About Dexter Cattle & Ironbark Dexter Cattle Stud, Victoria

By Rosemary & Michael Schryver

 

Dexter Cattle History

Dexter cattle originated in the Irish highlands, their ancestry goes back beyond recorded history.

During the 18th century the people of Ireland saw the benefits of these small, compact cattle which they named Dexters, domesticated them and found they suited their lifestyles perfectly.

Large families on small holdings needed a cow which produced enough milk to raise a calf for their meat requirements with plenty of milk left over for the family milk, butter and cheese needs.

Soon after, the English aristocracy began to appreciate the beauty and versatility of the Dexter and they became a popular choice for grazing on English country estates.

The docility and size of Dexter cattle with their friendly and curious nature is a major reason why we choose this breed. They are naturally small (not miniaturized) and are less intimidating to new handlers. We at 'Ironbark' spend many hours with our cattle, this combined with careful breeding choices ensure our cattle leave here ready to suit the 'lifestyle' property. As well as being easy to handle, their tractability means they won’t put the same pressure on fencing as the larger breeds. Stockyards also don’t need to be as heavy duty and pugging of the land in wet conditions is less of a problem with lighter animals.

Dexter Cattle have their history in the Irish Highlands where they have been grazing for many centuries. Their size and hardiness was created by nature and therefore they do not have any of the problems associated with trying to miniaturize a larger breed. Very poor quality feed has been converted efficiently by these capable cattle. Because of their size you can run almost twice as many as the larger style cattle. Naturally, like us they will eat the tastiest bits first but they will always return and clean out a paddock many other breeds will turn their noses up at. Dexters are great foragers.

 

About Dexter Cattle

The Dexter is a true dual purpose breed. Cows will give about 10 – 15 litres of high protein milk a day. It has excellent characteristics for cheese making as it also has small fat globules (not unlike goats milk) which is perfect for making many of the soft, supple cheeses.

These ‘pint sized primary producers’ pack on the kilo’s to produce the type of beef the larger commercial breeds only dream of. For tender, tasty beef the ingredient Dexters have, and other breeds are chasing is the naturally high marbling cuts. Breeders are finding niche markets for their product in areas which demand the highest quality. The restaurant trade is calling for smaller cuts to suit a healthier lifestyle, combined with quality eating marbling provides, Dexters fit the bill.

We, at Ironbark Dexter Stud, have, over the past twenty years concentrated on the conformation and temperement of the breed. Conformation is important in the show ring, but it is more important at home in the paddock. Cattle need to walk to graze so feet and legs are of paramount importance. If these traits are right most of the others will follow – fertility, mothering etc. Cows have been known to be still calving regularly into their 20’s.

Dexter cattle are a unique breed with two distinct types. Short legged and proportionate (long-legged) Both types are of equal merit. They also come in three colours, black, red and dun. (brownish) The breed is fortunate to have these various types as it allows them to fit into different markets. A size and colour for all!

Dexter cattle are not mainstream but in the past decade the popular belief that ‘bigger is better’ has been dispelled. It has been shown with many breeds that increasing or decreasing their size reduces efficiency. More and more people are realising that human manipulation of a species is causing difficulties in more ways than one. Natural selection or ‘mother nature’ has done a better job than we ever could.