Comments on our Dexter Bull

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lakeportfarms

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My wife and I are fairly new to cattle but we picked up this bull along with a bred cow 5 months ago.
He stands 38" at the shoulder.
Wondering what those of you that are experts think of him?

Hans

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cfpinz

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Wouldn't call myself an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but my biggest gripe is his feet.
 
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lakeportfarms

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Feet meaning the hooves are long? We saw that when we bought him, but they have been wearing down naturally in the pasture (picture was taken in late September/early October only a month or two after we got him, there's about two feet of snow in that spot now). We didn't feel comfortable having somebody trim them without a headstall ! The Dexter cow we got with him was bred, and looks as though she is going to have twins she is so big. I'll have to post a picture of her to get some opinions.

Thanks for the feedback, and for the help making the picture larger.
 

cowman30

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lakeportfarms":zzqsonlw said:
Feet meaning the hooves are long? We saw that when we bought him, but they have been wearing down naturally in the pasture (picture was taken in late September/early October only a month or two after we got him, there's about two feet of snow in that spot now). We didn't feel comfortable having somebody trim them without a headstall ! The Dexter cow we got with him was bred, and looks as though she is going to have twins she is so big. I'll have to post a picture of her to get some opinions.

Thanks for the feedback, and for the help making the picture larger.


You mean you have cattle and no facilities to work them? Big big mistake.
 

KMacGinley

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Does he stand like that a lot or did you catch him with the camera in a slide? :) You may have some feet and leg problems to worry about. I am not really sure what the total purpose of Dexters are. I know that they are a smaller dual purpose type breed, but if you are after beef production, you may want to look elsewhere.
 

DOC HARRIS

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Hans-

It takes some time to really get a workable picture of the kind and type of breeding bull which will satisfy your needs and justify your operation in beef cattle, therefore please take this criticism as helpful and not unkind or too harsh.

Your bull should NEVER be used as a herd bull for any period of time, or from which to retain heifers for your Beef Cattle program! One of the most important factors to consider in the selection of a herd bull are the "Functional Traits" he possesses, and that is AFTER the Genetics and General Phenotype of the animal himself.

The Phenotype is what the animal "LOOKS LIKE", and the traits and characteristics that appear from observing him, or 'Eye-balling" him, with specific points to consider in the analysis. There are many different sources at your disposal on the Internet to help you with the rather intricate "selection" processes involved in deciding what one should look for in the extremely important process of "Herd Bull Selection" One example would be to log onto "Dogpile.com", or one of several [Search] Engines and type "Beef Bull Selection" in the box. You will be inundated with information with which you can study and educate yourself regarding beef cattle analysis.

Getting back to your bull and some specifics concerning him. Starting at his feet and legs, he has weak pasterns (flattened feet with his weight on his 'heels'), he is sickle-hocked and stands "camped-under" with his entire hind leg structure positioned forward under his body instead of his legs positioned "on the corners" of his body to support his weight (not only when he is standing on all four feet, but PARTICULARLY when he is placing his weight on his hind legs when mounting a cow during breeding). This "Functional" trait will dictate that he will "break down" sooner than he should, perhaps in only one breeding season, and even possibly become what is termed "Stifled", which means his stifle joint breaking down, (Bad Knees) precluding his ability to mount a cow and making him worthless as a breeder. The stifle joint is the knee-like structure just above the hock of a four-legged animal. It is an inherited characteristic, which is one reason you don't want to retain heifers as herd replacements, for as cows, they can't carry calves successfully for the number of years required to justify them as breeding animals. He also has a sloping rump, instead of having a rump that is more level and therefore containing muscle (rump roasts), weak hind quarters (lacking adequate muscle).

One rather positive physical characteristic of note is, he has a reasonably deep heart girth (that area from his back to his chest floor just behind his front legs) which indicates some volume of thickness of body in proportion to his overall size, which is an indication of how his female calves could possess enough body capacity to carry progeny. But we have already precluded that desirability because of his passing on his terrible feet and legs to his offspring. But that trait is important for you to keep in mind when selecting both bulls and cows in the future.

This physical analysis is presented without knowing his Genotype, or the genetics that he will pass onto his progeny relating to Growth, Maternal, Carcass, and the very important Expected Progeny Differences (EPD's) necessary to be able to expect his offspring to be capable of making you a profit in a business enterprise, OR, prevent you from experiencing high expenses if this is only a hobby for you. The activity of raising beef cattle is not inexpensive, and your seedstock should be able to make you a reasonable return on your investment in order to be justified in doing the activity in the first place!

I hope that this will be some help to you in understanding what you have in this bull, and how you may be able to improve your status in the future.

DOC HARRIS
 

mnmtranching

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Lakeport, now that you have the pic posting thing down. That is a very bad pose your bull is in, take a few more pics. That pic makes him look all messed up.
 
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lakeportfarms

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We now see that the photo was not the best to post, after some of the comments. I was going to try again today but my camera battery was dead.

As far as why we are doing Dexters, we have seen a move among some people in our area to have a couple of cows on relatively small acreage (say 5-10) and with little investment in equipment, etc... We will market the Dexters to them. They seem to want a cow that is capable of both milk and beef in those situations. Miniature cattle seem to be outrageously expensive, and our Dexter bull is 38", and our smallest mature cow is 32". For us it's a hobby too, we recently purchased a large apple orchard that had been neglected for 15 years or so, and spending my entire weekends brush hogging and trying to get under all the apple trees to clean up the property would be a bit overwhelming, especially with diesel running 4 plus dollars a gallon last summer. Our Dexters and Scottish Highlands have been doing great cleaning it up, they do pretty well on less than ideal forage. They are even browsing the low hanging apple tree branches, and stripping the bark from those that we have been pruning. We are gradually acquiring all the necessary equipment, and a fairly brutal winter put a hold on any of the improvements, squeeze chutes, etc that will have to come (hopefully May).

On the subject of the apples, I am also wondering how all the apples figure into the feed situation. We have a boat load of them, more than they could ever eat. We were going to look into collecting some of them for deer apples, but our DNR put restrictions on it this past year due to a TB concern. I've heard conflicting opinions, watch out for bloat...they don't provide much nutrition...the cows can choke on them...etc... There is very little information available on the internet about that other than apple pomace. We can limit the access to the majority of the apples by putting the cattle in other areas during fall, but we let them feed on them free choice last year with seemingly no adverse effects. They also really love the pears that are also growing in one area of the property.

Thanks,

Hans
 

KMacGinley

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That is why I asked the question of what you want to do. I know that Dexters are popular with the new homesteader types. I would get a bull with decent feet and legs. I don't care how you photograph him, the best picture in the world isn't going to fix the problems he has there.

Too many apples can kill them. in moderation, they are just fine. Best of luck.
 
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lakeportfarms

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We don't know much about his history, we just acquired him a few months ago. He is registered, as is the backbred registered Dexter we got with him. We also got from the seller 2 Highlands that were bred to him, and a beautiful AI bred Hereford cow.

So we will find out what kind of offspring he produces with the Dexter, and the Highlands, within a couple of months. He must have had a stool to get to the Highlands :D The top of his head is barely at their shoulder height.

Here in Michigan many people are finding it necessary to move, many to another state, and there are a lot of fire sales. If I recall correctly we got the bull for $500, the bred Dexter for $600, both Highlands for $800 (they are both over a 1000#), and the Hereford (1000#+) was almost a giveaway at $500. So far this winter it looks like the Hereford gets fat on air, and the Highlands aren't much different, though it's hard to tell with all the hair!

The point is taken on continuing the breeding and with replacement Heifers with the bull. We knew he wouldn't be kept too long. It's too bad because he is a really nice bull. Since we were taking the others we couldn't really pass on him.
 

dun

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Did any of the others suffer from the long toe problem that the bull has? If they did it may be an enviromental/feed issue, if not he needs to go in the freezer before those feet get passed on to far. If they others have the same kind of feet and aren;t related, I would take shot at having his feet trimmed, maybe in 2 sessions to get them as right as they can be gotten.
 

CKC1586

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I'm not sure where in Michigan you are but you may want to give Michigan State University a call, Dr. Ames does corrective trimming and may be able to give you an opinion on what course to take with him..... just a thought to throw at ya.
 
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lakeportfarms

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All of the cows except the Hereford from the same farm had the same type of feet issue, especially the Dexter cow and one of the Highlands, who was probably the worst of them all. They looked like elf feet. That's why we felt it was more of an environmental issue since it ran across almost nearly all of the cows along with the different breeds. They've all improved since, but with all the snow there hasn't been that much wear this winter. I've been putting the round bales at the end of a paved pathway on the property, and keeping it plowed so they are walking on it to get to the bales, that seems to be helping.

We didn't have the opportunity to get them trimmed in the fall. Our farrier is an amish man and it's a bit hard to get him to the farm, we finally had a scheduled day a few weeks ago that turned out to be -15 that morning and so we called it off. So we're hoping that with the weather getting better it will be a bit easier to work out a visit where the weather will cooperate.

We expected at least two or three trimmings, and maybe it would help. I am not entirely convinced it is a genetic trait with the bull.

That's a good suggestion for Michigan State, we are about three hours away, but I know they are a great resource and we will look into it.

Thanks for some encouragement...
 

angusbreederms

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I know this is a learning experience for you. I would take the advice these cattlemen have supplied and make the necessary changes.

"Learning is not attained by chance,
it must be sought for with ardor
and attended to with diligence."
 

djinwa

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Some thoughts.

First, you say you are raising for people who want milk and beef. I once got a Dexter for dual-purpose use. Unfortunately, she didn't make any more milk than a beef cow. And her steer calf didn't make any more beef than a dairy calf. In other words, a supposedly dual purpose animal without any purpose.

If you aren't going to get much milk anyway, you might go to a breed more developed for beef, like a lowline angus, if you want something small. And mix in some Jersey if you want some milk. My ideal small cow is a lowline angus/Jersey cross.

My other point is that for just a few cows, it's expensive to maintain a bull all year. If you have someone to do AI, for that feed money, you can select from the best bulls in the world, rather than whatever you find locally in a bull.

Compare these bulls with yours:

Machine:

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Doc Holliday:

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You can read about them here:
http://www.pharocattle.com/Semen-Source-2008/angus.htm

Other bulls around the internet, just some ideas.
 
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