Dexter Milk & Meat Productivity
Dexters are well-known for their mothering abilities, with protective yet calm temperaments and generally generous udders, and the tendency to maintain their own condition while nourishing the calf. Nevertheless, a heifer’s first calf is still ‘unknown territory’ and should therefore be monitored carefully. There are a number of dos-and-dont’s and probably-shoulds in breeding, not the least of which being the choice of breeding-stock, but the rewards are worth the effort and the best way for the new breeder to learn is via advice from the experienced. If you have any questions, or merely a thirst for knowledge, feel free to contact us and ask those who have been in the field for some time. And remember: No question is stupid; every experienced breeder was once a novice.
An average Dexter cow will produce 4 to 8 litres of milk per day, whereas when dairy character has been encouraged (via genetic selection) Dexter cows have been known to produce 16 to 20 litres per day with a butterfat percentage (4 – 5%) comparable to the Jersey, and a lactation period of approximately 280 – 290 days. The high butterfat content makes Dexter milk ideal for cheese-making and butter-churning. 10 litres of Dexter milk makes approximately 1kg of cheese.
Dexters for Meat
The uninformed commercial beef trade (supermarkets, restaurants etc) might scoff at the size of most Dexter beef cuts, yet if their customers ever experienced the taste and quality, the attitudes would quickly change. The smaller size of the cattle produces a finer muscle fibre and therefore a finer grain of meat; and the ‘happy environment’ in which most Dexters are reared and processed prevents stress on the animal, which in turn prevents a drop in quality of beef. Furthermore, Dexter cattle have a higher than average ‘Eye Muscle Area’ and the meat yield is surprisingly high in relation to the live weight; so don’t be fooled by the small exterior.
The names used for individual beef cuts can change, not just from country to country, but from suburb to suburb. Try going into your local butchers and asking for a wing-roast. Unless you are talking to the actual butcher (most good butchers will be aware of every possible name), the salesperson will look at you strangely and ask “A what?” It is not a common cut; possibly the commercial meat trade finds it more viable to slice it into the more common scotch fillet steaks or scotch cutlets. Yet a Dexter wing-roast marinated and spit-roasted is definitely manna from heaven, providing melt-in-the-mouth meat as well as delicious sticky ribs to gnaw on.
The chart below is merely a summary of the individual cuts from a side of beef. There are a number of charts available, with included cooking-method guides; contact us if you would like some assistance in finding an appropriate chart. When having your own beef processed, there are other things to take into account, such as what and how much you will have minced or formed into sausages or sausage mince for meatloaves; whether to keep the tail either as dog bones or for ox-tail soup; whether the tongue is large enough to warrant pickling; whether to salt the silverside or keep it fresh for slow pot-roasting; whether to have t-bone steaks or more porterhouse/eye-fillet.
For recipes and cooking guides for individual cuts visit our Recipes section.
Beef Cuts Percentages
It is impossible to say what returns (in meat) you can expect from your Dexter beef cattle. Every individual is going to be different. Many things contribute to those differences, such as genetics, available food and the nutritional quality of that food, and the age at which you decide to process the cattle. Statistics indicate that Dexters, on average, dress out to 50-54% of their liveweight; this is termed hookweight (or hot standard carcass weight). After cooling and de-boning, the consumable yield can be anywhere between 60 – 75% of the hookweight, which equates to between 30 – 37% of the liveweight. As an example, a steer with a liveweight of 220kg will yield between 66kg and 81kg of consumable meat.
The breakdown of the final yield will vary considerably depending on your own choices of how you have the steer processed (how much you have minced, sausaged etc), but the figures below are a reasonable example.
These figures are an average taken from 8 grass-fed Wagra steers aged 12 – 18 months, and are based on a percentage of the final processed weight (consumable yield):
- Mince 23%
- Sausage 12%
- Silverside 9%
- Brisket 6%
- Wing 6%
- Rump 5.5%
- Topside Roast 5%
- Porterhouse/T-bone 5%
- Bolar Blade 5%
- Stewing 5%
- Osso Bucco/Gravy Beef 4.5%
- Round Steak 4%
- Scotch Fillet 3.5%
- Eye Fillet 2.3%
- Oyster Blade 2.2%
- Topside Steak 2%