Dexters are a dairy breed. I know everyone says they are a duel purpose breed. The history does not back that up Irish history, Dexter history and Kerry history all point to them being raised for milk. Of course they were eaten just as dairy breeds are eaten today. the beef takes care of itself but it is the dairy traits that we have lost so much of. I would like to see them return to the Dairy breed they were. Not the giant dairy breeds of today with so much production it nearly kills the cows but the heavy producers of the past. the trick is to breed for this rather then shortcut it by crossing with dairy breeds as has been done.
Mike, I see several problems with reverting to just a dairy breed.
1. Early Irish Dexters were dwarf Kerry. Early English Dexters were anything dwarf and mostly solid coloured. Early American Dexters were based on English stock (some of which had been imported from Ireland). Our Dexters aren't closely related to Kerry, so we can't 'go back' to the Irish original because we never had them.
2. Very few people actually milk their Dexters, so where's the market?
Are you suggesting that real Dexters should be closely related to Kerry, and everything else in the US, including traditional lines that aren't Kerry based, should branch off and start a new registry called something else, leaving maybe 10 Dexters in all of the US? I guess that answers the market question...
The earliest Dexter cattle I have identified in America were originally imported to Canada from Ireland in the last years of the 1800's. Offspring were sold to New York. These are therefore the earliest cattle identified in America as well as one of them was in NY in 1900. These Canadian cows were from Ireland, and the herd was owned by a wealthy and apparently well known resident near Montreal. I have been exchanging emails with an historical society trying to locate information and so far one photo has been found which, to me, portrays animals in dairy stanchions that certainly resemble Dexter cattle. If there is a Canadian interested in Dexter history/research who lives close to Monreal and could search for, and share, photos or articles they are welcome to contact me for the info I have. I am sure there must be news articles and likely pictures. These were rare cattle of a rare breed and I cannot imagine it didn't make the news. . . if only agricultural news.
The next Dexter cattle to America also were imported from Irish herds. They may have traveled through England to get here, but the bulk of the earliest animals in the US were from the LaMancha herd of the Robertson family. The had a farm in Malahide near Dublin, and one in Babraham, Cambridge. Their animals were gathered in Ireland. As a matter of fact, with the thousands of entries I've made from herd books, I believe this was a cattle trading family who found their fortunes in Dexter cattle, gathered them from every possible location, registered them with RDS, and exported hundreds of them to England. I would say they were the largest factor in Dexters transitioning from an Irish herd to an English herd.
Dexters from other Irish herds exported to America were Duv, and Gort herds. Duv was the herd of John Neill of Killarney and Gort was from David Millar Rattray who exported to Canada and the US, and he was based at Ballybunion, Gortnaskehy, County Kerry. In all the records I've entered, I've also developed the opinion he was a cattle trader. The Duv and Gort herds sent animals to this continent that were non-black.
Some animals were named or descended from the Kenmare herd of George Courtney and that was an Irish herd.
Predominantly, the bulk of all the animals imported to America in the early decades of the 1900's were from Irish herds. The English cattle came in the next wave of imports in the 1950's.
One of the most renowned Irish milk cows in America was Slane Clara. She came from Slane Castle, Slane, County Meath, Ireland, which was the herd and residence of the Marchioness of Conyngham. Slane Clara was prominently displayed in an early brochure with her milk records. There is a different pose in the Legacy World Records. She recorded 9010 pounds milk in 383 days with 4.19% milk fat.
Hi Judy, actually Robertson was a premier owner and collector of Kerry cattle, and exhibited them in Paris, trying to beat out the butter records of the Danish. He also helped design a portable milking parlour which he sent around Ireland, to teach farmers how to get the best results from their cows. He saw the market for Dexters, and had them as an offshoot. His business was as a seedsman, with royal patronage, which is how Martin Sutton got into Dexters.
Can't remember his name, think he was a Senator, will have to check files, but he imported a bull into Montreal, no mention of cows. I have a pic of the bull. There was a second importation by the banker Caracaud, also in Montreal, but his animals came from the US and returned there. I have a pic of his animals at pasture. I used it for the photo opp. in the Cdn history in Dick Bird's Congress publication (has Limelight on the cover). You probably have a copy. If you don't let me know. I have a whole box of them.
I know that Robertson had a farm in England, and he 'collected' Dexters there, but there is no evidence they were from Ireland, as the herd name was the same for both farms. This was during the startup of Dexters, and anything that looked dwarfy or small with horns and not too much white got registered. Many of the Dexters imported in the major 1915 import weren't even registered, just random cattle that would have qualified.
There were two other imports in Canada, one to Vancouver around 1915 and one to Vancouver Island around 1940. In both cases the cows were considered a novelty, and I don't think ever bred, as no bulls came in with them. The Vancouver ones disappeared, no trace, but the Vanc. Is. ones were sent to slaughter, but the hauler thought they were cute so saved one and kept it until it died on his farm. These last two were Fyfield cows.
Since you were involved with the Cardiff study, what info do you have on the genetic make up of the Dexters you sent for inclusion. Surely even with some introgression of more modern English blood (50's), the analysis should show a preponderance of Kerry genetics??? If I remember right, this wasn't the case.
Since chondro affects bones not organs, early Irish Dexters from the Kerry area would have started out with Kerry udders.
Slane Castle suffered a major fire and all records were lost. I've been in touch with the family and they checked for me: definitely nothing left of what happened to their Dexters. They are looking to reintroduce Dexters to the estate.
Dexters were described as a beef-framed animals by Professor Low in about 1850 in the first description of Dexters. Professor Low even used the word "beef" to describe them.
"remarkable roundness of form and shortness of legs... some doubt may exist whether the original was the pure Kerry, or some other breed proper to the central parts of Ireland now unknown, or whether some foreign blood, was mixed with the native race.... One character of the Dexter breed is frequently observed in certain cattle of Ireland, namely, short legs, and a small space from the knee and hock to the hoofs. This has probably given rise to a saying sometimes heard of, :Tipperary beef down to the heels. However the Dexter breed has been formed, it still retains its name, and the roundness and depth of carcase which distinguished it. When any individual of a herd of cattle in County Kerry appears remarkably round and short-legged, it is common for the country people to call it a Dexter”.
Basically, Professor Low said that any animal with a beef frame, was called a "Dexter". Short legs is a beef trait. Animals don't need dwarfism defect genes to have short legs. No early descriptions specifically mentioned dwarfism defects.
Since a lot of beefy, short-legged Devon cattle had been imported to Ireland, Professor Low was likely seeing Devon and Devon/Kerry crosses.
Here's a Devon (non-chondro) that matches Professor Low's description.
I am very well aware of what was written in 1950 and it is all relative. when comparing the Kerry to its dwarf cousin the Dexter what words would you use to describe the difference of course it looked more beefy.
that doesnt change the history they were milk cows. Many of them kept milk records. It was stated that pound for pound they produced more than any other breed. why do you despute these facts. because they dont fit your agenda.
Thanks, Mike. That quote about pound for pound is mine, from one of the ADCA brochures I wrote for the association. Fun to see it in print again...and even funnier to know the source and your use of it.
Back to the original issue: Dexters were nearly always genetic dwarfs where the BONES were shortened but the ORGANS were normal size. That gave you a tiny cow with an udder that was disproportionately large for the size of the cow. Up until about 35 years ago most Americans had Dexters as a novelty, and about the only selection criteria was height, no one was keeping any milk info--or breeding for udders or udder shape and attachment, which is why the American national herd ended up with what Gene proudly calls 'dual-purpose' udders, appalling attachment, saggy brown paper bags with little or no concern for yield. It's great that you are working toward superior udders, and not before time for the balance of owners to do the same. Keep up the good work, and on behalf of the breed, thanks.
Here's another Devon (non-chondro) that perfectly meets Professor Low's 1850's beefy description of Dexters. Lots of genes (other than chondrodysplasia) can give an animal short legs. There were lots of Devons imported into the Kerry area of Ireland starting in the late 1700's. Professor Low said that Dexters were probably a cross between native Kerry cattle and an import (like the Devon). He also said any beefy short-legged cattle like this Devon, were called "Dexter", regardless of their breeding. "Dexter" simply came to mean "short and beefy" according to Professor Low.
Post by lakeportfarms on Apr 14, 2018 12:10:03 GMT
Photos can be extremely deceptive. For example that "Devon" bull that Kirk posted is standing next to a fence. How tall is the fence? If it's 48", that's a huge bull. He may have short legs, but it's still a huge bull. I could post all kinds of photos of my "huge" short leg bull out in the pasture by himself, but put him together with me standing by my side and he'd be waist high.
Furthermore, there are other forms of dwarfism out there other than BD1 chondrodysplasia. Dwarfism in the Angus breeds, spontaneous mutations in other breeds that have hundreds of thousands of cattle births each year. Some of the examples that you point out could be those cases, because there will be a natural tendency to select for that type.
And yes, the Dexter breed has some appalling "dual purpose" udders. But the emphasis has for too long been on color, horn status, and now milk protein status. It's easy to pull tail hairs, get all the right test results, and claim that you have a "superior cow". It's even easier to claim you have a "superior bull" with those test results, because nobody will know what that bull produces until years down the road, when his own daughters and sons start to mature and you can see the results. The ADCA website is loaded with bulls for A1 that were collected at two years of age, or that have progeny in the single digits. It's also loaded with AI bulls that may have a lot of progeny, a photo of the bull nowhere near mature size and build, but a quick glance at an adult photo of the bull, or some of his progeny would, or should, disqualify that bull from the AI list.
Interested in the killer evaluation system I used to change my herd from the average/adequate 75 range, to 'excellent' everything over 90 range? None of those Genbo dual purpose udders for me. Great attachment and shape, good body length, legs at the outside corners, great heart depth, lots of muscle, and in the end, guaranteed consistency. All with sweet temperaments. Blah, blah, blah...
Post by lakeportfarms on Apr 14, 2018 15:20:55 GMT
I think the single biggest problem with the Dexter breed right now is the excessive testing involved for traits that have nothing to do with the quality of the animal. Right now there is a discussion about raising the registration fees for bulls in the ADCA to $75. Talk about stupid...that means more red, homozygous polled, A2/A2 one month old bulls are going to be registered, because you can get those results a couple of weeks after they are born, and supposedly that is what constitutes a "superior" Dexter now.
A truly physically superior 1 or 2 year old bull that hasn't been tested for all of those results would be more likely to be eaten with that type registration policy in place, because judging for more subtle qualities is hard. Even though I have over 100 Dexters in the herd, I'll probably only be breeding 30 or so of them to registered Dexter bulls this year. The others are going into our crossbreeding program with the Highlands.
If you'd like to share your program for evaluation, I'd love to hear about it.
Professor Low only mentioned the beef-framed proportions of "Dexters". His description matches the description of Devon cattle, common in Ireland at the time. Professor Low didn't mention weight nor height of "Dexters".
The 900 pound weight limit was added in the very late 1800's in the first published Dexter breed standard.
Many Kerry cattle were smaller. One could blend some of the more compact Kerry cattle of the day with some of the more compact beefy naturally short-legged Devon cattle to develop a breed that matched the 1900 Dexter breed standard.
Of course, anytime you select toward short and beefy frames, there is a risk of dwarfism defects sneaking in... It happened to Angus and Herefords when they selected toward short and beefy frames in the 1940's and 1950's, but they figured it out and got rid of the dwarfism defects.
Genetic bone diseases, like chondrodysplasia, can give the illusion of short and beefy frames, but they are problematic and can't breed true.
True breeds, breed True.
I don't know of anyone who follows every word of the 1900 Breed Standard in all their selection decisions, creating a true line of True-Breeding Dexters that meet the 1900 standard. I'd love to see someone do it. I'm working toward following it, except for horns.
Anyone here following every word of the 1900 standard?
However, I'm sure I've seen many posts about current Dexters not looking like early (1900's) ones, and photos to prove it; and current Dexters not meeting original standards. I thought the point was to preserve the paper pedigrees, clear (or not) some imports from the 1950's, and ensure modern Dexters resembled photos of early ones. Otherwise why the comments about how they are now looking like Angus, with all that muscle?
And 'breeding true' surely is true? You say Angus and everyone knows you are talking about a black (and now red) polled beefy animal. Holstein are bicolored black and white with terrific udder attachment and yield, but on the boney side (dairy-like). No?
Angus . . . black and polled you say? Most of the black and polled animals I see in pastures and sale barns fit that description, and have a similar appearance. . . . but they are NOT Angus. However. . . . . . the original Aberdeen Angus was easily identifiable. Holsteins. I've seen them nearly solid black, and nearly solid red. I've seen them very tall, and smaller like a Guernsey. I've seen them with HUGE udders, and some more moderate. They don't "breed true" at all. The closest breed that is little changed and rarely easy to identify would be the Highland and the horned dwarf Dexters. Put either in a pasture and you know what they are.
if the goal is to make Dexters "breed true", . . . . . . how is that going? They are a hodgepodge of mediocrity, and the truth is. . . . . . you can take photos of these modern animals, black or red. . . and put them on cattle forums, and ask someone, " What breed is this" and you will get all sorts of guesses, probably with the greatest number being, " outcrossed", which would be exactly correct.
True Breeds must breed true for their breed-defining traits, or they aren't a true breed. You can have some variability within a breed, but they should all meet the breed-defining traits as described in standards.
Black Angus must breed true for their blackness. Red Angus must breed true for their redness. Herefords must breed true for their Hereford pattern.
The two most important breed-defining traits of traditional Dexters would be the only two traits listed in both Professor Low's description and the 1900 Standard.
The only two traits listed in BOTH of those documents is "Short Legs" and "Thick Beefy Frames" so those must be the most important traits.
Neither document allowed for long legs, nor dairyish body frames.
The very first description of Dexters published by Professor Low in the 1840's, failed to mention horns. So horns obviously weren't a breed-defining trait. But horns were added in the 1900 standard. Then in the early 1960's, the standard went back to saying horns and hornless were equal. So horns were only a requirement for 60 years of the 200 year history of Dexters.