cattle are a miniature cattle breed
small farms and homesteads.
We have information here on
Dexter cows for both meat and milk and what to feed them.
Originating from Ireland more than a
century ago, they are dual purpose cattle, raised for both milk and
meat, and because of their size, are the ideal house cow for hobby
are also very good cattle to keep in areas that are prone to drought.
Not only do they eat less than conventional breeds, but if they get
less food, they just give less milk if they are being kept as milking
Dexter Cattle: Size, Color and Temperament
Dexter cows are black in color,
although a dark red or dun cow can occur from time to time. Standing at
about 1 meter to the shoulder, an adult cow weighs in at 300 kilo
mature bull can stand as high as 1.2 meters and can weigh more than 450
However, they are still considerably smaller than your conventional
The horns of the bulls usually extend
directly out to each side, making a curve forward and upward, with a
considerable space between the two horns. The color of the horns being
usually white with black tips.
cattle temperaments vary from
some being very docile to others being rather quick tempered.
have been constantly handled by their breeders before purchase, they
are usually the docile ones and easy to handle. They are excellent
mothers and calve easily. They also make very good surrogate mothers
and will often look after 4 or more calves at a time.
are better at foraging for their food, live long, produce well and rear
about 10 calves during their lifetime. Because they are small cattle,
you can stock more cattle per acre than you would with conventional
Dexter will often calve until they are
18 or even 20 years old. 17-18
years, however, is the average lifespan of a dexter.
Dexter Cattle: Dexters for Milk
The beauty of owning
Dexter cows is
that despite their small size, their milk output matches those of
full-sized cows. They can yield up to 20 liters of milk a day, although
10 liters is considered average. Butterfat levels average 4-5% with
yields of cream up to 1 liters in 5; ideal for making
addition, a dexter is two-thirds the size of other cattle breeds,
and needs proportionately less food, so they are economical
milking cows to keep.
Dexter cattle are easy to keep as they
live on grass or hay when grass is scarce. Occasionally, they can be
given a little grain or concentrate pellets at milking time as in
incentive, especially if you are asking them to feed a calf as well.
are herd animals, and therefore, if you are going to keep cattle it is
better to keep one or two others. They need plenty of water to keep up
their milk production and it should be clean at all times.
your dexter cattle are hardy animals that could be milked outside if
you wanted to, they do need shelter from extreme weather either in an
open shed or byre.
The best milkers are given good pasture to feed on and this is very
evident if they are allowed to feed on good herbal
ley pasture grass
. Having several of these for them
to have access is good for worm control.
the pasture is rich, however, you will have to reduce the time your
Dexters graze as they could put on more weight than you would like. If
they do become fat they will produce less milk and could also have
trouble calving. A good practice is to reduce their time on rich
pasture to just 6 hours a day. After that they can be put into a corral
and fed hay.
One disadvantage of Dexter milking cows is that they can have small
teats which make it difficult if you are going to milk
your cows by hand
However, milking machines will stay on smaller teats, and where larger
teats can get scratched and bruised this won't be the case with your
. Investing in an electric milking machine
may well prove to be a good investment if you have several Dexter cows
Dexter Cattle: Dexters for Meat
are good beef animals,
producing good quality cuts. The meat is lean and the meat to bone
ratio is excellent. Another advantage is that the smaller joints make
home-freezing much easier.
A 3 year old steer would reach a
killing out weight of 460 kg. However, for intensive farming, which we
don't support, this could be achieved in 12 months. They would reach
180 kg within 14 months which would be an acceptable weight for
With grass-fed animals the meat is
tender and lean. With grain feeding it is finely marbled
in the prime
cuts and a lighter color. However, we do not support the feeding of
cattle grain as this is an unnatural food for them.
Dexter Cattle: Feeding and Housing Dexters
Being much smaller than conventional
cows they don't need as much space for pasture. A half acre of good
green grass per animal, or 12 to 15 pounds of hay and a
each day is enough in temperate climates. They are good foragers and
eat the same things as goats, and will even survive on rough pasture.
However they will need good fencing, sheep fencing is good enough for
Dexters. They will also need a constant supply of clean water and
shelter from inclement weather. However, they are also able to live in
the open in all types of weather, and TB and other diseases due to
close housing are uncommon.
in all, Dexter cattle are excellent for homesteading and mini-farms.
They have few faults, are good with children, make excellent
and have good maternal instincts. They milk is high in butterfat and
protein, and good converters of food into either milk or beef, making
this one of the best small cattle breeds available today.
own Dexters? Tell us what
you think about this breed. Perhaps you own another small breed of
livestock that you think is better. We would love to here your
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