Boutique Beef

In order to become a Dexter breeder on any scale, especially for those new to the field and/or those looking for the ‘tree-change’, it is necessary to firstly realise and accept that there needs to be a market for the by-products (meat, milk, skins etc); even if that market is merely your own household and the households of extended families. Without such markets, the Dexter breed will once again become depleted rather than grow and thrive. Many smallholders and/or cottagers merely desire a house-cow for milking, but to produce milk the cow must first calve; and the smallholder and/or cottager needs to have a plan in mind for that calf. All too prevalent in the dairy industry is the unfavorable and often cruel treatment of the bobby calves; the unwanted. One of the main advantages of Dexters is that they are dual-purpose. The flavour and quality of meat from Dexters is equal to, and better than, the generally accepted ‘top meats’. There is certainly no need to dispose of those calves in a haphazardly cruel manner when a few happy months (9 – 27 or more depending on personal preference and carry-over ability), and a trauma-free butchering process, would see that calf feed a family for some time. There is always enough milk to share between the calf and the household; and there is always a reputable butcher, mobile or based, within reach. Note: the general practice for most breeders is to retain heifers (along with the occasional bull-calf) as breeding stock, while steers have the noble purpose of feeding the family. Nevertheless, heifers make equally good meat calves, and fatten slightly earlier than steers.

Foot-note:-Dairy farmers having to accept such low prices for their milk has resulted in many farmers retaining dairy steers for fattening, a big positive for humane treatment of by-product animals and a welcome reduction in the horrendous bobby calf trade.

Wagra Sires

Amazing how things just slot into place occasionally!

As always looking to the next generation of calves, needing to rein the type back into line having experienced a slight deviation in consistency as a result of our effort to establish a wider range of homozygous A2 females, I voiced my concerns to Gray and the kids, saying we can not risk forfeiting Wagra Dexter type for a fad which is based more on anecdotal evidence than on  science.

Out of the blue came the unbelievable offer to lease twelve year old Wagra Wedgwood, a bull we bred and had sold over 10 years earlier; a bull who had since become classified Excellent 92,  the highest linear classified bull in Australia at this time of writing. Not only is this generous offer an opportunity to consolidate our type, but also to ensure the basic structure is correct. He will also take the next generation back in time as he is only two generations from Stormie (imp), matriarch of what we call the “full-blood” section of the herd. (We call the other section the “pure-bred herd” as even though they are up to 8 & 9 generations Dexter, they will always retain the Jersey mitochondrial gene down the dam line.)

We still had some challenges ahead because we have an old Wedgwood daughter and several sister/grand-daughters in the herd which could be considered too closely related. We considered whether we should join them back to the A2/A2 paddock bull, knowing we may be disappointed regarding consistency, or use AI straws to join them, and still face inconsistency.

Then not two weeks later, yet another “out of the blue” event occurred! I had a phone call from Canada asking me had I given any further thought to importing semen from a bull who had been brought to my attention almost two year prior. I had to tell the caller, “Well, to be honest, no I hadn’t, but I will have another look.”

 Everything fell into place so easily. He was the right type, with the right pedigree, the right type of parents and the right type of progeny. The paper work needed very little extra done to get it into order, the straws were collected and held at a facility in Canada that also has an office/facility near Melbourne. All to easy.

Wagra Wedgwood’s owner herd, Copper Head Road, will share with Wagra Dexters in the Canadian bull, Hiyu Saturn’s Warlord, and we believe that both herds will benefit from the freshening of our herd gene pools, but we cannot know for absolutely sure until the results are running around the paddocks. The waiting for the first calves from both of these sire will seem interminable!!

Warlord has been tested homozygous A2 but that is purely co-incidental to this excercise. Meanwhile we have 29 new calves expected this spring, all of whom will be just gorgeous.

Best regards  and happy calving to all who may happen to read this blog.                                     Margaret