Dexter Cattle are one of the four breeds of miniature cattle in the United States. The first published account of Dexter Cattle was in January 1887 in the Dublin, Ireland Farmer’s Gazette. This was the first register of Purebred Dexter cattle and it stated 10 cows and no bulls. From this first account in Ireland, where the breed is thought to have originated by small stockholders in rugged mountainous areas, the Dexter breed has had its ups and downs, including their numbers dwindling down to around 5000 worldwide. But today the number of Dexter Cattle is on the increase.
The first recorded knowledge of Dexter Cattle in America occurred when over 200 head of Dexters and Kerries were imported to the United States between 1905 and 1915. A large percent of these were imported to Elemendorf Farm (Elemendorf herd) in Lexington, Kentucky, Howard Gould (Castlegould herd) of Port Washington, New York and Mrs. James J. Hill (North Oaks herd) of Gladstone, Minnesota.
The American Kerry and Dexter Cattle Club was formed in 1911. Kerry cattle and Dexter cattle were both registered by this club, but the two cattle breeds were kept separate. Cross breeding of these two herds was not eligible for registration either. The American registration record through January 1, 1919 showed 52 Dexter bulls and 240 Dexter cows. Soon after 1921, the American Kerry and Dexter Cattle Club ceased operations and the records of this club were given to Ohio State University’s Animal Husbandry Department. In 1940 the American Kerry and Dexter Club reorganized and in 1957, the American Dexter Cattle Association was formed and is still operating today.
Even though Dexter Cattle have been in the United States for over 100 years, the main reasons for raising them have not changed over the years. Dexter Cattle are raised by many people because they are cost efficient, meaning that they cost less to turn what they eat into milk or meat. Another reason people are raising this breed of cattle is that it only takes half an acre per animal to raise them and if they have to be fed, 12 to 15 pounds of hay and a little grain will be all they need. This miniature cattle breed is also suitable for any climate, from the sand and sun of Florida to the ice and cold of Alaska, and all points in between, even the Provinces of Canada. One last reason for raising Dexter Cattle is the disposition and intelligence of the breed, meaning that they are very docile, they are friendly, they have an even temperament and they are very small. They are also trainable and can be used as oxen.
The Dexter Breed of Cattle is a multi use breed, meaning that it has several uses. They are excellent meat producers, they are excellent milk producers, they are excellent used as oxen and they can even make good pets. As meat producers, Dexter Cattle, if range raised or fed only grass will average a carcass yield of 55% of live weight. If grain fed, five to seven pounds of grain daily for two or three months before slaughter, they will average a carcass yield of at least 60% of live weight. Milk production for Dexter cows is one and a half gallons to two and a half gallons per day with an average of 4% butterfat for a lactation period of 305 days if they are fed for production. Some Dexter cows have been known to produce up to five gallons of milk per day. Also, Dexter cow milk is easy to digest because it has small fat globules. And finally, Dexter Cattle can be trained to pull loads, although they may not can handle great big loads. But, they are definitely trainable, agile, sturdy, willing to learn, intelligent and are blessed with longevity. They can also begin their training shortly after birth with halter breaking and voice commands.
Miniature cattle herds may be the choice of livestock in the future as ranch land gets smaller and smaller and the cost of raising cattle gets higher and higher. Dexter Cattle is just one of the breeds of these tiny bovines available throughout America. A mature Dexter bull can range in height from 38 to 44 inches and is not supposed to weigh over 1000 pounds. A mature Dexter cow is smaller of course, she will range in height from 36 to 42 inches and will weigh under 750 pounds. Dexter cattle are either solid red, black or dun and the only white they should have would be in the area behind the naval and on the scrotum or udder. Calves will weigh about 45 pounds when they are born and about 400 pounds when weaned. With these kind of statistics, it may be a benefit to consider Dexter Cattle for the future.