I wanted to raised our own beef, but I also wanted to have milk. We have a small homestead, and do not have much pasture for grazing. I began to research cattle breeds that were good for small homesteads. I found out about Dexter cattle and fell in love.
Dexter cattle are naturally small, and by that I mean they have not been genetically selected to be miniature. Because of their size, they require less space. A small shelter from the elements is sufficient for this breed. For pasture, a Dexter only needs a half an acre. I had never been around livestock before, and it was nice to start with something smaller and less intimidating.
In the winter, a full-grown Dexter needs a half of a bale of hay ( 20-25 lbs.) per cow. Compare this to a standard sized cow, which needs one full bale of hay per day per cow, in the winter. During the summer months when grass is growing, a Dexter needs half an acre of pasture per cow, whereas a full-sized cow would need two acres per cow. For us that meant that we could keep our milk cow and grow the calf for beef on the available pasture.
With a full grown cow we would have had to supplement with hay during the summer which would cost more money. Dexters easily finish on grass, and can be processed at 24 months, which means the same amount of time to finish but half the cost.
You can read my post on how to choose hay for cows if you have never bought hay before.
Because they are considered a dual breed, Dexter cattle are excellent for both milking and beef production. A Dexter cow will produce 1-2 gallons per day of milk , 4% butterfat, which can be made into butter, cheese, and ice cream. The milk has smaller fat globules which makes it easier to digest. The milk we get from our cow, Molly’s milk is very creamy and delicious. I have made ice cream, mozzarella cheese, farmer’s cheese, and butter which all have been wonderful.
Our cows have been a lovely addition to our homestead. The only con I can think of is that I thought for sure that because they are small then their poop would be small right? NOPE! They still poop like a regular cow! lol. All kidding aside, their manure is actually a blessing because they fertilize the pasture and the manure goes into the garden.