We are only a few weeks away for our cows joining our farm and I thought this would be the perfect time to share more about why we chose to raise Dexter cattle. We knew that our dream farm had to have cows but choosing the right breed of cow was important. The first questions we had to answer was what did we want from our cows. We both love all things dairy so of course we wanted a good milk cow. The other things we wanted were good quality meat and a good temperament. So basically we want a friendly, dual purpose family cow.
If I asked a homesteader which cow fit that description majority would say the Jersey breed. Now this is a phenomenal breed, very common on homesteads, and they produce high quality and quantities of milk. Up to 6 gallons/day! If we had a larger family... maybe. For just Jordan and I that's too much. So we kept searching and stumbled across a farm with Dexter cattle. We did some research on this breed and I fell in love, well we both did.
Dexter cattle originated in Ireland in the 1800's and were imported here around 1910-1915. Dexter's are most recognized for their size, with the average cow weighing between 800-1000 lbs. For comparison sake the average Angus cow weighs closer to 1300 lbs. Within this breed there are two types, chondro and non-chondro. Chondro is a genetic trait for dwarfism in cattle. This can be desirable because of the cows smaller size but it also comes with risks, such as birthing difficulty. We will actually have one of each on our farm. Madeline is a chondro dexter and Trexy is non-chondro, once they are on our farm it will be easier to show comparison pictures.
The other great thing about Dexter cows is their milk production. They produce about 1.5-2 gallons of milk per day. Their milk is found to be high in butterfat, which makes it perfect for cheeses and butter. We also didn't want to be drowning in milk so having a lower volume is ideal for our farm. I do realize that my opinion on this may change once we actually have our girls on the farm, but I would rather have less to start.
Let's talk about good quality meat. Most people if you mention beef primarily think of Agnus. We have found that Dexter cattle produce a very high quality beef. They are known for great tasting, lean beef with good marbling. They also have one of the highest carcass percentages, close to 60%, which basically means we get a better meat to waste ratio than other breeds.
Since we are so new to cattle and we will likely have our younger nieces and nephews out to the farm we wanted a breed that would be safe for everyone. Once again we found this trait to be very common among Dexter cows. I have been around several breeds of cattle but Dexter's have been the most fun. Well, aside from Highlands but that was out of the question for our farm. It only took about 2 or 3 visits with Madeline before she felt comfortable with me walking up to her and hugging her. Because yes I will hug my cows.
I know that Dexter's are not going to be right for every farm and honestly I am not the expert on cow-farm pairing but I have learned so much about Dexters and other breeds that at the very least I could recommend a starting place. Every farm will have different needs and before you make the decision to buy a cow, do a little research and ask a farmer who owns that breed for their input/advice. If you don't have a local farmer there are plenty online who would love to share their experiences with you.
If you are looking to start a farm I would recommend that you check out my post: How to Choose the Right Animals for Your Farm. Here I shared our process, research topics, and I even included a FREE worksheet to help you start your journey off right. As always please feel free to reach out if you have any questions related to farm, life, or anything really.
Our sweet farm pup hasn't brought much home this week, at least nothing that he wanted to show me. He did find a chicken nugget and a good sun bathing spot.
How can I pray for you this week?
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