Small but Not Miniature Cattle
Native to Ireland, with records dating back to the 18th century, and evidence of possible ancestors dating back millennia, 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. Less common is red, such as our 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.
In the 1970s, the Dexter was listed by the Rare Breeds Trust. It was heading towards the threat of extinction. However, Dexter breeders and promotion groups across the world strive to conserve this amazing breed and bring it back from the brink.
Prolific 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.
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.
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.