Breeding Wisdom.

Hello Folks,

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.




Catching Up

Being on DCAI Council for the past four years and President for one of those years took up a fair bit of my time but I have to say I really enjoyed that experience, and thank you to those Members who voted me in for both of those two-year stints.

Last year I asked that I not be re-nominated for President due to Gray having had open heart surgery the day before that AGM, and this year I did not nominate to go back on Council after the AGM on October 8th.

My time on Council was best spent in Member Service & Herdbook. I handled phone and email enquiries that would otherwise have been dealt with by the Registrar at a cost to the Association, and it was good to be able to help Members sort through transactions that had become complicated for one reason or another. Sometimes enquirers just wanted to talk or learn, and that was OK also. Many other items of concern were addressed

Since the beginning of this financial year when DCAI changed Service Provider, most of my time has been taken up with transition of the Herdbook data. Improvements have been made on the new database but still a work in progress. We are fortunate to have wonderfully accommodating staff at LBC.

Graham is currently completing a new fence to make an L-shaped paddock out of otherwise wasted land on other sides of the creeks in one of the hay paddocks. That will be handy for bulls and steers that don’t need the same constant observation like the females do in calving and AI seasons.

The next job is to bring thirteen female and five male feral yearlings in and work on teaching them a few manners. They were lightly handled at weaning so they need to be reminded.

Mostly Hiyu Saturn’s Warlord calves this season all very pleasing, but also one very interesting Apple Coda baby, maybe even two. (We sent the new calf’s tail hair to UQ for parent verification yesterday.)

Now looking forward to SE-NSW Dexter Group Xmas get-together catch-up with friends!



Wagra Dexters are DCAI registered!

There seems to have been a lot of talk and confusion about the introduction of another Dexter registry but it is all very simple really. You get what you pay for!

I am doubtful that many livestock breeders would prefer an association that does not have an elected council nor the privacy and security of an independent third party database and registrar provider. Where members “own” other members private details, database and registry there is a conflict of interest that thinking breeders would consider compromising. Many DCAI members have animals on private share contract and/or private lease contracts. I doubt many members would want the details of those agreements to be held in the ownership of other members who by nature of that membership have a vested interests.

DCAI is our registry of choice because it does NOT have:

  • a self-appointed board of anonymous directors who are locked into management for 5 years and more
  • data, transactions, lease arrangements and share contracts becoming the property of other members who have a vested interest
  • registration of first cross cattle diluting the advanced level of purity that we have been able to achieve by previously closing the DCAI Herdbook to further introgression

Several DCAI Members have already had enquiries for Dexter livestock, semen and embryos from South America, Eastern Block Europe, Middle Eastern states, and USA. DCAI registered herds have gained respect and credibility at the international level but the re-introduction of first cross Dexter female registration could mar the reputation of all Australian Dexters at a time when we are moving towards becoming an acceptable source of livestock and genetics for international export. I believe we should differentiate between DCAI registered Dexters and HDCRA registered Dexters at every opportunity so that we do not lose the respect we have gained internationally for our national Dexter herd since closing the DCAI herd-book.

DCAI Data which is stored on ABRI database is copyrighted to DCAI. Anybody else will contravene copyright if they use DCAI data that does not belong to them without permission. They will also contravene copyright if they parent verify animals at UniQuest to DNA data that does not belong to them.

HDCRA is not approvable as an Approved Dexter Association. Despite the dramatic claims, HDCRA registered Dexters are not acceptable for registration with DCAI unless those Dexters meet the exact same membership and regulation requirements as stated in the DCAI Herdbook Regulations.

The list of overseas “Approved Dexter Associations” in the Herdbook Regulations are those that were specifically designated to be overseas sources for Dexter animals and/or genetic material which could be imported to Australia upon which to build, expand and refresh a national Australian Dexter herd. HDCRA does not have any unique genetics that DCAI members can’t otherwise readily access, either domestically or abroad, and it is not an overseas association.

DCAI Members can maintain a healthy gene pool by respecting and encouraging the differences in breeding choices and strategies practised by our fellow members who are producing different families and types of Dexter cattle that range within the breed ideals and guidelines. So long as we keep an educated eye on duality, health and structure, and so long as we don’t all succumb to the same latest breeding fad-of-the-day simultaneously, DCAI Dexters will thrive, and may all DCAI breeders prosper!

Wagra Dexters

DCAI Member #10136


I don’t get it!

Since the mid-to-late 1980s I read and re-read all the very early material, bought all the Dexter books available, picked the brains of Dexter heavyweights of various and conflicting persuasions across the globe, scoured the herdbooks of  various nationalities, I see Dexter pedigrees and family trees in my head when I close my eyes at night.

The stuff that I read over the years was all the same wonderful, romantic, hypothetical and anecdotal  stories that everybody else with severe Dexteritis has read. What I don’t get is how come some people can read exactly the same sources, exactly the same “possibilities” and “probabilities”, then impose their own version of truth on those stories, rather than accepting the mystery that is actually written in early documents.

The authors of the old documents do not claim to know exactly when and how the Dexter came to be. Some suggest the truth might be such-and-such a story. Others say the truth is believed to be some other story … or perhaps it could possibly be yet another totally different story. The history of the Dexter has evolved out of  the mists of time, yet now, 150 years or so later, we have “experts” declaring that their own private interpretation of the earlier documents is absolute gospel.

The authors of the old documents describe short dumpy cattle. They do not claim that the animal must carry a dwarf gene to make them short and dumpy.

What I don’t get is how come some Dexter breeders want to take “breed” out of the Dexter herd.

Some say that if two dwarf Dexters produce a non-dwarf calf, then that calf is not a Dexter, because they believe that only the dwarf is a real Dexter.

I can only relate to that concept when I use the palomino horse as an analogy. Two palominos can produce a palomino, or they can produce a chestnut foal, or they can produce a cremello foal. The chestnut or cremello foals are not considered to be palomino. That is because palomino is a colour, not a breed. If all offspring from palomino to palomino matings were considered to be palomino, then the palomino would be called a breed.

Only if all offspring from two Dexters are called Dexter can Dexter be called a breed. If two dwarf Dexters have a non-dwarf calf and that calf is then not considered by its breeders to be Dexter, then those breeders cannot realistically consider their Dexters to be a breed.

To each his own, that’s their business. The gene pool is kept healthier by the variation within human preference. I see short dumpy cattle in our paddocks, as described by the early authors. I do not see written anywhere that those cattle have to have a dwarf gene to make them short and dumpy.

It would be so much friendlier if early documents could be valued for what they are, ie intriguing hypothetical, fable and fantasy, great stuff, not to have hard and fast rules, and stultifying criteria, read into them where there are none!

Forever Dexter!!