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.