I have a small grade Dexter heifer.  I bought her planning to raise my own beef for my freezer.  I grew up raising Angus and while I love the look of Angus, didn't want the fencing challenges (really, the rumors aren't exaggerated!) and only have five small acres.  My little Dexter girl is pretty perfect for my set-up.

The question I have is hopefully not inappropriate for this forum.  Elsa will probably top out at about 500 lbs; I'd like to breed her to a small Angus bull but am not sure HOW small I need to be looking.  What is the average birth weight of a Dexter calf?  I've heard of others who've done this cross, but don't know any personally and I don't want to risk Elsa.  

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Hi Dawn, Where are you located? Why breed to an Angus? By your description she is somewhat small to breed to most angus bulls i have seen. I am also familiar with the cross but it has been a Dexter bull on an Angus cow, Maybe there is a Dexter breeder nearby. I am happy to check the PDCA database for others in your area.

Laura Christofk

PDCA Area Manager Region2

Thanks, Laura.  I much prefer to eat Angus but unless she has a major growth spurt, I'll have to look for Dexter for her.  I also wanted to out-cross both for hybrid vigor and to avoid the risk of the double-dwarf genes.  

A good Angus is fairly fine-boned --they throw calves with small heads and shoulders, so are easy to calve.  But the average birth size is about 60 lbs and I'm thinking that's just way to big for this tiny girl.  Her dam, and the others in the herd she came from, are quite a bit bigger than she is.  

I'm located in Southern Oregon, but I tend to prefer AI over natural breeding, so I've been looking at the PDCA database of sires too.  ;)  On the bright side, she's only 9 months old, so maybe she'll grow a whole bunch before she's ready to be bred.  

I'm very open to any advice as pertains to Dexters; I've read a bit about them but she's the first I've actually owned.  I know they're popular for dairy lines, but are there lines developed more for meat production?  

If she is 9 months she will still have more growing to do. i think they top out closer to 2.. they are often bred by 14-18 months, but i think some need to wait umtil they are closer to 2. it might be that you are just accustomed to larger calves so she would seem small in comparison, but might be just right to someone more familiar with the breed.

i have not crossbred so i cannot comment on hybrid vigor. since your girl is unregistered i would say, why not? 

as far as angus vs dexter beef.... IMHO that is why i chose dexters. amazing flavor and no grain finishing needed. woohoo. it is disappointing to go to even the best steakhouse anymore. I am spoiled!

there are plenty of dexter breeders near you. singings spring farm comes to kind. do you have a copy of the Journal? they have an ad in the back.

sorry, i misread. i thought you said she was a crossbred, is she registered? if so, i would definitely recommend breeding to a registered Dexter bull. I am not an AI fan as it can sometimes take a frw tries to settle them and can be frustrating and expensive at that point. i think AI is great when you are seeking a very special trait that is not available in genetics nearby. as far as being free of the PHA and chondro genes, a bull owner usually tests, so just ask. besides it can only manifest if both cow and bull are carriers And even then it is like 25% chance to throw it, so not as common as you might think.

She's not registered...she's a grade heifer.  She has Angus in her background--the great-grandsire if I remember correctly.  Since I just want a little girl to raise me a calf every couple of years, I wasn't worried about pedigree as much as affordability and type.  She has lovely hips & hindquarter.  ;)  

I didn't know that bull owners tested for the genes...that's great!  We have the same issue in dwarf breeds of rabbits (I raise Angoras), so I already knew it's the 25%; I just figure I don't want to give Murphy a chance to apply his law.  ;)

The other thing I like about using the AI from Select Sires or other companies is that they have great stats on what the bulls tend to throw.  Of course, I'm looking for unusual traits (bulls rather than heifers, small size, etc), but I can choose a bunch of possibles and compare them side by side easily.  I can cut the expenses a lot by having her done when my neighbor (big dairy) has theirs done.  Also, if she does grow a lot, and I go with an Angus sire, there's no way I'd let her be bred by a full-grown Angus bull.

But I'm reading the replies I'm getting here and paying attention, believe me!  My mind isn't set and Elsa's well-being is my biggest concern.  

Blessings,

Dawn

Hmm...do you know how Dexter compares to Angus in terms of marbling?  I expect to pasture raise, with grain supplementation.  I like PRIME meat--the strictly grass-fed I've had wasn't to my taste.  Some of it, I needed a chain saw to cut and it was drier than the Sahara desert.  And I absolutely HATE Jersey and Holstein steaks.  My husband couldn't believe there was really a noticeable difference and he's tried to "trick" me a few times.  ROFL!! 

Do Dexters tend to have yellow fat or white?  Since they're popular for dairy and have high-fat milk, I'm thinking yellow-ish?  

And...has anyone had Livestock Guardian dogs with their Dexter cows/calves?  Our Angus would never have tolerated even an LGD near their calves.  I'm hoping the Dexters aren't as aggressively protective; my Anatolian lives in the barnyard/barn and I'd like her to be able to protect Elsa and her future calf.  Elsa is currently fine with the dog but becoming a mama can change a girl's mind...

Blessings,

Dawn

ugh! i just bbq' d rib eye steaks tonight! they were so marb!ed i thought i should take a photo, but did not. lazy me!!!!  yes i know what you are saying about some grass finished beef. like eating a shoe. but ya know what i say about angus beef nkw that i knkw better? wherenjs tje flavor?! i do not know why Dexter beef is just fabulous , but i have had 18 month steers and 2 1/2 yo steers and all have been xlnt flavor and very tender. even the younger that are not as marb!ed are xlnt. try it! you can always sell your Dexter if the meat is not up to your expectations.

my Dexters have horns so no LGD needed. if you hzve a few cows,even without horns, not sure i would worry unless maybe big cat like mountain lion. when they say that Dexters are good mothers, i believe what is meant is they will protect their calf fiercely if need be. IMO cows are not stupid. if they see their LGD as a protector of the herd, the cow will not turn on it unless the dog is threatening the calf. so leave them together. now will the cow see you as a threat?... mine do. i leave them alone for a day or two after calving and let those hormones settle down. after day three it is time to start milking them. My girls really over produce for about the first 2-3 weeks so milking almost seems mandatory to keep the udders from being damaged. plus i love milking.

Thanks, Laura.  The dog isn't there to protect Elsa for the main part--she protects the alpacas, chickens and rabbits.  :)  We have had a cougar near and we have bear but I've never had a problem with bears going after cattle.  However, the coyotes, raccoons and other small predators are a real threat to the rabbits and since Elsa lives in the barnyard and share the barn with the rabbits, the LGD is with her too.  Elsa lives with the alpacas--they're her "herd".  :)  Otherwise I'm sure she'd be anxious to go visit the dairy next door!  Here's a picture of Elsa, with her buddy Libra (the alpaca) and Asena the Anatolian Shepard.  :)  Both Elsa and Libra just step over Asena when they get tired of her company.

aaawww. i love seeing everyone get along. is your Dexter red or shedding out to black? 

I think she's sunburned black, going to shed out to black.  Your eyes aren't deceiving you though--she's got a red tint right now.  That young alpaca really takes care of her.  Elsa is really stupid about gates--she gets lost and can't find her way back through without help.  Libra (the alpaca) hears her bellering and goes to her, then guides her through the gate.  

Hi, Dawn. I'm a latecomer to this discussion between you and Laura, but wonder if you've solved your breeding question yet? My own Dexter birth weights tend to be between about 32 and 42, I think (from the few I've brought in and weighed). You do know that lowlines are real Angus? You could try a lowline or small-frame mini-hereford, but I agree with Laura that a Dexter bull is a good choice and you can find decent ones for a good price and even excellent ones for a reasonable price, and they have such nice temperament that the bull may become your favorite animal on the place! Your heifer looks like she has a good bit of growing to do, so I'm guessing you just wisely put off breeding her for awhile.
Re meat, I have taken Dexter steaks to our grazing group's cookoffs about every other year, and it is my DEXTER meat which gets the rave reviews for flavor and tenderness. The competition is also all grassfed, just other breeds. Have read that the yellow color fat reflects the good beta carotene from the grass diet, I believe.

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