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  Home > OUR DEXTER CATTLE

We established our Dexter herd in 2003. The smallest of the traditional breeds, the Dexter is perhaps best known as a small black cow, but they can also be red and dun. Our breeding bulls (Nettle Stanley, Ormonde Barnsley, Stoddah Yan & Stoddah Tyan) carry the genes for both colours, so offspring may be either. 

About half the size of modern commercial cattle the Dexter's small stature and hardy nature means it is well suited to grazing our fell-side farm’s heavier wet ground and permanent natural pasture. The breed is often used for conservation grazing upland pastures.

Short or non-short?
There are two types of Dexter - shorts and non-shorts. Shorts are popular in the show ring at agricultural shows and on the smallholding; while non-shorts, with their slightly longer leg and bigger carcase are a better option for our meat business.

Rearing and calves
The Dexter is a dual-purpose breed, producing good meat and also good quantities of quality milk to rear calves. The cows usually produce a single calf once every 12 months.  They are good mums and rarely need assistance when calving.

Because our management system is not intensive, the cows may continue rearing calves into their late teens. Our oldest cow Eagleridge Ginger Cream, born in 1995, has reared 17 calves, and this year, aged 19 fed not only her own calf but also took over feeding one of her daughters calves who saddly damaged her hip and could no longer stand. We have three of her daughters in our breeding herd.

Calves are at least six months old when we wean; still taking some milk but with most of their daily intake coming from grazing. Grown slowly, our cattle are finished between 24-30 months.  They are slaughtered at a local abattoir and traditionally hung or matured in our cold room on the farm. The resulting meat is beef like it used to taste, with a fine marbling of fat and wonderful flavour.

Not just beef
In the past the breed was used as a dairy cow but today, with milk prices so low, few milking herds have been retained. However, Dexter’s are still popular with those looking for a house cow as milk volumes produced are more manageable at 2500-3500 litres per annum rather than the 5-6500 litres produced by commercial dairy cows. The milk is very good, naturally homogenised with high butterfat and protein levels, ideal for cheese-making.

Now not so rare
A Dexter breed society was set up in England in the late 19th century and a year book recording pedigree stock was established. During much of the mid 20th century, as demands grew for increased yields and cheaper food , Dexter's fell out of favour.

When the Rare Breeds register was first set up the Dexter breed was included. No doubt partly due to a growing appreciation of its well-marbled, flavoursome Dexter beef, the popularity of the breed has now grown to such a level that it is no longer considered an endangered breed.


Our breeding cattle are pedigree registered with the Dexter Cattle Society, which means they have names and family trees as well as the normal cattle passport. A native or traditional breed, typical of the type of cattle the Celts and Romans would have used, the breed’s history is well documented.

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Our next events and market's are:   OCTSat 7th - Barnard Castle Farmer Market; Sat 14th - Orton Farmers ;  Fri 20th - Cartmel Food Market;  Tues 17th - Penrith Farmers Market; 27th - Kendal Farmers Market, 28th Brampton Farmers Market.  For full details go to Where to Buy  PENRITH MARKET WILL NOT TAKE PLACE THIS MONTH DUE TO THE FORECAST HIGH WINDS
 
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