Lesa Kinnamon Reid has given me permission to reprint her post from an on-line site. Her type is in italic. Thank you Lesa. Very well said.
This. THIS right here should not be ignored. And here’s why:
There is no doubt that Dexter cattle are special. And different. Anyone who has eaten Dexter beef knows how unique it is. And those that consume Dexter milk understand it’s uncommon qualities.
But here’s the deal:
The gene pool that makes our Dexters so special is very old. It was stabilized in southern Ireland many years ago, before genetic testing existed. The farmers that created this wonderful breed chose characteristics that benefited their farms and their families. And those characteristics have been handed down to us as an exceptional gift. If we completely change our breeding strategies from the “tried and true” methods used historically, we are risking losing our heritage.
Their breeding techniques were based on production efficiency and phenotype evaluations. There were no genetic tests. There were no shortcuts. They simply bred animals that fit their “ideal” and worked hard to produce more like them.
The danger we face as we breed Dexters today is that we decide to paper-breed instead of breed-breed. We are in danger of choosing animals based on test results and paper pedigrees instead of choosing animals based upon quality phenotypes that exhibit quality production. And don’t tell me you can have “the right genetic test results” AND excellence elsewhere. Truth be told, your gaze determines your direction. No one looks to the right while walking to the left. What you focus on is what you breed for.
Genetic homozygosity is easy. It’s simple to hit the A2/A2 mark. All you need are two animals with the same genetics and BOOM . . . every calf will receive that homozygous package. But remember this: when EVERY animal is A2/A2 . . . BOOM . . . you have eradicated 14 other types of Beta Casein without even knowing if they are important or beneficial. I’m just not ready to eradicate
Breeding quality Dexters isn’t easy. It takes education and experience. It takes years of striving for the right phenotype. And it requires a breeder that is nimble, smart, and dedicated for the long haul.
My fear is that genetic testing and/or “special pedigree” breeding will feed a new “drive-through-fast-food” type of Dexter breeding strategy: quick, easy, but not so healthy.