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Longevity and Calving Ease


Dexters are known for their longevity and persistent productivity.  There are countless reports of Dexter cows producing calves well into their late teens. Dexters bulls are equally well known for their fertility and working ability at ages not generally expected of most larger breeds of cattle.


It goes without saying that the level of care provided over an animal’s lifetime has a bearing on its longevity. Good nutrition, adequate shelter and regular parasite management logically contributes to the chance of an animal living a long, healthy and productive life.


That having been said, the Dexter breed does appear to have a natural propensity to be long lived and, more importantly, remain productive breeders for much longer than most cattle breeds.


Dexter cows maintain their maternal abilities and are excellent mothers with an ability to turn off a sappy calf in all conditions. Well known as easy calvers, cows generally make light work of getting a calf on the ground and up on its feet. It has often been said that Dexter calves hit the ground running. This is not quite true but almost. As a rule it is a very short time between the birth and the calf being up, steady, having its first drink and a run around mum.


Dexter calves grow quickly and soon display the typical independence that is a signature of Dexter calves. Their sense of adventure is quite unique and groups of calves are often found playing quite independently of their mothers at a very early age. The cows, in spite of appearing indifferent to the distance between them and the calves, have a discerning eye on the calves all the time.


This is not to say that Dexter cows never have any calving difficulties. All breeds of cattle can experience mishaps with giving birth so it is always appropriate to keep an eye on your cattle when they are due to calve and seek professional assistance if you think something is not right.


It is the long life span, the intelligence and surprising ability to do well on a range of pastures that has made Dexter cattle a popular choice for small acre farmers. One of the contributing factors too is thought to be their smaller size and conformation. Being smaller means less energy is required for movement resulting in better feed conversion.


The real benefit of the Dexter’s longevity is productivity. Cows remaining in good reproductive health means less heifers are required as replacements resulting in an increase in the number of calves available to sell, either as commercial beef producers or stud breeders. From a business perspective longevity is a positive in terms of herd stability offering immeasurable benefits. 


The one draw-back is you become too familiar with your old breeders and there are fewer reasons to cull. But, let’s face it, if all downsides in life were that good the world would be a better place.

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