SYDNEY DEXTER CATTLE FIELD DAY - FEBRUARY 2017
The Sydney Dexter Promotion group held their first meeting and field day for 2017 at Little Wheeney and Westview Dexter Stud in Kurrajong Hills, west of Sydney on Sunday 5th February.
After a long hot, very dry and humid summer, the prediction for Sunday’s field day was 45 degrees celsius. Our guests of honour Frances & Simon Sedgwick were visiting Sydney from Storrington, West Sussex, UK, where they had left single figure temperatures.
The day arrived and was living up to expectations with temperatures already over 40 degrees at 11am. Members and visitors had braved the heat and travelled many hours to come to our field day. these included Chris Clark, President of DCAI, from Northern NSW; Don Williams with wife Jackie, President of Manning Valley Promotion group; and our new members Eric and Lesley Caswell from Gulgong, members also travelled from the southern areas of Sydney and locally.
After a short meeting with updates and suggestions, our guests of honour were introduced, Frances & Simon Sedgwick, of Greyfriars Dexters, UK.
Frances gave us a very interesting overview of her Dexter operations in England. After 17 years working for an organic food business, she was struck by illness in 2007. Graduating from Brighton University in Countryside Management in 2010, Frances was looking for a new income and lifestyle that would fit in with her health restraints and interests.
She chose the Dexter as they are easy to manage, hardy with longevity, fine beef and she could sell the meat and raw milk (which we can’t do in Australia)!
In 2012 she had her first sales of Dexter beef, which continues to be sort after. Half of her beef sales are direct to the public and part of a “Dexter Beef Network” and the other half to local butchers. The short distances from farm to the dinner plate, benefit the environment and the welfare of the animal.
As their farm is in the South Downs National Park, Frances is a member of the South Downs Land Management group and in 2014 was approached to assist the group in using her Dexter’s for conservation grazing projects as the Steyning area had not been grazed since the 1980’s. The ancient chalk grasslands are a rare habitat for flora and fauna and need to be grazed otherwise they become invaded by scrub and coarse grasses. The Dexters being an old breed will eat the tough tor grass, which will swamp everything if left.
Frances only had 3 steers to release for grazing, so she started to buy more stock, mainly from Stuart Tarrant of the Apple herd, who was retiring, including his cattle trailer which made her more mobile.
Frances now has 14 head on the Steyning Downland Conservation site and 8 breeding cows at home. The steers are weaned at 10 months and moved to the conservation site, where they graze all year until they go to beef at 30 months. All animals are fed a 100% natural grass diet, live in a natural environment with no pesticides and are loved by the locals.
A team of “Lookerers” from the Steyning Downland scheme keep a daily check on the animals and let Frances know if they need attention. Volunteers are trained to do condition scoring and check forage availability, are the cattle standing, eating, ruminating etc? The local schools use the site for study purposes.
Frances attends the Singleton rare breeds show, gives talks about her Dexter’s and conservation grazing, has a milk testing service a bull hire service and recently sold the first Dexter’s to go to the Isle of Wight.
Our field day continued, with temperatures now over 45 degrees Celsius. The visitors from UK seemed to be coping with the heat better than we were and couldn’t wait to get outside to inspect the cattle.
With hats on and perspiration running down our faces we all ventured out into the heat to admire the herd of lovely Dexters and envy how Margaret & Phil had managed to maintain such lush green paddocks over such a horrendous summer.
Margaret Paynter was a wealth of information to the many questions, especially from the overseas visitors, about her Dexters, DNA and genetic testing and Dexter history in Australia.
Thank you to Margaret, Phil and Jenny for their hospitality, to all our members who travelled so far and to Frances & Simon Sedgwick and Lynn & Steve, from Ruse, for driving them up for the day and joining in and making our field day such a success.
Editorial By: Robyn Herring
Photograph: (top) Frances & Simon Sedgwick with the Dexter cattle of Little Wheeney and Westview.
(Top Left) Field day discussions gravitated to anywhere shady
(Left) Little Wheeney Dexter Cattle
Bottom Left) Frances Sedgwick with her Greyfriers Dexter Cattle