What’s the latest thing in the urban farm movement? What’s the Mini Cooper of the bovine world? What will, according to seriouseats.com, “gives 16 pints of milk a day… keep the grass mown and will be a family pet for years before ending up in the freezer?”
It’s the versatile, efficient, and in my opinion, cute Dexter. The perfect old-fashioned, family cow.
A recent article from The Sunday Times in the UK said,
Miniature cattle farming is catching on with families trying to stay ahead of rising food prices… [and the Dexter is] the little cow with a big future.
These compact beauties originated in Ireland and were first imported to the United States in the early 1900’s. According to the American Dexter Cattle Association, the ideal three year old Dexter cow measures between 36 to 42 inches at the shoulder, and weighs less than 750 pounds. Just for a comparison, the average Bernese Mountain Dog (my next rescue dog) is between 24-28 inches at the shoulders, and weighs between 85-120 pounds.
Dexters are a hardy breed that perform well in a variety of climates, have a friendly character and low maintenance costs, as well as cost-effective, high-quality production of both meat and milk in manageable quantities. Mother Earth News calls them “the perfect size for the family homestead… Looking after a Dexter can be fun for children and can give them a sense of accomplishment. “
They’re a triple threat: Milk, Draft & Beef. They produce “2 gallons of milk per day” which is more milk for its weight than any other breed. According to Jeffrey Roberts in his Atlas of American Artisan Cheese, “The Dexter’s milk is thick, creamy, and rich in butterfat-ideal qualities for making excellent cheese.”
They make a great draft animal because “an ox is merely a steer with a good education, and Dexters do educate well”. They are “agile, trainable, sturdy, little oxen”.
And for the omnivores, they consume about half of what you would feed an Angus or Hereford under the same conditions and produce “proportionately more beef for the amount of grain they eat”.
Call it a win, win, win situation.
For more information on the Dexter breed:
Purebred Dexter Cattle Association of North America (PDCA)
American Dexter Cattle Association
Finger Lakes Dexter Creamery