Dexter Cattle

5 years 1 month ago #546588 by Wrexy
Dexter Cattle was created by Wrexy
We are on a lifestyle block near Katikati in the BOP and grow organically. We have a number of steep paddocks which need grazing. We tried Wiltshire sheep but since we only had a very small flock that was too stressful for us and them trying to get them into the yards to tend to them. We are now thinking of a couple of Dexter cattle as a possibility. Does anyone have any advice on rearing these organically? What do they need?
Thanks for your help,

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5 years 1 month ago #546589 by Furball
Replied by Furball on topic Dexter Cattle
Hello Wrexy and welcome to the site.
Dexter cattle are ideally suited to organic management, as they are an older breed that requires little fussing over. I've been keeping them for many years now, and for the last 5 years the only vet visits have been for dehorning and vaccinations of calves, the TB check, and for a single hoof trim on one cow. They've had no drenches, and haven't needed them. They get fat off the smell of an oily rag (mine are on rubbish pasture - swamp grasses and brashy stuff and no nice ryegrass, and they thrive on it.). They are easy calvers and less destructive of ground in the wet, as they are lighter.
However, I would urge you to consider a few things before going further.
1) You say that your paddocks are steep - how steep? Even heavy sheep are far less destructive on steep land than cattle, and if you intend to keep your cattle for many years you will have to be vigilant on joint and foot issues when they get older. Cattle tend to do better on flat or moderate slopes than really steep ones. At minimum they will need a small flattish area to sleep on in each paddock.

2) You mention that you found it stressful getting sheep into yards. Was this because of a dislike of getting barged by large animals, or are the yards in a place that's difficult to access/get animals into? Dexters will need to be yarded occasionally, even under an organic regime, so you will need strong suitable yards. Your current ones may need substantial work to make them suitable for cattle. Also, although Dexters are smaller than other cattle, they are still a lot stronger and more solid than you, so if you're uncomfortable around larger animals that will be an issue.

3) Finally, make sure you buy from a reputable breeder, and if you intend to breed your own animals you MUST ensure that both cows and bulls are tested for both types of the chondrodysplasia gene. This is present in the Dexter breed, and you must not mate two carriers of the gene together, or 1/4 of any resulting calves will be lethally malformed. I don't breed cattle that carry it, (and it is perfectly possible to buy pedigree certified non-carrier Dexters) but some breeders do, and you need to be aware of the issue if considering Dexters.

There, now I've thoroughly scared you, I'd still recommend them. They are intelligent, chatty, licky cattle and will rapidly become friendly if treated kindly and consistently. Ours come when called (mostly), will move anywhere for a bucket of cattle nuts, and love to come over and see what you're doing if you're working in the paddocks.
The following user(s) said Thank You: LongRidge

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5 years 1 month ago #546590 by LongRidge
Replied by LongRidge on topic Dexter Cattle
Well said Furball :-)
The Dexters that my aunt had were like smallish Angus's, but still big enough to need cattle height and strength yards. But with the yarding you might not need to make alterations until you need to (ie the Dexters have smashed the rails of the sheep yards).
How do you muster your sheep? In my limited experience Wiltshires are fairly flighty and spirited. On our place we need a good dog to get our quite tame sheep in. The Manager stands in the exit gate with a bucket and rattles it and calls the sheep, and the dog and I sneak along behind making noise when needed. But most sheep dogs are very poor cattle dogs, especially if they have not been trained to cattle. Spot the wonder dog was trained for sheep, goats, donkeys and cattle and enjoyed working the animals in that order - he did not like cattle and wouldn't bite them hard enough for them to know he was a threat. So he approached the cattle and it/they chased him, which was bad news when he ran towards me and hid behind my legs :-(.
We run Herefords on our steep land, which they handle well because they were brought up on steep land. Don't buy any type of animal for steep land if it has come from a flat farm. The breeding cows last about 10 years and then they start getting joint problems. I kept a few for longer, and when we homekilled them the joints were so worn that they must have been in some pain in the final year or two :-(. But with Dexters being less weight they might have joint issues when they are older. Even so, I would homekill a Dexter at 13 to check that the joints were ok before I kept them older than this.

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