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About Dexter Cattle

The native home of the Dexter is in the Kerry region of southwestern Ireland where they were owned by small land holders. These early Dexters roamed the shelter-less, mountainous, Irish landscape in sparse living conditions, developing the hardy, thrifty characteristics that we value in the breed today.

The first recorded importation of Dexters to America lists more than two hundred cattle arriving between 1905 and 1915. These original Dexter herds have grown to include Dexters in nearly every state in America. As one of the last tri-purpose cattle breeds in the world, Dexters continue to produce excellent beef, milk, and draft animals for American farms and ranches today.

As breeding animals, Dexters have a high fertility rate with a low rate of calving difficulties. Dexter bulls are known for their even temperament and ease of handling. Dexter cows are typically excellent mothers, displaying the type of nurturing instincts that make them highly prized in seed stock operations.

Dexters come in 3 colors: black, red, and dun. Solid colors, with occasional white on udders and/or behind the umbilicus, are the norm. Excessive white on the body, pervasive spotting, or brindling are not considered optimal. Dexters are originally a horned breed, with beautiful, sweeping, mid-sized horns that are white with black tips. Some owners of horned Dexters choose to leave the horns intact while others choose to dehorn them. Dexters can also be polled, passing-on this hornless characteristic to their offspring.

Dexters have always attracted attention because of their size and have sometimes been marketed as a novelty or ornamental breed. This practice has obscured the breed’s production value. Dexters are hardy, forage-efficient cattle with excellent maternal qualities. As with other dual-purpose breeds, the quantity of milk produced varies among strains. Those that have had more dairy selection produce more milk, while strains selected for beef produce less. The milk produced is high in solids, making it ideal for butter and cheese production. Dexter beef is lean and high quality. The small size of the carcass makes the breed an excellent choice for direct marketing programs. Dexters are good browsers and can rid pastures of pest plants and can also be used as oxen.

Dexter cattle are increasing in numbers in North America and globally, and the breed seems destined to succeed. However, the challenge facing breeders is to maintain historic selection practices so that their production qualities are conserved and promoted.

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