Small cows with big benefits
Stories shared by real Dexter owners
Why John O'Meara Chose Dexter Cattle
O'Meara Family Farm
New Sweden, Maine
When one is considering the utility and value of a breed of cattle, attention often focuses on production numbers, carcass hanging weight, and quality for beef animals, milk volume, butterfat, and other considerations for dairy cows. People starting with Dexters often ask me, “What is the average hanging weight?” or “How much milk do they give?” In fact, rather than focusing on the short-term numbers, cattle people should be looking at what a cow produces over the course of her lifetime.
In 2000, I bought my first Dexter named Cricket as a bred heifer. She had her first calf in the spring of 2001. I had a hard time getting her bred the first year, but she gave me 14 calves over her life, which is a whole herd of Dexters. I also milked her for fourteen years… She died in 2017 at the age of 18.
If I had bought a cow from a breed with better production numbers, I would have ended up with fewer calves, less milk, and less beef over the course of the seventeen years I knew Cricket. As a lifetime cow, Cricket outperformed all the Angus, Jersey, and Holstein cows I have ever met. Cricket was not an exceptional Dexter. Dexters consistently are productive animals well into their teens.
Finally, though, maybe the most important reason for keeping long-lived cattle such as Dexters centers around questions of ethics. When given the choice of keeping cows who use less resources and find an ultimately more productive place in the world or a breed that lives for the short-term, the choice is clear and true to the Dexter Cattle.