The Dexter Advantage

Our Background:

Before we bought our Dexters we did some research on various cattle breeds including some miniature breeds.  Our biggest limitation was our property capacity.  We have 35acres, with only about 20acres of “grazable” land.  Even with rotational grazing we are very limited in the number of head we can efficiently raise.  Originally we were attracted to some colorful dwarf breeds and miniature cross breeds, but as we started to plan our future marketing we decided to stick with registered Dexters.  We found that Dexters were not only more affordable, but easier to sell.  Their natural docile temperament really sets them apart from miniature cattle and makes them perfect for the small rancher.  Plus they're Irish, what more could you ask for? Listed below are some additional advantages we have discovered in the Dexter breed.

Dexter Advantages:

1)  Hardiness: Originating from Southern Ireland where they were exposed to the elements in often shelter less pastures.  Dexters thrive in hot and cold climates.  They handle SD winters quite easily with good quality hay- no grain necessary.

2)  Size: Dexters typically weigh in at about half the size of standard European breeds, with their height being 1/2 to 2/3 that of the standard breeds.  According to the 2007 ADCA AGM Classification Committee, Dexter bulls have a hip height range between 36-50", with an ideal "preferred" range for mature 3+ yr old bulls at 40-44".  Dexter cows range between 34-46", with an ideal "preferred" range for mature 3+ yr old cows at 38-42".  Bulls weigh less than 1000 pounds, and cows weigh less than 750 pounds.  Dexters have always maintained their small stature and have never been "miniaturized" like other breeds. 

3)  More Efficient: Due to their size, Dexters cost less to get to the table, by producing more beef/acre of grass than standard breeds.  This also makes it possible to raise more head on less land.  They very economically turn forage into rich milk and quality lean meat. 

4)  Tri-Purpose: 

a.      Milk:  Dexter's daily yield averages 1 to 3 gallons per day (perfect for a growing family) with a butterfat content of 4 to 5 percent.  Yields of cream up to one quart per gallon are possible.  We skim the cream for butter, ice cream, or tasty alfredo sauce.  Due to their yields, it is possible to leave the calf on a high producing cow and just take what you need.  This makes it easier to get away on vacation- the calf takes care of your milking chores.  We tested a sample of our cow's milk, and received the following results (3/2013): 4.59 Butterfat; 4.19 Protein; and a 28,000 SCC- we were surprised and very pleased with the results! 

b.      Beef:  Beef animals mature in 24 months on grass and result in nice size cuts of high quality lean meat, graded choice, with little waste.  The expected average dress-out is 55-60% and the beef is slightly darker red than that of other breeds.  In a tasting test that compared 10 different breeds in 2008 (8 heritage breeds & 2 widely available breeds-Angus & Shorthorn), Dexters took 3rd place ahead of Angus and Shorthorn.

c.      Oxen:  Although their size is not typical for the “average ox”, their gentle nature, intelligence, and trainability make them ideal for oxen.  Their appeal at parades and town events may help draw more people to the breed.

5)  Genetic variation:  Dexters are extremely unique, in that they are one of the only cattle breeds that recognize three different colors: black, red, and dun.  A polled gene exists in the breed, which is dominant as with other breeds.  In addition, there is also a “short-leg” variety that results from the carrier state of Chondrodysplasia.  This "variety" has been contraversal due to it's promotion of a lethal gene when a fetus is homozygous for Chondrodysplasia.  Thus, there are some breeding limitations with Chondrodysplasia (more info on the ADCA site- or send me an e-mail for more details).  The ADCA has a large selection of AI Sires to choose from to expand the genetic variation in your herd.  Also, with the various genetic testing capabilities we have, we can verify parentage, determine if a calf is homozygous polled, check for carried colors, test for A2 beta-casein milk, and identify genetic defects such as Chondro & PHA.   

6)  Reproduction:  Dexters are very fertile, having little difficulty breeding back.  They are also extremely easy "calvers", making it difficult to actually witness a calving (they’re fast).

7)  Growing Popularity:  Raising and selling Dexters is still a bit of a niche market, but in recent years there has been a worldwide surge of interest in Dexter cattle.  Its exciting to be part of the preservation of this wonderful breed of cattle.

8)  Great Registry:  The ADCA is a great resource for anyone who is interested in Dexters.  There is a list of all members by state, so finding a breeder near you is pretty easy.  The online pedigree is also a great resource for researching various bloodlines and displaying your cattle with pictures and genetic information. 

9)  Affordable:  When compared to standard sized breeds they cost more per pound, but this can be attributed to the fact that as far as numbers go, Dexters are still a bit rare and "the Dexter advantages" may come with a bit of a price tag. When compared to other cattle breeds their size (miniature breeds), Dexters are usually at least half price, making them the most affordable small-sized bovine on the market.