Wagra Dexter Cattle

Australian-bred cattle of Ancient Irish descent,
born & bred at Wagra Dexter in the Far East Gippsland Mountains, Victoria.

Small but Not Miniature Cattle
At Wagra, Dexter cattle are our passion. Native to Ireland, with records dating back to the 18th century, and evidence of possible ancestors dating back millenia, Dexters are the smallest naturally occurring breed of bos taurus cattle. With the ideal cow standing between 97cm and 107cm, and the ideal bull between 102cm and 112cm, Dexters are often erroneously referred to as miniature-cows or miniature-cattle, which is a term more correctly applicable to naturally taller breeds that have been genetically miniaturised by way of cross-breeding with smaller strains such as Dexters, or down-sizing by repetitively selecting to breed from the smaller end in a particular strain. The most common colour for Dexter cattle is black, as shown in the photo to the left (click to enlarge); and in the photo of the heifers below-right which is also a good indication of the full-grown height of Dexter cattle. Less common is red, such as the beautiful cow Bindalee Wine Waratah; and dun, as shown in this photo of a 6 months old bull calf by Wagra Clansman out of Wagra Cherish.

Heifers with the girlsProlific Milkers and High-Quality Meat
Dexter cattle are dual-purpose, bred for both milk and beef; however we at Wagra consider them to be multi-purpose. If 'handled' from an early age, they make an enjoyable hobby, enjoyable pets, lawn-mowers for the smaller properties, and educators for the children and/or adults who would otherwise be overwhelmed by the larger cattle breeds. Dexter cattle have also been used as draught animals, pulling carts and/or ploughs. The traditional Dexter is horned, but these days most cattle breeders choose to disbud their calves early in life, while others choose to breed naturally polled stock. At Wagra, we have a mixture of disbudded and horned.

Maddy, 11yo, at the show Although facts and figures can vary between individual cows, Dexter cattle can be prolific producers of high-quality milk, with butterfat and protein content comparable to the Jersey; and records show they are capable of long lactation periods. Our cheese-making friends find they have enough milk to share between their happy calves and their cheese-making businesses; avoiding the unfavourable bobby calf situation. An example of this is the Finger Lakes Dexter Creamery who run their business on a 12 acre property in the United States.

Free of Hormones
The beef-cuts are smaller than the more common beef-cattle breeds, and equal-to-better than most in quality and flavour. It has been said they are 'beefier' in taste; and many of our customers have declared that they cannot ever return to eating other beef now they have been ‘spoilt’ by the taste of free-range Dexter meat; especially knowing that our animals are free of hormones. Dexter beef has been the meat of choice for certain chefs competing in the Great British Menu.

Alternative-lifestyle; tree-change? Dexters are the ideal choice.
Dexter cattle evolved as smallholders' cottage cows. For those people looking for the increasingly popular tree-change, or the alternative lifestyle, 'growing' their own milk and/or meat, Dexters are the ideal choice. If they are handled from an early age, they are like pets. Wagra has full-grown cows who come up and lean in for a scratch and a cuddle. They are highly intelligent, quick learners, with excellent memories. We train them to halter-lead at weaning; it takes two days (another two just for reinforcement)! Even dogs generally take longer than that. Show-training takes a little longer as they must be acclimatised to the chaotic noise and movement they have to endure. But once acclimatised, their gentle nature shines through again, which Maddy (above left) constantly puts to the test.
Wagra Dexters homeward bound