As I write this article, I find myself extremely blessed and thankful for my little herd of Irish Dexter cattle during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. At the onset of COVID-19, like so many others, I entered the grocery store to “stock up” not knowing what the future held for us. As you can imagine and likely experienced yourself, the shelves were virtually empty. I thought to myself, “This must be what the end of the world looks like.” The meat shelves were empty, milk was non-existent and quantity limits where applied to what did remain – and NO TOILET PAPER! What the heck is that all about?!
Things have only slightly improved since that gloomy day. Agricultural experts predict it will get worse before it gets better. Meat processing plants have shut down, disrupting the entire food chain. With no one to process meat, commercial livestock producers are being forced to euthanize livestock and poultry by the hundreds of thousands and even millions throughout the country. What a shame. I ponder what this will do to the commercial meat supply once meat processing plants finally reopen. Will there be any livestock left to process? The carnage left behind by COVID-19 has been devastating and the outlook is very disturbing to say the least. It will likely take years to recover if we ever do.
Feeling blessed, I have not looked at our little Irish Dexter herd the same. They provide our family and others with beef to eat and milk to drink. From their high fat content milk, we can create delicious everyday food products such as butter and cheese. This was always in the plans for our little farmstead and why we chose to raise Dexter cattle – but it is no longer a “want to” lifestyle, it is now a “have to” lifestyle.
The homestead revolution was growing in leaps and bounds prior to the pandemic. Homesteaders anticipated a huge change in the world and began to prepare. No one really knew what this change would look like, but they could feel it coming – enter the COVID-19 pandemic. It was not the disaster everyone expected. Perhaps it is worse as we all struggle to fight an invisible enemy. The carnage it has left behind has been inconceivable. According to the Washington Post, “it has upended life and business in ways previously unimaginable.”
We are entering a new era where Irish Dexter cattle can play an important and vital role in small homestead and farmstead operations. They are essentially the perfect cattle, merging all the best qualities of others breeds into one small compact package! Here’s why:
Dexters are a multi-purpose breed of cattle, providing both meat and milk. Though not as common, they can also be trained as oxen. Their small and compact size offers a multitude of advantages. They can produce more delicious beef and milk per acre than other breeds of cattle and they are ideal for small acreages.
Dexters are easily trained, easy to handle, docile and easily managed, even by those with no previous experience raising livestock. They are comical, pleasant, docile and always fun to be around, not to mention one of the safest breeds of cattle.
Dexters are exceptionally hardy, thriving in both hot and cold climates. Living in Wyoming where winters are harsh, I can attest to their hardiness. They only require a windbreak, fresh water, minerals and decent forage.
Renowned for their ease in calving, Dexters rarely require assistance when giving birth. Again, I can attest. We started out with ten heifers and all calved without issue their first time calving.
If rotated regularly to clean pastures, Dexters are parasite resistant.
Dexters can produce offspring into their late teens and even twenties, making them a very productive breed.
These qualities make the Irish Dexter an essential component to leading a self-sufficient lifestyle. They are a great stepping stone to getting a homestead started and the foundation for keeping them successful. Of course, you can always resort to eating plant-based “meat” created in a laboratory…