Maude Lorde Hawarden an owner of large estate in south of Ireland in Tipperary County, near the village of Dundrum, with his agent, Mr. Dexter developed a small dual-purpose breed of cattle for his tenant farmers. It was to the credit of Mr. Dexter the he successfully produced this small animal in around the 1870’s, thereby indicating their interest in the wellbeing of their tenants. Owners today can have confidence in the breed’s history of quality and performance. The Royal Dublin Society records go back to 1879; their first herd book was printed in 1890.
Today, although temperament varies from animal to animal, Dexters are known for their hardiness, docility, thriftiness and calving ease, giving them the honors of being labeled the ideal family cow. They are used as beef cattle, dairy cattle, and as oxen. Great converters of roughage into meat and milk, they thrive in all climates and pasture types, and given proper feed and shelter they can survive anywhere. Dexters raised on grass and hay without any grain produce well marbled and tender meat. Their size produces small portions of high dress-out percentage cuts of meat that is becoming what the public wants.
An average Dexter cow can produce two or three gallons of milk per day, an exceptional cow can produce five gallons per day of 4% butterfat milk. Their size makes them ideally suited to the small property owner as well as the farmer who understands that small-framed cattle can be more efficient than larger-framed cattle. Some owners are breeding their Dexters for milk production; some are breeding for beef production, while others stay with the dual-purpose animal.
Dexter bulls make excellent crosses on traditional large beef breeds since the smaller size reduces the stress on first calving heifers. When fully grown the offspring is about 7/8 the size of the large breed dam.
Dexter cows have good herding instincts and are very protective of their calves against predators; the whole herd will come to the aid of a cow and her calf. Cows will not intrude when a cow is calving and are very watchful at a distance, while the cow has her calf with great ease and the calf quickly get on its’ feet to nurse.They grow rapidly on their mother’s rich milk and soon are eating grass with the adults. Dexters are a long-lived breed, cows have been known to calve into their very late teens and are fertile at a very early age; care must be taken that very young heifers are not accidentally exposed to the bull.
Size: Cows: 38 to 44 inches, approx. 750 – 850 lbs. Bulls: 38 to 46 inches approx. 1100 lbs.
Color: Black, Dun, Red.
Purebred registered Dexter cattle can be naturally horned, polled, or scurred.