Today's Quote

“If people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.” Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Dexter Cattle for the Homestead

As many of you know, we simply were having a hard time deciding between a cow or a goat. For right now we have decided on goats. However, we have not totally ruled out a cow and when the time is right we have decided which breed will be right for us. For the small homestead farm I don't see how you could beat the Dexter Cow. Originally from Ireland these are triple purpose animals. They produce high quality milk in the 4 -6% milk fat range. That is right up there with Jersey's. They also produce good quality meat and body percentage produce more than most beef breeds. A typical beef cow will give 50% of its body weight in meat while a Dexter gives 60%. They are also good to use as oxen. Triple use for one price, you can't beat that. Now the real advantage to the homesteader with these cows is their size. They are small with the cows ranging from 36" to 42" in height. They eat about one third of what their full sized counterparts do, making them much more economical for the homesteader producing some or most of their own feed. Even those who buy feed will get off much cheaper. They have an easy going temperament and are easy for children to handle. While a cow is not in our immediate future I do see Dexters as part of our homestead life at some point. They definitely are the cattle of the future small homestead. For more information on this wonderful breed or to find a breeder near you check out the American Dexter Cattle Association.


Holly said...

I've been hearing a lot about these cows lately. They sure are expensive, though!
We have a mixture of beef cows-hereford, black angus, red angus & mixtures of these breeds. We've also been blessed w/ a dairy farmer friend who has given us bull calves that he would otherwise send to auction or shoot. So, we've raised holstein bull calves (turned them into steers) for meat and now we've got a couple of jersey bull calves to raise.
I read in a pasture farming book that a good alternative to dexter cows (for saving money) is to breed herefords w/ jersey bulls for a smaller, but meaty cow that could be milked or be for meat. He also mentioned angus/guernsey crosses with the same results-a smaller cow that eats less, but is still dual/triple purpose. Holly

Kat said...

Hi Holly. That is funny that you mention the Hereford/Jersey cross.My Grandaddy was originally a dairy farmer with Jerseys. But the larger commercial dairies put him out of the dairy business, so he bought a Hereford bull. He then line bred his herd until he had a 99% Hereford that produced milk like a Jersey. The only issue I have with this for many homesteaders today is the feed consumption. Even though they are smaller than the traditional beef breed they still require much more feed and have a higher feed cost. People who have made the switch to dexters from the other breeds have reported a 60% drop in their feed cost. It also allows you to grow more feed on smaller acreage which most homesteads are now. So while I love the larger breeds and will always have a fondness for herefords, I see the practicality of the dexter and other small cattle breeds for the modern homesteader that only has a couple of acres of land versus the larger spreads of the past. Thanks for the info and looks like ya'll are dong a great job.