Originating from Ireland Dexter cattle breed are often seen as the smallest of the European bred cattle. They are found to be almost half in size to the established Hereford bred cattle and no more than a third of the size of the traditional Friesian or Holstein dairy cow.
The Dexter bred cattle which were once considered a rare cattle breed and today have been noted by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy as an actively recovering breed.
In 1882 the Dexter bred cattle were imported from the southwest regions of Ireland to England. This resulted in the breed being almost non-existent within Ireland. However a few cattle men and ranchers still maintained a small number of herds within England as pure breeds.
The Dexter bred cattle as a smaller breed will generally observe a mature Dexter cow weighing anywhere between 600 to 700 pounds and a fully mature bull as having a weight of no more than 1000 pounds.
Due to their small size, their bodies tend to be quite wide and having a deep form occasionally with an adequately rounded hindquarter. They are mainly found to have a black single layered coat; however there are instances where the breed will be found to display a dun or slightly dark red colored coat.
The Dexter cattle breed is a solid built cattle with a slightly white marking found on its udder. The horns are smaller and thicker in size when compared to other breeds and tend to grow in an outward direction with a type of forward shaped curve seen with the bulls and an upward shape on the cows.
Although the Dexter breed cattle are generally horned, breeders using the dominant polled gene developed a polled variation of the breed in the 1990’s. The Dexter cattle are typically bred with a dual purpose as herders and cattle men have often found the breed to produce not only an excellent quality of beef but also rich dairy milk.
The Dexter cattle breed are a versatile bred cattle which has allowed the breed to be used as oxen by many breeders in several countries today such as North America, Australia, Europe and South Africa.
The breed has been used for additional purposes including plowing, transportation in hauling wagons or carts and even for powering machines suited for grinding grain.
The Dexter cattle bred for their beef within the United States have been found to generally mature within 18 months, thus providing a high grade of lean marbled meat which tends to be slightly darker in color and having a small amount of waste.
The dairy milk produced by the Dexter breed is often highly rich in nutritional content having a high percentage of butterfat similar in value when compared to the milk produced by the Jersey cows.
Many have claimed that due to the smaller sized fat anti bubbles the milk produced by the Dexter breed cows are naturally more homogenized than the milk produced by other breeds. The typical Dexter bred cow will produce an average of between 2 to 2.5 gallons of milk on a daily basis.
The Dexter bred cows have been found to display excellent maternal instincts, highly protective of their calves after birth often hiding them. The cow will produce a sufficient amount of milk capable in feeding 2 to 3 calves and at times will even nurse calves from other cows within the herd.
Due the small size of the breed, the Dexter cattle are renowned for their ease in calving. This particular trait in addition to raising smaller bred calves within their herds has been gradually becoming a popular requirement by cattle men and ranchers within the United States of America to eliminate complications at birth.
Dexter cattle breeds which are typically between 6 to 8 inches have been found to carry a form of dwarfism known as Chondrodysplasia which results in the legs appearing much shorter than the non-affected breeds.
Extreme caution is exercised when dealing with affected Dexter breeds as the possibility of the fetus prematurely aborting often stands at a 25% chance. As a precautionary measure against such situation, the Dexter breeds are subjected to a DNA tests which includes pulling tail hairs from the animals to successfully identify the Chondrodysplasia gene.
Lungs which have been incompletely formed, coupled with the accumulation of serum fluids in a number of tissue areas within the fetus of the Dexter breeds is known as Pulmonary Hypoplasia Anasarca and has been found to affect a number of Dexter breed cattle.
The disease however does not produce any visible symptoms as in the case of Chondrodysplasia and can only be detected via a DNA test. Cattle men and ranchers as a result have taken extreme measures to ensure Dexter breeds having either of these conditions are never bred together.
The Dexter breeds having been among one of the rare breeds within the United States of America and the United Kingdom are becoming increasingly reemerging within both these countries.
The Dexter Cattle Society founded within the United Kingdom registered over 4,100 cows in 2007 which was almost twice the number registered seven years earlier. Increasing food prices across the United States and Great Britain has resulted in several ranchers taking an interest in raising Dexter cattle for their own food consumption.
The breed’s tendency to generally look after themselves and interact favorably with children has made the Dexter breed one of the highly preferred breeds for developing herds.
Small herders and cattle men within the United States and the United Kingdom who have decided to explore this attractive option can find available Dexter cattle for sale online at a number of farms and associations including The American Dexter Cattle Association, Dexter Cattle, Freedom Farms located in Philadelphia, Tennessee and Grandma’s Dexter Farm located in Toddville, Iowa.