for quite a few years, and it sounds like they are maybe a little quicker to defend their babies, but in a situation like that, they'd be just as vulnerable as the big cows.  Personally, I like, and use, livestock guardian dogs.  Guard donkeys might be sufficient for a little extra protection at calving time, which is really the only time they'd be vulnerable.  
 
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Cute cattle. Wish you all the best

Not that it matters much, but I like Belted Galloway.
If I could afford it,  I would absolutely love Highland cow as a pet.
 
Marty Mitchell
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Betsy Carraway wrote:I checked out the link, but there wasn't a lot of descriptive info on the breed; I am wondering how well they might be able to defend themselves outside in the pasture, against a bunch of coyotes or dogs, anyone know?  We had full-sized grass=fed mixed breeds in the past and they did fine; but coyotes are a problem here.  Maybe those with horns...?

Info appreciated, I like the small size and great taste combination!!!  




That is going to be a highly complicated answer... with several large heaping sides of "It Depends". (I love saying that now. lol)

I remember growing up and seeing my two of my buddies whose families' owned cattle in the mountains of North Georgia. Both had massive full-sized cattle and massive endless fields surrounded my national forests and mountains. The only real difference between their cattle is that one's cattle were so mean that you could Not set foot out into those beautiful pastures and had to go by vehicle. You would get trampled/mowed down on purpose by the mean old cows they had.

Anyways, none of their cattle had horns from what I remember.

Only one of them had problems with animals killing cattle. The guy with the mean cows and no donkeys. Apparently, there was another family up the road a way that let their dogs run free and they would come down in the middle of the night in a pack and chase those cows around for fun in the fields (though red timber wolves, coyotes, and bears were possibly doing it). Eventually the cattle that had been running around for hours would stop to get a drink from one of the large streams on the property. When they bent over, they would pass out and drown in the stream.

So, everyone kept finding the stripped remains a few days later since this was usually down in a patch of woods somewhere.

Horns are totally a weapon for them. Apparently if you have a large group of cows that are hornless and one with horns, usually the queen cow will be the girl with the horns. She will use them to push and prod everyone around with them as well. So horns are definitely an option.

The lady I am buying from said she keeps having issues with vultures! They will swoop in and peck the eyes out of a calf before it gets a chance to stand up. After that it is toast. So, she has started putting her expecting mothers in an area with cover. She does live in coyote country too(allegedly). So, what she did for her herd was add a single strand of high-power electric along the bottom of the fence line about 10" off of the ground. She has had no problems with them... or anything else trying to dig under the fence. I believe she was using those plastic standoffs that are about 6" long too to get it out off of the fence a ways too.

For me, I am mainly worried about...
1) Vultures now that she told me that and they pretty much use my pasture as a home base at times.
2) Bears since I keep seeing them around the property. I even had one trying to come over the back fence as I rounded the corner of the barn at night all suited up to get into my hive that was right there. I literally only had my baby hive there for a few days and it was about to get torn apart. It was a big bear too! In the heat of the moment I panicked, growled loudly, and started stomping hard as I ran at it. It made noises back and held its ground. Then like a dummy I kept going until it slowly retreated back into the woods in protest. I shall be armed next time. lol

My immediate resolve was the high-power fence. Looking into a donkey.

My single horse out there has been fine by himself so far. A few cows should help later on... they will just be very small when they first get here.

Definitely heard a bobcat screaming over and over again the other night. So that is another one as well. I don't think mountain lions will be of issue around these parts at least!  

Still don't want horns because I know those weapons will be turned against me, my family, my horse, my cattle trailer, my fence, and anything else they would want to do. I can totally see why nature gave them to them though.
 
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Marty Mitchell wrote:

Betsy Carraway wrote:
2) Bears since I keep seeing them around the property. I even had one trying to come over the back fence as I rounded the corner of the barn at night all suited up to get into my hive that was right there. I literally only had my baby hive there for a few days and it was about to get torn apart. It was a big bear too! In the heat of the moment I panicked, growled loudly, and started stomping hard as I ran at it. It made noises back and held its ground. Then like a dummy I kept going until it slowly retreated back into the woods in protest. I shall be armed next time. lol



I laughed at this, because my ex did the same thing when he found a bear in his beehives early one morning.  He was getting ready to go to work, and stepped out where he could see the hives to check on them.  There was a young black bear in them, had already knocked some of them over, and my ex ran down there roaring and kicked the bear in the butt really hard.  He said it popped up and looked at him in shock, ran off a few feet, stopped and looked at him, he roared at it again and made himself look bigger than it was, then it ran off into the woods across the road.  He checked later and said he was glad he didn't follow it any farther, because it looked like it had been lying in wait for him just the other side of the stone wall next to the road (New Hampshire -- lots of stone walls everywhere).  We joked that his 'Indian' name was Bear Kicker.  He got electric fence around all of his hives after that (some at our house, some at his parents' place).  That pretty much stopped the bear depredations.

 
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Ela La Salle wrote:Cute cattle. Wish you all the best

Not that it matters much, but I like Belted Galloway.
If I could afford it,  I would absolutely love Highland cow as a pet.




Thanks!

I love both of those other two breeds as well. Someone has a small herd of the "panda bears" on the side of the hwy I see every day on the way to/from work.

The Virginia Safari Park had a large Highland Bull (sweet guy that belched in my son's face and made him laugh hysterically/almost vomit) and several young highland calves that were some cute little fluff balls begging for food. My wife started squealing and stomping her feet when she saw them. lol
 
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Kathleen Sanderson wrote:

I laughed at this, because my ex did the same thing when he found a bear in his beehives early one morning.  He was getting ready to go to work, and stepped out where he could see the hives to check on them.  There was a young black bear in them, had already knocked some of them over, and my ex ran down there roaring and kicked the bear in the butt really hard.  He said it popped up and looked at him in shock, ran off a few feet, stopped and looked at him, he roared at it again and made himself look bigger than it was, then it ran off into the woods across the road.  He checked later and said he was glad he didn't follow it any farther, because it looked like it had been lying in wait for him just the other side of the stone wall next to the road (New Hampshire -- lots of stone walls everywhere).  We joked that his 'Indian' name was Bear Kicker.  He got electric fence around all of his hives after that (some at our house, some at his parents' place).  That pretty much stopped the bear depredations.



I am glad I am not the only one then! lol

That is a good story! Thank you for sharing.

I keep almost missing your posts since they keep showing up inside of the quotes.

Even with a good pistol and immaculate accuracy... I would still feel severely out gunned by a bear. Those things are tanks. I remember hitting one with my truck @ 70mph on the Alaskan Hwy coming out of the Yukon down into northern British Columbia. I only clipped its butt, and my truck was damaged to the point to where I had to pry open my driver's door to get out. The thing still ran away. That being said, it was indeed be chased by an entire pack of wolves, which is why it was running full speed when I hit it that night.

I can almost guarantee the wolves pushed him out in front of me on purpose. Those things are uber smart.

I am glad the electric fence helped with the bees/bears for you! Hopefully it will here as well.
 
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We took delivery of the two girls today!

Lunar, our horse, stopped by and stuck his head in to say hello. Independence (the dark red one) cautiously approached…  then once they sniffed each other for a few seconds… out came the tongue.

Lunar then began a slow retreat. Lol

It was a very calm experience so far. We hooked up the halters and slowly walked them into the stall. Not a single foot has flown my way yet. Lots of petting that they seemed to be enjoying. They thought about eating cookies from my hand but only licked it.

When I left for the evening, they were already laying down together and chewing cud. Probably had a long day on that 8hr ride.

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Faye Streiff
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We have a predator problem here in SW North Carolina too. Mostly coyotes, but sometimes, howling is heard, which is not coyotes.  When my Dexter cow had her first calf, I was out checking everyone, dusk dark and getting darker quickly, as no full moon and a little cloudy.  I heard a howl of a wolf hybrid which  the state game agent swears we don’t have here.  Then three more, and as they howled I realized they were all headed straight for the calf, closing in, and howling to locate each other.  I rushed to get the just born calf into the high fenced area with 8 foot fencing.  Had to push and shove, but got it done, all the while mama cow was almost trampling me trying to get to her calf.  I locked the gate, securing them, when a blood curdling wolf howl erupted 15 feet from me.  My guardian dog, a Border Collie mix, jumped between me and danger, barking bravely, and with a ferocity and bravado I didn’t know he had in him.  I heard bushes rustling 10 feet away, as it was coming closer.  I had no weapon, not even a stick, and by now, so dark, it could barely see the shadow of my hand in front of my face.   I backed away as quickly as I could, stumbling in the dark and traversed the 300 or so yards to the house.  When I got to the gate at the courtyard by the house,  I waited for Bongo, my dog to catch up.  When he realized I was out of danger, he caught up quickly.   He was shaking so badly from fear, I let him stay in the house that night.  Everything outside was secure.  

Once the calf was two days old, they went back into the two acre pasture.  Never had another problem with predators with the cows.  But there are larger predators here.  My husband was a game warden and we once saw cougar tracks here, or judging from the size he said it might have been a panther, which is slightly larger than cougars.   People see them here now and then, even in the city limits,  but State Game states we don’t have them either.  
 
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Faye Streiff wrote:We have a predator problem here in SW North Carolina too. Mostly coyotes, but sometimes, howling is heard, which is not coyotes.  When my Dexter cow had her first calf, I was out checking everyone, dusk dark and getting darker quickly, as no full moon and a little cloudy.  I heard a howl of a wolf hybrid which  the state game agent swears we don’t have here.  Then three more, and as they howled I realized they were all headed straight for the calf, closing in, and howling to locate each other.  I rushed to get the just born calf into the high fenced area with 8 foot fencing.  Had to push and shove, but got it done, all the while mama cow was almost trampling me trying to get to her calf.  I locked the gate, securing them, when a blood curdling wolf howl erupted 15 feet from me.  My guardian dog, a Border Collie mix, jumped between me and danger, barking bravely, and with a ferocity and bravado I didn’t know he had in him.  I heard bushes rustling 10 feet away, as it was coming closer.  I had no weapon, not even a stick, and by now, so dark, it could barely see the shadow of my hand in front of my face.   I backed away as quickly as I could, stumbling in the dark and traversed the 300 or so yards to the house.  When I got to the gate at the courtyard by the house,  I waited for Bongo, my dog to catch up.  When he realized I was out of danger, he caught up quickly.   He was shaking so badly from fear, I let him stay in the house that night.  Everything outside was secure.  

Once the calf was two days old, they went back into the two acre pasture.  Never had another problem with predators with the cows.  But there are larger predators here.  My husband was a game warden and we once saw cougar tracks here, or judging from the size he said it might have been a panther, which is slightly larger than cougars.   People see them here now and then, even in the city limits,  but State Game states we don’t have them either.  



I remember hearing things like that a lot from the official gvt sources when I grew up in the N Georgia mountains surrounded by National Forest. There are the official populations of critters… then there is the real populations. I even stepped over a cotton mouth once that was curled up in a boggy area near a pasture. They were not supposed to be that far North… yet there is was…. And we did not report it either. Same went for gators in the lakes up there. They were extremely rare… but still existed.

My first thought when I saw the calves yesterday was… how small and easily taken down by predators they will be. There are no momma cows around yet to protect them. Good thing I have that high-powered fence!
 
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Marty Mitchell wrote:

Rachel Elijah wrote:

Marty, congratulations! We did the same thing as you, only we are using Devon cattle. We considered Dexter, but we were concerned about a mutation gene they were known for. But I DO know what you mean about hardy - we've done jersey and braunveigh- and our Devon are more healthy and do much better in our 6 acres then both the jersey and the braunveigh we had previous.
Our bull was a bottle calf, so we had him since he was a month old. We got our heifer when she was a yearling, so, not great to start with, but I've been working with her. If she's not great I can always just rely on her to be my breeder, and train her first heifer to be a easier keeper. Yes, we are working on growing winter grass, too. Hay has gotten more expensive, and my neighbor doesn't sell anymore. Bummer, but it'll work out!

Yes, premier one sells some nice electric fencing that you can use for rotational grazing when you get those grasses in. We've moved ours all over our property.

And the butchering isn't too bad, depending on the size.... If you've done sheep before (witch we started with sheep), you can get the hang of it. But cows have thicker hides, so a gun is necessary for slaughter over just using knives.
It took my husband some getting used too. Make sure you have a good hoist for the job! They can be heavy.
We invested in all this during the 2020 craziness when we thought the whole world was going to hell, and while many stores were out of meat and milk, we were just fine.
I made steaks, TONS of roasts, bone broth, butter, farm cheese, yogurt, cream cheese, ice cream, and as a bonus the raw milk dissolved my digestive problems that I normally have with milk! I truly believe the reason why many can't drink store bought milk is because of pasteurizing. All the digestive enzymes are burned from the process.
All our cows are naturally polled and red, as well.
My only issue at the moment is getting our heifer sired. I think they're trying, but I noticed her in heat this month. If something doesn't happen soon, we need to figure an ai situation. I want HIS genetics, though. We'll see!



Thank you for the congratulations!

Which mutation gene are you talking about? If it is PHA (lung) or Chondrodysplasia (Dwarfism) then you just have to find registered animals that have been tested not to carry the genetic disease.  If it is something else let me know... because this is the first I have heard of it. lol

Glad to hear others are working to get that Winter grass growing. I have lots of ideas in my head of things to do at different times... but it will definately be a lot of work. Still.... cheaper and easier than buying hay equipment and haying. Not easy work at all with square bales.

I actually spent the last several months getting my fences in order. I now have two large/sunny pastures surrounded with woven wire (pulled uber tight with the tractor) and concreted wooden posts... with double electric bands. Then a third 1AC sacrifice pasture up on the dry lot in the woods. Which is where the animals will be headed when the deep Winter muck arrives, and the pasture needs protection from the animals.

For Electric Power I used a Cyclops unit that Greg Judy recommends... and is WAY oversized for my needs. But should work well to also keep the bears off of my beehives (which are also tapping into that same system). It is also strong enough to burn through plants that grow onto the fence line.

Then I got several reels with high quality poly braid on them spooled up. So I can sub-divide the pastures as big or small as I need based on what the grass/weather/and animals dictate that year.

It sounds like you guys are much further down this road that we wish to be on. Not sure if I will ever have the time to try dairy products with them, however, it sure does sound nice!!!

I know that there are many pages of bulls to buy AI straws from on the Dexter page. I saw one guy that was selling 10 straws for $300. I bet your breed has something similar available. We decided to go that route instead of maintaining a bull that would be bored with 2 heifers... and I can keep more ladies this way or steer growing out. That being said, I looked at some of the AI kits, and I am NOT looking forward to doing that. lol

However, I am too much of a cheap bastard. So, I will learn to ID when they are in heat, do the procedure, and learn to check if it took later on.



I was referring to the dwarfism gene, but you seem to have done your research and are very aware of the breed. I bet they will do great for you!👍

Fences were one of the first things we got ready on our place because so much depended on the electric nature. Sure, we had solar panels, but having the electric is much better, AND a good fence is a great deterrent as a physical barrier to neighborhood dogs and coyotes.

When we brought our first cow to the stead, she was with my mother in law and we needed to move her before she gave birth.... What we didn't know was that she was already starting labor!

She, and our other livestock came in late that night, and my husband and I quickly built a little holding fence to keep them. The next morning out came the calf!
She was a Jersey and we had a great time building an outdoor stanchion and then one in the barn, and she was a great milker ... But we realized quickly that jerseys weren't hardy and very dependant on feed. Not what we were looking for.

We tried to remedy that with just one braunveigh, which are kin to the brown swiss... And she was bred with a belted Galloway, which we also considered because of their small size and good meat. And she was an easy calver. And her calf got nice and big quick! It was one we raised for meat. Around that time, we found some Devon breeders, and had really liked the breed and considered cross breeding with the braunveigh for meat and milk production. And we got a WONDERFUL deal on a bottle calf, so we brought it with the braunveigh. And the braunveigh gave such creamy milk. But... She didn't do that great on just 6 acres. At the time, we didn't have our grasses done, so there was a lot of hay involved, and our Johnson grass supplied the needs for the time... But we compared the Devon to the braunveigh, and... Yes, I understand she was a nursing mom, at the time, but our Devon did MUCH better on what we had, and we had the benefit of keeping it tame while it was a calf, and let's just say the braunveigh had a mind of her own.

So, we traded her in for another devon from the same breeder, who gave us a young one from different lines. They are about a month apart in age, and will give us a long life span with them. They are both beautiful, and hoping and praying they get busy soon and give us our first calf!
If not, we'd like to ai, I was just hoping to get HIS particular genetics, since he is so wonderful, gentle, and a2/a2. His dad was gentle too when we went to pick him up. If you can approach a full grown bull and it is sweet and leaves you alone, that's a good sign.

I am willing to get other Devon genetics, as and I suppose we could get it sexed so we know if it's a heifer or bull... But I'd like to know it can be done the old fashioned way, in case the business of ai goes south, and to know our bull CAN sire a dam.

But really happy for you, Marty, and looking forward to seeing your journey with your new little Dexter's!
 
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If I ever step up to beef Dexters are high on my list for breeds.

My neighbor recently sold off their Highland cows.  Had they kept them I was going to try to buy a pair of calves.  They're similar size to Dexters.
 
Marty Mitchell
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Update:

By the end of the day yesterday I had them eating out of my hands for the first time. Within a 24hr period! That is pretty good in my book. Especially since the seller had not gotten them to do that for her yet.

This morning they both took two more apple/oat cookies each from my hands again while I petted them.

Independance (the dark red one) is totally carefree around us, and Miriam is very cautious. Even my daughter was messing with the front feet of Independance. Independance loves to bring that tongue out and get it into everything.

My wife and the mother-in-law took them for a walk out in the pasture on lead rope today. Apparently, they were running in circles out there. lol

Spent another hour with them again this evening and Independance was totally wrapping her neck around my leg (hugs!) and leaning in for some good scratches. Miriam was starting to let me take a knee next to her while petting. She would back away after a minute or so.

They are both sweet baby calves.
 
Rachel Elijah
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Marty Mitchell wrote:Update:

By the end of the day yesterday I had them eating out of my hands for the first time. Within a 24hr period! That is pretty good in my book. Especially since the seller had not gotten them to do that for her yet.

This morning they both took two more apple/oat cookies each from my hands again while I petted them.

Independance (the dark red one) is totally carefree around us, and Miriam is very cautious. Even my daughter was messing with the front feet of Independance. Independance loves to bring that tongue out and get it into everything.

My wife and the mother-in-law took them for a walk out in the pasture on lead rope today. Apparently, they were running in circles out there. lol

Spent another hour with them again this evening and Independance was totally wrapping her neck around my leg (hugs!) and leaning in for some good scratches. Miriam was starting to let me take a knee next to her while petting. She would back away after a minute or so.

They are both sweet baby calves.



Sounds like you are off to a good start! Now, the sooner halter broke they become, the easier they will be to keep in the future. And, if you ever have to sell, they will be easier to do that, too. It makes a world of a difference to someone if they can buy an animal that is halter broke and is used to people.
 
Marty Mitchell
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Rachel Elijah wrote:

Sounds like you are off to a good start! Now, the sooner halter broke they become, the easier they will be to keep in the future. And, if you ever have to sell, they will be easier to do that, too. It makes a world of a difference to someone if they can buy an animal that is halter broke and is used to people.



I hope so! Thank you.
 
Marty Mitchell
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1 Week Update:

It is always dark when I get home from work this time of year. I have just been petting them and giving them treats all week. Worked with the horse all day yesterday. Then worked with the calves all day today.

Today they got walked out to the horse round pen for their first venture to really hang out for a while and formally meet Lunar our horse. There was lots of bucking/kicking, leaping, dirt flinging (and licking), and head butting of the orange cones going on in there. They seemed so glad to be outside finally.

We left them out there for several hours while I set up a mini pasture with an electric poly-rope fence w/step-in post. Goal here was to both train their bellies to handle green grass and train them to electric fences.

We let them stay for 30mins only. It was enough time for lots of consumption of that green stuff they seemed to really love and to get zapped several times each. It is amazing how little they reacted to electric fence compared to the dog and horse. I was messing with/petting them the whole time and giving extra treats to make it an amazing experience for them.

We got the lead ropes back on surprisingly easily and had a very long/reluctant walk back to the barn stall. They did not want to leave. 😆

Instead of pulling on them today for our walk, we started to make it more pleasant for them. Getting them started with cookie treats and rewarding them along the way. Holding the lines tight when they pulled but slack when they move the direction we were headed in. It seemed to be working.

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Marty Mitchell
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Update:

This will probably be the last update for a very long while.

The girls are now trained to electric polyrope. They are wonderful at gently clipping the grass compared to the horses.

Getting a first vet inspection next week. This is mainly to establish a relationship with the vet so that they will see us as customers and will be faster to respond if we ever need them quickly.

I studied up on cattle diseases to see what vaccinations I should consider getting. Then made contact with/held some surprisingly long conversations with some local Dexter owners. I should say, I made a post on a local FB homesteading page, and they reached out to me!

Anyways, once I realized I would be getting a vet visit, I hit them up with a TON of questions. Now I know that neither of them has EVER gotten any sort of vaccinations for their cows. Also, I went back and reached out to the lady from SC that I got the girls from to ask what vaccines she recommends. She also said she has never gotten any sort of vaccines unless absolutely necessary... which is never so far. Awesome!

The two locals also let me know something very important. Our area has no Selenium in our soils. Apparently, it can lead to poor fertility, miscarriages, and some muscle disease called white muscle or something like that. So, I shall be looking up how much they need in their diet... then looking at the mineral supplement to see if the right amount is in there. Both of the locals said they just keep a selenium licking brick out in the pasture. That is all they have needed, and they have had no issues.

Both girls are getting much much easier to walk on halter. Bellies are big. Both run up to the gate in their stall to greet me and sniff me to see if I have treats. They have been spending large chunks of the day eating top notch grass.

The dark red one... said moo twice today for the first time! It was a very quiet one and when she saw me.

I think it was because we just got a new horse today and he was screaming all the way up the property... and Lunar our other horse was screaming/calling back. So, the calves wanted in on the action. lol

 
Marty Mitchell
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Update 16 June 2023:

Ginger turned 1yr at the end of April and Rose (the dark red one) will be 1yr old on July 4th... in a few weeks.

We got them going good on pasture

We did have to do some shuffling every day at times until we got the hang of managing them. We have large swaths of pasture with yummy clover that they were happily feasting on and then getting bloated a little after 8hrs. So we kept pulling them off for the night. After a few weeks we figured out that if we threw a chunk of hay out there... that they would quickly learn to self-regulate their guts by eating the hay. Spring squirts never got really bad... but both bloat and runny poo went away entirely after we gave them the option. Just a flake a day was all that was needed.

Both girls did a decent job of shedding their Winter coat

This was a big one for me as it is important for their health by helping them to deal with heat and flies. It looks as though both of them have decent summer slick coats forming. Ginger's hair is much shorter in general, and she shed her winter coat far sooner than Rose even though she was drastically smaller in size and should have been colder. Ginger adapted to the grass almost immediately though... and her nutrition uptake was likely higher due to that and it helped grow new hair. Which, is why she is quickly catching up to her friend Rose. I suspect this is because Ginger's mother died when she was only 2mo old and she had started eating grass only way sooner than Rose... and thus had a better gut ecosystem.

Anyways, Both are starting to shine up and put on fat rinkles! Looking good.
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Marty Mitchell
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Update #2 for 16 June 23’:

We decided to go the AI route for our Dexter cattle. We chose this path for several very good reasons.

As with all things, it depends on what is best based on your particular situation. If we had more cows and more land... a bull would be way easier and better probably.

Our situation is that we only have two 1yr old heifer calves at the moment and will only eventually end up with a few more (if even/maybe) and a steer or two growing out. Land is incredibly expensive in our area too.

1. Since land is so expensive in our area, getting an actual bull would cost us an insane amount for the land to hold him. (About $20k to $100K an acre here depending on if it is cleared or flood zone)

2. The bull his self would be a fair amount of money. Especially if he is an actual great bull. Those guys are EXPENSIVE.

3. Then you have to pay to feed said bull during the parts of the year the grass isn't growing.

4. You are supposed to keep the bull separate from the herd most of the year in order to protect the young heifers from getting bred too soon... and to keep the bull from breeding with its offspring. This would require more infrastructure, hassle (potentially ciaos since he would be close enough to smell them in heat on my smaller place), and most likely year-round feeding of hay since I would have to leave him on the 1AC dry/sacrifice lot. Then there comes the cleaning of said confined space and dealing with all of that fertilizer that he was not able to spread on his own.

5. Which leads into the next problem. You have to rotate your bull out from time to time with a new bull to gain more genetics or replace him with a guy that can still perform (not that an old bull would not be able to keep up with just a few cows here).

Bonus for going the AI route is not having to pay for and deal with any of the items above AND I can buy straws from top bulls from around the country in order to walk the genetics of my herd any direction I choose. I can buy a batch of straws and hang onto them for the rest of my life if I desire (and don't let the tank run dry of liquid nitrogen). Straws from amazing Dexter bulls usually are in the $55 to $65 range.

Anyways, in my particular area, there are a lot of bovine vets that will do AI but do not have the storage tanks or equipment anymore to do said AI. So, I did my research and found several places that will fill my tank for me every 15 to 20 weeks.

Then I just made the purchase online this morning. I bought the tank, goblets for holding straws/measureing stick/etc, and all of the straw thawing equipt/long gloves/straw injector/etc. Everything... for $1280 shipped. Add in $55ea for 10 straws Each from my favorite two bulls (which could last half a decade or so) and the cost will be another $1,100. So for $2,280 (plus nitrogen), I will essentially have two bulls on the ultra-cheap. I can store up to 660 straws in that tank. So, I can store straws for others... and charge a fee.

Now, when it gets here, I will get it filled and make sure everything works properly and then get some straws on order. I can't wait to get the freezer filled by the year 2027 or so!!! lol

My neighbor 3 doors down is a Bovine vet. He said he can do the AI for us... and teach me how for if I wish to be able to do it for almost free in the future. He said he can just do the shot for me to get them in heat at the same time/3 days after the shot.

Here is the link to the tank I ordered. It has the best valve according to the AI straw seller I was talking to.

https://sementanks.com/products/xc-20-signature-tank-w-measuring-stick-inventory-packet-the-original-tank-top-cane-keeper-free-shipping
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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I have a 4 month old Jersey heifer; when it comes time to breed her in about a year, I will probably go AI, and want to use a Dexter bull of the same description as the ones you are looking at.  (Sexed semen would be a plus, but not sure it's worth the extra cost.)
 
Marty Mitchell
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Kathleen Sanderson wrote:I have a 4 month old Jersey heifer; when it comes time to breed her in about a year, I will probably go AI, and want to use a Dexter bull of the same description as the ones you are looking at.  (Sexed semen would be a plus, but not sure it's worth the extra cost.)



My mother-in-law got excited when she found out that you could buy sexed straws.  

Here is a link to the AI Dexter bulls. I saw at least one sexed straws bull in there.

The other bulls I am looking at are there as well for when the time comes.

I bet that a Jersey/Dexter cross would be a good one… and have amazing meat too if ever wanted.

https://dextercattle.org/ai-dexter-bulls/


 
Rachel Elijah
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I totally understand about the ai!

We considered that route three years ago when we had dairy cows, but the ai we did didn't take, and then we moved away from our well priced ai guy.

We went with a different breed, and our wonderful Creator gave us an opportunity to buy a incredibly sought after genetically bull calf that would need bottle feeding for cheap. He would've died if we didn't take him.

So, when he was about a year, we got him a mate his age, and after a whole lot of wait time (he was shy), he finally managed to breed her! We will have our first calf from this pair in Feb.

I prefer ai, and if he didn't do the job, we would've done it- but he met our expectations, and we will have an excellent calf, whether it's a bull or heifer on our hands.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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I know someone who bred her Dexter bull to a Jersey and got a really nice little milk cow out of it (hers turned out brindle -- sort of tiger-striped -- which was really cool).  But I am concerned about AI taking.  If we can't get it to work, we have neighbors with Angus bulls, but I'd really like to have a Dexter/Jersey cross.
 
Marty Mitchell
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Kathleen Sanderson wrote:I know someone who bred her Dexter bull to a Jersey and got a really nice little milk cow out of it (hers turned out brindle -- sort of tiger-striped -- which was really cool).  But I am concerned about AI taking.  If we can't get it to work, we have neighbors with Angus bulls, but I'd really like to have a Dexter/Jersey cross.



I am not concerned with it taking at all to be honest. I read today that the take rate is 65% on average. However, I don't know if that is with the "Set-Timed Intervals" method or with the method of giving them a shot to make them go into heat.

Either way, @ $55 a straw (for the good stuff) + $45 a vet visit + whatever the vet charges for the shot + the follow up visit to verify that it took... it is not free for sure.

Just 10x cheaper for me than a bull. (Probably closer to 100x PLUS a better quality of genetics).

Add in a drastic increase in the quality of genetics for my animals... that I can steer in any direction I want at any time I want... then it makes risking having to wait another month for calving from said cow worth it. I live in an area with a long growing season though, So I not racing against the clock or anything either.
 
Right! We're on it! Let's get to work tiny ad!
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