If you've been reading this blog, you know that there's a man near my farm who has a herd of Irish Dexter cattle. I've driven over to his place 3 times but never found him at home. Well, this past weekend, I tried one more time. He was there and gave me an extensive tour as well as the benefit of his lifetime of experience with both horses and cattle.
He had perhaps 20 horses running free in an adjacent pasture roughly the size of Rhode Island and they were a beautiful sight to see. Closer to the house were 20 or so cattle of various breeds and colors, and about half of them were purebred Dexter cattle. Here's a few of Dexters from his herd:
This man had sold his 300 head dairy farm and retired to - well, to farm some more, but this time for pleasure. He'd recently purchased this trained and tame pair of oxen. And boy, were they ever friendly, following us around like dogs. That became a bit disconcerting because of their horns always at our backs. They meant no harm but they wanted attention, kind of like a couple of pesky puppies:
This brown cow is a Dexter but when he bought her she'd been mated to a Scottish Highland bull. The calf she produced was beautiful, but not worth much money. Her most recent calf was a purebred Dexter. She's a fine looking cow but he said she's got a bit of a personality problem and just doesn't want to be bothered by humans:
Here's the brown cow with her current calf. That's a Dexter bull behind her. More about him later:
This experienced cattleman gave me all kinds of pointers. To begin with, he told me not to believe that nonsense about Dexters being naturally tame and docile. This bull tried to kill him when he was being unloaded from the truck. Furthermore, as we stood in the pasture and talked, this bull ambled around behind us, carefully checking us out and I was instructed not to make any sudden moves:
He also told me that because Dexters had recently become so popular with small landholders, they were being bred by novices and their conformation and temperaments have suffered as a result. He showed me some of their leg problems and udder problems. I didn't tell him so, but he pretty much talked me out of that breed:
And I said goodbye to the friendly ox and returned to my farm apartment full of dogs with much to think about.