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Beef type dexter cattle

 
Posts: 40
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Is anyone here raising beef type dexters? I know dexters are a dual purpose breed. Some are selected for beef production and others are selected more for milk production. I'm Looking for folks to talk to that breed for the beef type. Thanks.
 
steward
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Yes, we have 7 at present.  We started with a three year old cow, a heifer and a yearling bull, now Zola has had her baby, also a heifer.  Later we purchased three steers of varying ages from a man who was getting out of the beef business, we plan to harvest the eldest this fall.
The breeding stock are all polled and from a place that has been selecting primarily for temperament for over 10 years.  The cow and older heifer are tested to be A2/A2, but I think the primary consideration has been beef, not dairy.  
 
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I don't have them here but I have wanted them for years, just not brave enough to change over from Angus with a guaranteed marketing! Dexter (and lowline angus) are far superior to the bigger breeds on harder sites. They produce more meat per area, but in much smaller cuts. They have far less environmental footprint, in that they are a lot lighter and less likely to damage soil. And Dexters taste REALLY good!  I know a guy who sells organic dexter meat at local market and his customers will not eat anything else! Top it all off, the ones I have seen have all had great friendly natures, and they appear to be just great to work with. Downside is they are small and if you are raising them to sell the cuts need to go into specialised markets, and the way the market is structured here the processing charges are disproportionately high as they are based on animal numbers, not size. It might be different in your area. If I had cattle purely for my own use I would farm only Dexter or Lowline or a cross.  Because I sell cattle and don't want to market them myself I would take a financial hit by changing over, which at the moment is an important consideration.  
 
Julia Winter
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Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
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bee bike chicken food preservation hugelkultur urban
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Here's the little breeding herd: Zola and Cleo are keeping an eye on our dog Tilly, keeping Daisy behind.
Dexters4.jpg
[Thumbnail for Dexters4.jpg]
 
Julia Winter
steward
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bee bike chicken food preservation hugelkultur urban
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And here's a photo of Zola looking for attention.  She was 3 when we got her, but now she is 4!
IMG_3969.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_3969.jpg]
 
pollinator
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Location: northwest Missouri, USA
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I can't speak for other parts of the world, or even other parts of the country other than the central Midwest. However, it's my observation that Dexter cows are growing in popularity. This isn't specific to the OP's question, but in Missouri, where the Dexter association is located, there are shows that are now including a Dexter class. What does this have to do with beef, or dairy, for the matter? Well, Dexters are getting exposed to more and more cattlemen with positive impact. Will they be the breed to replace Angus or Hereford for large-scale operations? I can't imagine that. But, for smaller operators who are wanting to diversify their income streams and direct market beef, it's an ideal breed. High yield per carcass, very efficient forage to meat ratio. They are good foragers and reportedly less picky about forage. Smart direct marketers are often touting the smaller cuts to health-conscious consumers. I can attest to the superior flavor. One of our local feed store owners claims it is the best beef she's ever eaten. Of course flavor is dependent on a lot of factors, but she's not the first person I've heard make that remark.

For home or on-farm slaughter, Dexters are gonna be hard to beat for a host of reasons, including ease of handling, docility, size of animal. If you're raising for your own kitchen, then the associations and genetics will much less important. But, I've provided the following links to several of the Dexter associations for further learning. Warning: Dexter breeders are passionate people and will argue with each other at the drop of a genetics report.

American Dexter Cattle Association
http://www.dextercattle.org/

Purebred Dexter Cattle Association of North America
https://www.dexterstoday.com/

Missouri Dexter Breeders Association
http://www.missouridexter.com/index.html


 
Ron Metz
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Thanks for the replies. Julia, where are you located? Im in the panhandle of Texas. I've been seriously looking at doing pastured pigs for the last 9 months. However, we are in a serious drought. We've had a total of 2.2 inches of rain since last September. Because of this I am shying away from the idea of raising pastured pigs. Number one because all pigs root, some breeds worse than others. Our native grasses are very fragile. When we have little rainfall they go dormant. I'm afraid the pigs will eventually destroy the grass by rooting. Secondly, pigs seem to have more expensive nutritional requirements than say a breed of cattle like the Dexter. My ultimate goal is to manage the grass on our place to grow some kind of livestock in a mutually beneficial situation. I never thought about putting cattle on our place because the stocking rate for the typical cattle breeds where I live is one cow/calf unit per 15 acres. In a drought year that per acre number would go up considerably. Then I found some info on Dexter cattle and it looks like it may be a good fit for our climate, grass and the acreage we have available. Right now I have about 50 acres of grass available. The whole farm is 286 acres, but about 100 acres is in the CRP program and another 130 is irrigated crop land currently in cotton. We are seriously thinking about converting the crop land back to pasture since each year the available irrigation water from the Ogallala aquifer is getting less and less. Again Dexters appear to be a good fit for our situation. I'm aware the dexters don't fit the commercial cattle market mold. My ultimate goal is to sell grass fed beef, so I'm not looking to market my animals through the usual commercial cattle outlets. Speaking of beef, what does Dexter beef look like? Is it well marbled? Again, I would like to see and try some cuts of Dexter beef but don't know of any breeders in the Texas panhandle. Does anyone know of any breeders in my area? I would like to go look at some Dexters. Thanks for all your help.
 
Ron Metz
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Dan, thanks for the links. So why are there two Dexter cattle breed associations? I was under the impression dexters are a heritage breed with relatively low numbers of animals. Another question, we have a healthy coyote population. Do Dexter cows have strong maternal instincts? Will individual cows or the herd work together to protect the calves from coyotes?
 
Julia Winter
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Ron, we are near Portland, Oregon, so much wetter than where you are!   I think Dexters may be an excellent fit for your land, because you can start small, and as your numbers increase ideally your soil will improve and thus be able to feed more animals.  

As for maternal instinct, we have coyotes and cougar, but Daisy has been fine.  (There is a mostly Maremma LGD on site.) You can see the protective instinct at work with regards to our Beauceron in the first photo above.  Often if Tilly is too near the group, the calf ends up in the middle of a triangle - Max joins in as well.
 
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Tilly the dog is glad Zola is polled ... The heifer and the cow really don't like having this herding dog around, and frequently chase the (clueless) dog away.  Today the dog made a miscalculation and ended up under Zola's head and she was serious about trying to gore the dog.  We got them separated, but had horns been involved it would have been ugly!  Still not clear if dog has a clue...

The herd we bought from has cougar nearby, and they've had no losses (without LGDs), and our neighbor has a small herd of Dexters AND a resident cougar.  The neighbor has suffered some small livestock loss (sheep) but no cattle losses.  Both owners report the cows herd up and charge to challenge a predator.  Not sure if that's different from other cattle breeds, but in any case these small(er) cows can be feisty when necessary.

I've got a polled herd ... you might find a horned herd worthwhile.  : )

My research showed that you can probably increase capacity by 50% with Dexters... our area (with, ahem, 50" of rain) is rated at closer to an acre for a cow-calf, but it really seems that two pairs per acre (with some decent grass management) would be fine.  Remember that a Dexter cow is 800-900 lbs, while a full Angus is 1200 lbs.  I saw one herd with a Charolais cow that completely dwarfed the Dexter bull.

Oddly enough, the cow didn't tightly bond with the calf for about two days (and she's had two others).  They broke out of their paddock and lost the calf.  But seeing me carrying the calf seemed to spur an instinct in the cow and they've been fine since.  I'll need to make sure the new mothers have a good 2 days together.
 
Ron Metz
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I have another question. Not all bull calves are breeding quality. What do those non breeding quality bull calves usually sell for?
 
Ron Metz
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Eliot, good to know Dexter cattle have some predator protection instinct as individuals and as a herd. I recently heard of a situation near me where an angus cross gave birth to twins. A group of coyotes attacked the mother and newborn twins. The cow evidently spent the night fending off the coyotes. The next morning the rancher found her dead. Apparently she died from exhaustion protecting her twin calves. Would have been nice if she had some help from the rest of the herd.
 
Eliot Mason
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Ron:

Its possible to get young steers for $400.  And yes, a breeding quality bull is easily 5x that!  

An interesting aspect of Dexters is that they are most commonly in small herds, somewhere between hobbies and pets.  This is of course because they are small and easy to handle and appeal to small operations ( I have not yet seen a need for a classic "cattle yard" with chutes, etc - so equipment costs are low).  The benefit for you is there are likely to be people selling an entire herd at a discount as they retire, change breeds or ... something.  These herds may not be exactly what you want, but they're a good learning experience.  My herd consists of three steers from a downsizing operation, and then a breeding herd that is far more selective.

 
Dan Grubbs
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Ron Metz wrote:Dan, thanks for the links. So why are there two Dexter cattle breed associations? I was under the impression dexters are a heritage breed with relatively low numbers of animals. Another question, we have a healthy coyote population. Do Dexter cows have strong maternal instincts? Will individual cows or the herd work together to protect the calves from coyotes?



Hi Ron,

I'm only guessing here, but one association is for the U.S. only and the other association is for all of North America (Canada, U.S., Mexico).

Regarding the question about being heritage breed, Dexters are included in the Livestock Conservancy list of heritage breeds in the "recovering" category. Here's their list of heritage cattle.

According to the Canadian Dexter association: "Dexter cows have good herding instincts and are very protective of their calves against predators; the whole herd will come to the aid of a cow and her calf. Cows will not intrude when a cow is calving and are very watchful at a distance, while the cow has her calf with great ease and the calf quickly get on its’ feet to nurse." I would guess this is going to be variable by degree on a case-by-case basis with many factors impacting what will actually happen in each case.

Having written that, I would have a LGD with the herd anyway.

Hope that was helpful.
 
pollinator
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Location: Missouri Ozarks
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In my estimation, despite being "dual purpose" most Dexters you find will be of a beef type.  How many people even keep a family milk cow anymore?  And how many of those keep something other than a Jersey, Holstein, or Swiss?  Dexter dairy genetics are pretty few and far between.

Here in Southern Missouri, at least, it seems that everyone and their uncle raises Dexters.  They aren't as numerous as traditional beef breeds and their crosses, of course, but they're far from rare.  Don't make the mistake of automatically equating "heritage breed" with "rare."

As for traits, it all depends.  On the whole, Dexters are quite maternal, but there is also a certain amount of individual variation.  I've got one cow that's about as maternal as is possible, I think, and others that are less so.  I've never had one that I'd consider in any way inattentive.  As for how that works with your coyote population, that probably has as much to do with the coyotes as the cows.

Marbling of meat is partially breed-dependent, but probably more management-dependent.  You can take a steer with great genetic potential and graze it on poor, coarse forage, and it may not marble a dime, or take a steer whose genetic potential is moderate at best but graze him well and get beautiful beef.  And there is individual variation here, too.
 
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