Considering buying Dexters

Discussion in 'Cattle' started by moosemaniac, Nov 24, 2003.

  1. moosemaniac

    moosemaniac Well-Known Member

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    I've been doing some research and think I might go with Dexter Cattle. I like the fact that they're smaller and a dual purpose cow.

    Anyone with Dexter experience? Also, it seems the National show is going to be in my neck of the woods next July. I'm looking forward to it.

    Ruth
     
  2. InPursuit

    InPursuit Guest

    Ruth,

    I have just taken the plunge and bought 6 bred cows. Thought this would be the best way to start a small herd with the smallest outlay of cash.

    Bill


     

  3. sentree

    sentree Member

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    There are many dual purpose breeds out there that could fill your needs as well and possibly even better than Dexters. I have a few concerns that Dexters are being blown out of proportion in their ability to produce etc, because of publicity and more demand for them. I've heard some very ridiculous claims by breeders and one should really do their research and buy from a reputable breeder to be sure you end up with what you want. Not saying that you are this way (going with the big hype that seems to be going around with Dexters right now), just mentioning some concerns that many have.
    Red poll, milking shorthorn, belted galloway etc are a few larger breeds that would be good dual purpose animals. They would cost less than a Dexter to buy and would produce more, though they would also eat more.
    It depends on how much milk you want, how much meat you want, how much hassle you want (milking and caring for 2 animals to get the same milk you would get from one Jersey), what your climate is like, your experience with cattle etc.
    Dexters are not commonly milked, so it would be up to you to train them. For a newbie it can be an interesting experience to halter break an adult cow and then train them to milking, while training themselves how to milk. Especially hard if you take their calf away and they don't want to let down and are just being stubborn and grouchy as they haven't been handled before.
    They do NOT give 4 gallons of milk a day unless you pay top money for a proven cow with phenomenal breeding and bloodlines. The most I ever got was 3 gallons and usually closer to 2. If a calf is getting half of that, then you are only bringing in a gallon a day which is not a lot for butter, cheese, icecream, yogurt and drinking, especially if you have a large family. Then you need two which brings up the cost (buying two animals which are usually minimum of $800 each for a good animal), the workload (milking and caring for two animals),butchering costs for 2 steers, and the feed. You may find it becomes a burden to wash, train and milk two animals when a quiet already trained Jersey would provide lots of milk with less work and less start up cost.
    They have not had the extensive breeding that goes into a dairy breed to bring up their milk supply, breed better udders etc. So you have to be pretty particular when buying, to be sure you end up with the temperament and conformation you need for a good dual purpose breed.The gene pool is not as large and because of their size you can't just take them over to the neighbor's bull to be bred. Instead you either need to own your own bull (which can be expensive if you replace him every few years), or pay for AI which can also be expensive if your cow isn't catching.
    Being short makes them harder to milk, especially if they have a larger udder. You can barely get a bucket under their udder. THey have very hairy udders which make milking an adventure while pulling hairs left and right. But the hairy udders protect them from frostbite and other udder maladies in the winter.
    They kind of shuffle along on their heels (not picking up their feet like a normal cow), which ends up causing their toes to grow long and not be naturally trimmed and need more care in that respect. Might not be a great deal to you, but thought I'd mention it.
    Having said all this, I have owned Dexters going on 4 years now and love every one of them (I have 15). I am a young single woman who has to do all the work by myself, and I could not handle castrating, dehorning, halter breaking etc on the larger animals, and yet could rope an adult Dexter and work with her/him. THe bulls are very laid back (but still bulls!), and that was a major plus working on them.
    THey make wonderful mothers and calving problems are very rare (but they can be rare in many other breeds).
    I have had great success with carcass weight, but that is not the general rule. If you have a need for huge amounts of meat, one 18 month old steer won't provide more than 2-300lbs of meat, but it is very good quality and delicious meat at that!
    Mine are very healthy and I haven't had problems yet.
    We get very harsh winters and for someone wanting a low maintenance animal you can get a bit of milk from, Dexters are great. They can handle our -40C weather with just some trees for shelter, whereas the dairy only animals are not meant for that kind of treatment and will freeze teats and loose weight (not to mention shivering because they have no body fat! :(. But there are other dual purpose animals that can handle this kind of weather also and comparing them to a highly bred dairy animal is not doing the dairy cow justice - just a warning. :<) I still have one Jersey, but in freezing cold weather, mucking out stalls (because they can't be outside in colder than -15 to -20C), pumping in tons of grain and hay to keep them warm, etc gets tiresome and costly. I have calculated down to minerals, vet costs, slaughter fees, meat from calves etc comparing Dexters and JErseys and I can keep two Dexter cows on what it costs me to keep one Jersey. I will get 2x the amount of meat from two Dexter calves, but I won't get the same milk production from 2 Dexters that I will get from one well bred JErsey (I have one Jersey I was getting 8 gallons a day from, 6 gallons being a bit more common/standard for your backyard Jersey). But I am not into high maintenance, and I have found my Jerseys take a lot more fiddling to keep them healthy (barn, heat etc), they have had more healthy problems than any of my Dexters, and are not as good at producing on grass alone like my Dexters are. My desires were to have healthy, thrifty, low maintenance, grass raised animals who calve easily, are fairly quiet and easy to handle, and give me enough milk to drink. The Dexters easily fill this and my Jerseys (while having their place when you need more milk) did not fill even one of them. The milk production I didn't need was high, and the rest was low, so I had to decide what was more important to me.
    But I do love the Jersey personality and the fact that I can milk for only 3 months and get a years supply of butter and cheese for a family of 7 adults. One reason I still have one is I'm trying for a Dexter x Jersey heifer - if only they would stop throwing bull calves. ;<) But as I go out in the morning and see my Jersey get up stiffly from the cold weather seeping into her too unprotected joints (My Dexters are hairy critters!), see her teats grow chapped and worry about frostbite, watch her consume a full bale of hay and 6 lbs of grain just to keep her healthy (and still showing too many ribs for my liking:<), see the pile of manure in the stall that needs to be mucked out daily (which freezes solid in our cold weather), I realize that this climate is hard on the sweetheart dairy cows that were bred to be kept with a herd of 30 others in a warm dairy barn.
    I may have just muddled everything in your mind, but just some observations I hope will be somewhat helpful.
    Heather
     
  4. Belle

    Belle Active Member

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    I'm in Oklahoma and made this year's show and it was great! I knew some, learned huge amounts, and my dream is to get to the show next year to pick up some eastern bloodline cows for my herd. :p

    Yes, there is information on their milking--production and bloodlines both. There is still at least one dairy in England that is Dexters today. Join the ADCA and get some info at the source. Woodmagic is an excellent bloodline and there are several others I'll look up for you, but they will be a long way back here in the US. Sentree is right, I haven't seen one producing 4 gal. yet, but I'd drown if one did--and the butterfat meets the Jersey standards. (Poor girl out in your temperatures, Sentree!) And you do get lovely beef! :)
     
  5. sentree

    sentree Member

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    Lucifer of Knotting is also more dairy line - my nicest cow is Woodmagic and Lucifer, 12 years young and going strong. I'd love to go to a large Dexter show and pick up some really good stock: one of the problems of living in an area where breeders are few and far between and only have a few cows, AND none of them milk.
    I should have mentioned that in taste tests here, Dexter milk vs. Jersey wins hands down. Because it is somewhat naturally homogenized (from experience I know this), you can't taste the thick fat globules the way you can taste the richness in Jersey milk. It is richer and much sweeter and makes excellent drinking!
    For those of us who are into Dexters, we love em. But I've noticed it seems to be a love 'em or hate 'em relationship. :<)
    Do you think I could get info from ADCA though I'm not a member (I'm a Canadian member)? Finding accurate stats on production and yield is almost impossible!
    Thanks
    Heather
     
  6. Belle

    Belle Active Member

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    I will get out my notes on the ex-Canadian member and see if I can get his stats. I'm sure Rosemary would be glad to send you anything she has at the ADCA (she is Secretary). It is just $30.00 American to join--did you say you are a Canadian member? Either way I'll be glad to round up what info I have for you. BTW, if you're not, it is worth it for the break in registry fees alone to join.

    And I have to disagree, about the udders. I haven't seen many badly formed udders except for calf-damage. The one I remember best WAS milking 3.5 gal/day! ...love to have one of her calves, and may just get it if I get out PA way next convention! I could almost forgive a bad udder for that much milk (after all, where DO you put it???)

    Love to meet you both sometime face to face and talk cows and farms.
     
  7. Carol K

    Carol K Well-Known Member

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    Ruth, where abouts in Pa are you? There are many breeders in this area with wonderfull old lines in their pedigree, that I'm sure you could visit. If you are close to the NY border, the NY regional director is in Chautauqua County. Let me know if you neeed some PA or NY breeders names. I'm also going to the big show in Pa next year, it will be great to meet people there.

    Carol K
     
  8. moosemaniac

    moosemaniac Well-Known Member

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    Carol, I'm in North East, which is actually in Northwestern PA, just east of Erie. (confused yet?) There is a breeder in Union City, about 30 minutes south of me and they've invited me to come and visit. Also, I am planning to go the the National in July in Crawford County, PA, which is about 45 minutes from me. I'm not in a big hurry to buy, probably after the show.

    Ruth
     
  9. Carol K

    Carol K Well-Known Member

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    Ruth, yes I've heard of Northeast, we are not that far from each other then. You must be talking about Mark Muirs herd then in Union City? I know of them, but don't know them personally, he's the regional director for you area, and is also putting on the show next year.

    Carol K
     
  10. Okie-Dokie

    Okie-Dokie Well-Known Member

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    A couple years ago we invested a conciderable amount fo time, energy, travel expences, and phone bills investigating the profitability of the Dexter buis. We think this is going to be just like most all fad enterprizes. Going to grow like an atomic mushroom cloud and be gone in the wind even faster. WE felt we were going to wind up with some very expencive yard ornaments. Looks like the Dexter fad is past the growth curve to me. Just my opinion.
     
  11. Belle

    Belle Active Member

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    Well, in that case, did you buy any? and if so, I'll be happy to buy them from you if you're that unhappy with them (given they don't bite or charge) ;)
    For that matter, I still need at least 2 more Dexter cows, so anyone in OK who's selling, pm me! -if they are yard ornaments, they'll be the first I got to eat...--
    :dance:
     
  12. Okie-Dokie

    Okie-Dokie Well-Known Member

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    No Belle, we don't have any Dexter stock here. This is a working small farm. Not a hobby farm. If it can't pay it's way and hopefully make a proffit, then it can't stay here. We do have a few nice Certified Black Angus heifers and on Really slick 18 month old Beefmaster too many. You might want to talk to that lady up in Colcord that got carried away and payed $25,000 for one Boar heard sire and a few bred females. I bet she could clue you in on these fads befor you jump off the deep end.
     
  13. Belle

    Belle Active Member

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    Boar? I'm not sure what breed of animal we're talking about, but I am always willing to learn and would talk to your lady--and yes I have seen plenty of scams and fads. I just don't think Dexters at reasonable prices are one (have seen a few sold waaay too expensive--there are fools and the gullible everywhere). Mine are going to have to pay their way too. I also looked into black angus (raised them as a kid) and just fell in love with the practicality of cows that were milk and meat and wouldn't eat me out of my barn and pasture. Angus are darlings and definitely another favorite of mine. The rare breed aspect also caught my heart. :)
     
  14. sorrelqh

    sorrelqh New Member

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    Hi all!
    If you are looking for a superb homestead dual purpose animal-I believe a Dexter is it!!! Will they ever be a popular commercial cow?? I doubt it, because they are a hassle for the system. Feedlots have to feed them differently, slaughterhouses have to reset all their cutting equip, and they don't give enough for a commercial dairy. But I was given two old girls because of the cattle situation here in Alberta. We just took the cows, who were NOT halterbroke, or handled regularly, left their 5-6 mo old calves, brought em home, and I went to milking them! (I stand 5'3 and weigh 115lbs soaking wet!). I don't bother with stanchions, halters, etc-just tthrow some grain in front and set to it! Does this tell you how quiet they are?? The cream from them is superb (around 4% BF!) and the roughly 2.5 gallons/day I get is more than enough for me- any more would be a hassle to milk and then dispose of, or worry about mastitis....and if ya want to eat em-well you get double the steaks roasts, good stuff, all fitting into one freezer!! And two cows are doing very well on the same amt of feed my hubby would give to one of his Herefords! So it depends on why you want Dexters-to make a ton of money-well thats iffy. But for a super homestead cow-I'd say Dexters are the way to go!!
     
  15. the guy we bought our dexters fromhas a store that he sells different farm products out of.he sells out of his available beef all the time,try telling him hes not making money from dexters.ive seen the freezer full and ive seen it empty,sold out.i would estimate at least 10 steers a year sold as cut at retail prices,he may actually sell more than 10 steers.
     
  16. I don't understand your fad statement. We have owned Dexters for about 15 years and they are actually cheaper now than when we bought our first first cows. Dexters are not commercial cattle and must be marketed differently than most of the larger breeds. We have established a thriving market for freezer beef, and family milk cows. We breed our heifers, calve them at about 24 months, break them to milk, wean the calves at about 5 months and then sell the cows as family cows. The bull calves are fed out and sold as freezer beef. We can sell more milkers and beef than we can produce. I am retired and have only 30 acres in a very high tax area so my cattle have to be profitable. Until the recent upturn in cattle prices I made a lot more per head, per acre, or by any other means of measure you care to use than my neighbors that have "real" cattle. There is indeed good profit in Dexters if a person is willing to use their imagination and work at it. And as long as folks are concerned about the garbage that is offered for sale in supermarkets and want something better to feed their families the demand will be there.
     
  17. Okie-Dokie

    Okie-Dokie Well-Known Member

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    Sorry to hurt you all's feelings. Reality bites, huh? Cost of imputs to bring any breed of beef to slaughter weight is about the same. The only way I can control my costs is by using a breed that is geneticly quick to reach maturity. When we kill a beef for our own use, we pick out one that will not make packing house specs. or is running behind in the maturity race. The Boar I was reffering to was supposed to be spelled "Boer". I was talking about an article in Countryside a couple years ago from a lady in Colcord, OK, who had gotten carried away and spent a bunch of money on African goats, thinking they were the answer to the world's agricultural problems. You can substitute "Dexter" for "Boer Goat" in the article and you get the same story. She spend a fortune getting started in the goad buis. for some animals that some folks are giving away these days. Kind of along the lines of the Ostritch craze a few years ago.
     
  18. Matt NY

    Matt NY Well-Known Member

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    Dexter's are probably a little higher than I would like to see them, partly because they are catching on with many making them a little more popular. This is far from a fad as far as I would say. I just know what I have observed and don't own a cow yet, but will soon, I hope.

    I wouldn't be selling them much for beef either, I just want a homestead cow and would raise one for beef should a bull calf be born.

    I have seen these go pretty reasonably, but didn't have the means to capatilize on them at the moment. I have also seen them way out there in price. From what I understand the price is high because a person looking for a homestead cow gets a good deal. Easy to care for, good calving and production, superior beef, long life and ability to thrive on feed that others would suffer from. This foraging ability may not be a factor if one is only feeding store-bought feed.

    YMMV
     
  19. InPursuit

    InPursuit Guest


    You need to read a bit about a subject before you jump off and blast everything with the same horn.

    Boer Goats were high priced when they first came into this country. In Economics we call that supply and demand. Demand was great because the goat breeders recognized the importance of having a truely meat goat influence in their goat herds. Before the introduction of the Boer into the meat goat market in the U. S. the demand was poorly supplied by Spanish or wild crossed goats, and the various dairy goats. Kinda like using Jersey cows for beef production. At this time the demand for goat meat products is greater than the supply. Take a trip to a livestock auction that handles sheep and goats and observe the sale. You will see that the most productive goats are those with predominantly white bodies and red or otherwise dark heads. That is the boer influence. Also notice the difference in body weight and muscle definition of the boer influence. That is why the boer goat is important. BTW, I don't own goats and don't have intentions of getting in the goat business. I just don't want to stand by and let someone blast something they know little about.

    Now about Dexter's. I do have Dexter's but am not involved in a get rich quick scheme. Dexter's have been around for a couple of hundred years and no one has tried to get rich quickly on them. They are perfect for someone who does not own a lot of land but wants to get involved with livestock. They just happen to have a side benefit of being good milkers for a family, have good butterfat content to their milk and additionally, are quite good as meat producers for the family unit. They, as long as no one fools with them, are not intended for commercial beef production. As far as that goes the Angus wasn't either until someone decided to outcross some largeness into the breed and now have developed a quite sizeable commercial animal. People still like the Angus influence in their meat though. Humm...beginning to sound like some South African goat story.
     
  20. Tom M

    Tom M New Member

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    Ruth, We have experience with Dexter cattle and we live in Western PA! We have 4 registered dexters and love them. We have a beef farm and looked ahead for alternatives. Large commercial grade beef cattle can do a lot of damage to gates, fences and owners, they don't have to be mean they are just so big playfullness from a 1500 lb. animal can hurt! The Dexters are very gentle and loveable! You are welcome to look at ours!!
    Tom M