Monday, July 13, 2009

Visiting the Irish Dexter Farm

On Friday I drove to Fort Plain, in east central New York, about an hour and a half west of Albany, to visit a herd of Irish Dexter cattle in the hopes that they might one day be the breed I will choose for my farm. I drove into the beautiful rural region along the magnificent Mohawk River/Erie Canal and saw lots of scenery.

Fort Plain is a quintessential small American town with a crowded, bustling Main Street. The village is built at the foot of the hill where a Revolutionary War fort once stood. The fort was constructed in 1776 and a blockhouse was maintained here throughout the war. While many of the village's men were fighting elsewhere, the women, dressed as men, were able to fend off Indian attacks by firing from the walls of the fort. The town is also just a couple of miles from the mammoth Beechnut factory, famous for producing baby foods. But mostly, I liked the rural scenery.

I arrived at the Dexter farm and the owner, past president of the Purebred Dexter Association, took me out into an enclosed field to meet the critters. The cattle saw her coming and got all excited hoping she'd brought them some treats. She did indeed, but first we had to open the gate to let them all in with us. Above, you can see the critters waiting eagerly.

We opened the gate and in they poured, jostling and bucking and butting each other to get at the sweet feed.

The older cows and steers came in first. The calves were momentarily reticent but soon followed.

Mommy, wait for me!!!!!!!

They all ran to bowls of feed we'd placed around the field.

When the bowls were empty, then and only then did they pay attention to us.

Later, we followed them back up the hill to their shady spot under the trees. I was concerned about how tame they might be so the owner called over one of her tamer cows and gave her a brushing.

I was still concerned about the horns, but this breed at least is very small and their horns are MUCH shorter than those of Yaks or of Scottish Highland cattle.

Also, Irish Dexters are noted for being both intelligent and easily tamed. This herd is seldom handled, so I think it was a fair comparison to the Yaks and the Scottish Highlanders. I'd say the Dexters were the winners. It looks like I'll be back to buy some calves from this farm when I retire.

So I drove away feeling positively about the visit, the herd and the breed. And the landscape was beautiful also.

And by the way, here's a 20 second video of the Dexters pouring through the gate looking for sweet feed:

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