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Andrea

Considering cows - Dexters?

I'd like to slowly transition from goats to cows, and have found a breeding pair of Dexters for sale not too far away. As a smaller breed they would seem not a bad choice for someone new to cows. Would you agree?

Are they as hardy a breed as the seller says they are? He claims they'll cope well with our temperature range (40 degrees tops, snow in winter) providing they have some shade.

As a complete cow numpty, what might I have forgotten to consider?
Pilsbury

Rob R is your man on this I think although others have dexters.
The meat is amazing.
Nick

Two might not be enough. They will want a bigger herd and may go and find one.

Temperature wise, mine stayed fully outside all year round for a decade or so. Occassionally -20 up to high twenties, low thirties. Damp seemed to piss them off most. They hide under trees in the hot sun, but usually sat happily in the grass, just catching rays.

They do fit nicely in the freezer, and the meat is certainly good anywhere between 18 and 45 months old.
Rob R

Re: Considering cows - Dexters?

I'd like to slowly transition from goats to cows, and have found a breeding pair of Dexters for sale not too far away. As a smaller breed they would seem not a bad choice for someone new to cows. Would you agree?


No.

Are they as hardy a breed as the seller says they are? He cls they'll cope well with our temperature range (40 degrees tops, snow in winter) providing they have some shade.


Yes.


I'm wondering what you mean by 'breeding pair'? ie a bull and a cow or a couple of breeding cows? If the former I'd advise against it on multiple levels. Cattle are social animals and need company and there are times when you'd need to separate the sexes, particularly when female calves get older.

It's a common misconception that Dexters are a beginners breed - they're not and many people find them too much to handle as a result. They are wonderful cattle, but you do need to be confident with them as they will take advantage otherwise. If the breeder is willing to help you make the transition to competent cow-keeper there's no reason not to start with Dexters but if you're on your own there are other breeds that will be easier to learn the ropes on. The size doesn't mean you can overpower them as much as they can outwit, and outrun you.
sean

I'd have thought you'd be better off with a local breed really. Rob R

I'd have thought you'd be better off with a local breed really.

We don't really have one round here, though Wink
sean

Nana. Smile Andrea

I'd have thought you'd be better off with a local breed really.

These are local to me, which is a major consideration when the transport costs more than the animals.
dpack

what rob and nick said.

even with expert tuition i found them a bit "interesting" compared to jersey girls which was my previous ,rather limited, moo experience.
a couple of them could be a bit stroppy and dexter steers are very protective of a mum and calf herd.

in some ways the highland steers i was also learning on were easier to handle ,although they were a bit bouncy and could easily flip one behind the knees with a long horn by accident they were easier to persuade to comply with simple stuff like moving and not moving etc etc .

ps as they said two is not enough.
Andrea

Thanks, all of you, for guidance.

It's a male and a female, unrelated. The owner isn't too far away from me and seems very willing to assist, and we have a wonderful chap in the village who used to keep cows so I don't feel totally unsupported. As far as the size of the cow goes, I think I'm no more likely to be able to physically wrangle a Dexter than I would a larger breed. I was thinking of the less milk aspect, and the size of my existing building until I can extend.

There's a few wrinkles to check out, but I'm leaning towards going with these two if I can come up with the money. They're pretty much on my doorstep and the benefits of buying a couple of cows locally from someone who's willing to assist (and speaks English!) potentially outweighs other difficulties at the moment. They are also apparently used to goats.

Much though I'd like to buy a whole herd to keep each other company, or local traditional breeds, finances just simply don't allow it and I'd rather start somewhere than not at all.

The jury is still out though, as is the bank manager!

Thanks.
RichardW

Get two females & borrow a male as needed.

Why pay all year for bull when they are only needed for a short time?
Andrea

Get two females & borrow a male as needed.

Why pay all year for bull when they are only needed for a short time?

Good logic, but I live in the back end of beyond with not another cow for miles. Have been through this with the goats and, transport and bureaucracy being what they are, find it far easier to keep my own.
crofter

If you have enough land to build up a larger herd, go for it. But Richard is right about the bull, is there any chance of AI in the back of beyond? crofter

IIRC John Seymour suggested a minimum of 12 cows before it is worth keeping your own bull. Probably more than that nowadays? Rob R

IIRC John Seymour suggested a minimum of 12 cows before it is worth keeping your own bull. Probably more than that nowadays?

*Puts pedantic hat on* Probably not worth keeping them at all these days.
dpack

is there a good reason why there are very few moos in your area?

the lack of moos possibly means that folk have not found them to pay their way for whatever reasons.
Piggyphile

Firstly I know nothing of cattle other than my neighbours using my land for their beef herd. Living in the back of 'beyond' myself it is difficult to do AI as you need to know what you are doing, and the costs are keeping them are minimal I would think if they are grass fed, just the labour and fencing costs which you would have anyway and with two they are company for each other if you are getting them mostly for milk and the occasional bullock for meat. There is a huge difference between small holding for home consumption and keeping a herd for selling meat I would think, where minimal numbers are relevant. Surely people have been keeping one or two cows for home and draft use for centuries? Rob R

Surely people have been keeping one or two cows for home and draft use for centuries?

The EU has since outlawed keeping single animals, but plenty of people still do it with disasterous results. The behaviour tends to be worse (from the human's point of view) where they are kept alone.

The main issue with an underworked bull is that he might have urges on the 364 days of the year that he hasn't got a job for, particularly if he must be kept on his own to avoid serving his daughter. We prefer to keep the daughters and the bulls on different farms if at all possible, as they can detect an on-heat female from quite a distance.

These are all practical problems that can be overcome, with a beef steer to keep the bull company and well fenced fields with some distance between them, or a secure building to house the bull and his buddy during the off season. The animals can be rotated between the grazing & the building if grazing is limited.
Andrea

is there a good reason why there are very few moos in your area?

There used to be, on a small scale. My place housed 4 at once stage (2 milking, 2 working). But it's very much an ageing population here and people are giving up their animals generally.
Andrea

Firstly I know nothing of cattle other than my neighbours using my land for their beef herd. Living in the back of 'beyond' myself it is difficult to do AI as you need to know what you are doing, and the costs are keeping them are minimal I would think if they are grass fed, just the labour and fencing costs which you would have anyway and with two they are company for each other if you are getting them mostly for milk and the occasional bullock for meat. There is a huge difference between small holding for home consumption and keeping a herd for selling meat I would think, where minimal numbers are relevant. Surely people have been keeping one or two cows for home and draft use for centuries?


That's pretty much my thought process Piggyphile, so thankyou. This isn't a plan to make an income of any sort.

I'm appreciating the input from everyone though. It's not something to jump into.
wellington womble

It seems difficult to get basic information on cattle keeping. I suppose it's because the are big. I'd love to learn more about it. dpack

It seems difficult to get basic information on cattle keeping. I suppose it's because the are big. I'd love to learn more about it.

there are a few good books,i cant quite remember the one rob recommended to me but it was called something like "cattle behavior"

best way is to learn by doing it with folk who do it and adapt what they teach to your style of moo wrangling.

ps re tagging an unhappy 400kg of steer or removing 20 m of electric fence wire from a moos feet does not come with a user manual Laughing

moos are big and all of them react differently to things so learning caution and having fast ,well chosen, reactions to their "mood" and movements is important.

having a little experience of moo handling i can do quite a few moo tasks but i am more aware of my limitations than their capabilities.

the one that came strait at me was scarey,i stopped it with a palm strike to the head as it flipped me into an airborne back somersault,it was a draw.
paul getting the hair sample from the killer kerry while i did distraction with the vet told to watch from outside the pen was a win but rather scarey,the one that charged rob and me while we were moving them and we did a two way break at the last moment etc etc etc . i will never consider them tame,manageable but not tame.

dangeroos beasts if you make a mistake but is is ace to take a stone from the hoof of a loose bull or call one over for his morning neck massage.

keeping moos needs a decent level of physical ability (run for safety etc etc )and a good understanding of their behavior and needs.
crofter


keeping moos needs a decent level of physical ability (run for safety etc etc )and a good understanding of their behavior and needs.

Yes, but never run. They can run faster!
Andrea

there are a few good books,i cant quite remember the one rob recommended to me but it was called something like "cattle behavior"

Hope I just bought the right one. It cost me 1p on Amazon Smile
dpack


keeping moos needs a decent level of physical ability (run for safety etc etc )and a good understanding of their behavior and needs.

Yes, but never run. They can run faster!

i can cover 5 m and leap a gate faster than they can cover 30m Laughing

in the open i agree,tis better to stand ones ground and try convince them not to go for you with noise /arms as big horns etc etc and leap sideways at the last mo if needs be.that can lead to a "matador"type situation but it does take them a while to do a 180 degree turn from high speed so getting to safety is possible.if they run past the often loose interest .
crofter



in the open i agree,tis better to stand ones ground and try convince them not to go for you with noise /arms as big horns etc etc and leap sideways at the last mo if needs be.that can lead to a "matador"type situation but it does take them a while to do a 180 degree turn from high speed so getting to safety is possible.if they run past the often loose interest .

Yes, always stand your ground. Remember you are the boss, show no fear and maintain a dominant attitude. Talk to them, sternly but without shouting, use your body language as well. Only exception would be a newly calved cow (protective behaviour) or maybe an animal which has been wound up to a frenzy, (separated from the rest of the herd by dogs, or something like that) then keep well clear!
wellington womble



there are a few good books,i cant quite remember the one rob recommended to me but it was called something like "cattle behavior"

best way is to learn by doing it with folk who do it and adapt what they teach to your style of moo wrangling.

Still need to find that pub where the farmers drink!
Rob R



in the open i agree,tis better to stand ones ground and try convince them not to go for you with noise /arms as big horns etc etc and leap sideways at the last mo if needs be.that can lead to a "matador"type situation but it does take them a while to do a 180 degree turn from high speed so getting to safety is possible.if they run past the often loose interest .

Yes, always stand your ground. Remember you are the boss, show no fear and maintain a dominant attitude. Talk to them, sternly but without shouting, use your body language as well. Only exception would be a newly calved cow (protective behaviour) or maybe an animal which has been wound up to a frenzy, (separated from the rest of the herd by dogs, or something like that) then keep well clear!

Couldn't agree more - particularly about the latter. I was charged, matador-style, several times by a heifer that had escaped and got out into the fields when the others were all inside. Despite being in the middle of a 5 acre field with plenty of options where to run, she was properly going for us as we tried to urge her towards the gate. Once she was back in the herd you couldn't tell which she was and now I can't even remember which one she is, but she's definitely still in the herd.

On a similar note, we took on a heifer & a steer that had become unhandleable for the owners. They were supposed to go straight to slaughter, but with one thing and another it wasn't practical, so we kept them on. The behaviour was changed almost immediately by being part of a larger group and the steer in particular became much calmer.

Never under estimate the effect of solitude on cattle behaviour.
dpack

ps they smell nice Laughing NorthernMonkeyGirl

Surely people have been keeping one or two cows for home and draft use for centuries?

The EU has since outlawed keeping single animals, but plenty of people still do it with disasterous results. The behaviour tends to be worse (from the human's point of view) where they are kept alone.

The main issue with an underworked bull is that he might have urges on the 364 days of the year that he hasn't got a job for, particularly if he must be kept on his own to avoid serving his daughter. We prefer to keep the daughters and the bulls on different farms if at all possible, as they can detect an on-heat female from quite a distance.

These are all practical problems that can be overcome, with a beef steer to keep the bull company and well fenced fields with some distance between them, or a secure building to house the bull and his buddy during the off season. The animals can be rotated between the grazing & the building if grazing is limited.

If the first calf is a male, that could become the companion beef steer until it reaches edible weight, which would take a couple of years at least?
Rob R

Surely people have been keeping one or two cows for home and draft use for centuries?

The EU has since outlawed keeping single animals, but plenty of people still do it with disasterous results. The behaviour tends to be worse (from the human's point of view) where they are kept alone.

The main issue with an underworked bull is that he might have urges on the 364 days of the year that he hasn't got a job for, particularly if he must be kept on his own to avoid serving his daughter. We prefer to keep the daughters and the bulls on different farms if at all possible, as they can detect an on-heat female from quite a distance.

These are all practical problems that can be overcome, with a beef steer to keep the bull company and well fenced fields with some distance between them, or a secure building to house the bull and his buddy during the off season. The animals can be rotated between the grazing & the building if grazing is limited.

If the first calf is a male, that could become the companion beef steer until it reaches edible weight, which would take a couple of years at least?

Yes, but if you're depending on it being a bull, you can guarantee that it'll be a heifer.
dpack

did we have something like a 16 to 1 ratio one year?which led to a bit of a lack of beef 30 months later.
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