PHOTO: RoGa_Pictures/iStock/Thinkstock
Heidi Strawn
February 4, 2011

Use: The Dexter is primarily a beef breed; calves grow fast, maturing in 12 to 18 months as finished beef. Dexter cows also give more milk for their body weight than any other breed. There’s a growing interest in these small, gentle cattle since they require less feed than other breeds, yet thrive in a variety of climates.

History: These naturally small cattle originated in southern Ireland in the 1800s, grazing in rough country adjacent to small farms.

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Conformation: Dexters come in three solid colors: black (predominant), dun and red, according to the American Dexter Cattle Association. There are two body types, defined as long- and short-legged. The “long-leg” is a small regular-cow proportional animal; the “short-leg” is a slightly smaller, heavier-set version.

Special Considerations/Notes: Dexters make wonderful farm companions. Not only is the breed efficient, but size and temperament make Dexters nice to have around. Dexters are known for their ease of calving. Calves weigh about 45 pounds at birth, and by seven months when they are weaned, weigh between 350 and 500 pounds. Both sexes will continue to grow until five or six years of age. The “long-leg” type live to over 20 years and continue to calve up to 16 to 18 years, on average.

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