The breed traces back to the original indigenous cattle of the British Isles. The first settlers of Ireland tamed and bred Dexters in the lush green lowland pastures of Ireland. Invaders later drove farm folk and their animals into the most mountainous and unsettled areas of the island, where the Dexters bred and thrived on sparse fare. They survived both harsh climates and rough grazing. Dexter cattle were later known as "The Poor Man's Cow", because a small landowner was able to get an adequate supply of meat and milk for his family, even on the rough grazing land. Dexters were first introduced to the United States in the early 1900's when several families imported selected animals from England. Dexters possess many fine qualities not found in other breeds. Small farmers and homesteaders in America today have chosen IRISH DEXTERS as the ideal small landowners livestock.
Irish Dexters are the smallest breed of cattle in America. They are a dual-purpose animal producing both delicious meat and quality milk. Cows mature between 36 and 42 inches at the shoulder, and not more than 750 pounds. Bulls mature between 38 and 44 inches at the shoulder, and not more than 1,000 pounds They are available in three colors: Black, Dun and Red.
Dexters come as either horned, polled or dehorned. They are a hardy breed and easy to handle. Their economical upkeep and long life is an advantage over many other breeds.
Irish Dexters require less feed than other breeds because of their ability to utilize more nutrients from the feed they consume. Consequently they are able to thrive under conditions detrimental to other breeds. A couple of acres of good pasture will keep a Dexter happy and when pasture is unavailable they can be maintained on approximately 15 to 25 pounds of good quality hay per day. They will eat forages and herbs other cattle refuse to eat.
A fresh water source is also needed. A small stand of trees will provide adequate shade in the summer. During the winter shelter may be necessary, but Dexters can live outdoors year round.
BREEDING AND REPRODUCTION
IRISH DEXTERS are known for their ease of calving and are very good mothers. Breeding longevity is very good with many cows calving as late as age 14 to 18 years. Heifers are usually bred at 14 to 16 months so they are at least two years old when calving for the first time. A Dexter bull may be bred to another breed producing a quality cross and in fact is an excellent choice for first calf heifers, producing a smaller offspring.
Semen is available through several different breeders for those wishing to use artificial insemination.
MEAT AND MILK PRODUCTION
Dexter meat is lean, with light marbling, high quality and good flavor. Dexters have less tallow and fat layers than most beef breeds. This means a greater percentage of useable beef, usually dressing out at approximately 55-65% of their live weight. The quantity of meat from one animal can easily be stored in a home freezer.
The milk production of a Dexter depends upon the animal, her condition, feed ration and the care given her. The milk is rich, averaging 4 to 5% butterfat. The fat globules are small and separate from the milk within 24 hours. The cream can be skimmed off and used for butter and ice cream. The milk is sweet and rich even after the cream is removed and can be used to make excellent cheese or cottage cheese.