Smallholders Insurance from Greenlands

Author Topic: Starting with beef cattle  (Read 1970 times)


  • Joined Jan 2015
Starting with beef cattle
« on: April 11, 2016, 05:04:52 pm »
Last year we agreed to buy a couple of yearling Dexter steers, to finish. Unfortunately one of the cows in the herd had an inconclusive TB test twice running so after waiting months to see if 'our' steers would be cleared for sale we are now thinking of looking elsewhere.

In the meantime, I've been reading and researching more and talking to neighbours, and am beginning to wonder if Dexters are the right breed for us. I picked Dexter because I want a traditional breed, and thought their small size would be good for me as a beginner to handle. However ... I have been advised that Herefords are the most docile breed, and in spite of their adult size they would be a better bet for a first timer.

A different neighbour has offered to sell me two 6-month-old Hereford steers that he recently bought at market. I am very tempted - what would you do?


  • Joined Apr 2014
  • Mid Wales
  • Owner of 61 Mediterranean water buffaloes
Re: Starting with beef cattle
« Reply #1 on: April 11, 2016, 06:10:25 pm »
If the neighbour is all clear TB wise and they're docile I would say go for it, after all the animals could be moved onto your holding easier, so not much stress there and if there is any problems then you could always talk to him. Close is better, as you can see his herd and how he manages them. Hope this helps and all the best with whatever you do :thumbsup:
the most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, loving concern.

farmers wife

  • Joined Jul 2009
  • SE Wales
Re: Starting with beef cattle
« Reply #2 on: April 11, 2016, 06:32:45 pm »
dont believe one breed is more docile than another - these are individuals and you can have wild tendencies. In general native breeds are better than continental however they can be stuben too.

The reason why when looking at an animal you have to see it in the herd and go as close as possible.  In general farmers (me) sell wild stock when we dont want them in the herd.

Check check check the health status of all buying in - you want a vets cert on Lepto, BVD and Johnes if poss. Do not bring anything untowards onto your land buying my mart comes with all risks so you need to be sure no different from most animals. You can infect land if you dont get health status. Is these a pure or a cross?

Why is this farmer selling them if he's just bought them?  Be sure of the quality of these steers poor confirmation of a animal of this age will carry through and will be a nightmare to fatten on grass.  On thing you dont want to do is be shoving their heads in a bucket.  Native breeds need to carry fat nothing worse than a tasteless fatless steak.

Handling cattle is difficult if like me your small so you need to ensure you have a yard that has gates and narrow passages. The more you handle them the better.

Yes, once you can confirm the health status go for it.


  • Joined Oct 2010
Re: Starting with beef cattle
« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2016, 03:57:23 am »
 I started with Dexters many years ago and still have one cow descended from the original one. They are a good breed to start with but tend to have small person syndrome, and can be difficult if not well handled.
 I since went on to Herefords and they are far more placid by nature.
 Are you intending to eat the meat that you produce yourself, or will you sell it at market? If the former, then Dexters are  good choice as you won't end up with a mountain of meat that you have to deal with. Half a Dexter will easily fit in a family freezer. A Hereford produces considerably more. If you plan on selling the animals fat then you would be better with Herefords as they should fetch a decent price in market, whereas pure Dexters do not because of the small size of their carcass.
 The Herefords bought by your neighbour are likely to be dairy bred crosses which may not have as good a conformation as beef bred animals. (like comparing the difference between a chunky labrador with a labrador  crossed with a greyhound.) But at the right price they could be ok. So how well do you trust the judgement and honesty of your neighbour? If you're happy to deal with him, then I'd go with his choice.
 Obviously you don't want to be buying in diseased animals but to get any with a vet's certificate is going to cost you more and is difficult to justify. It is normally only done where you keep exclusive pedigree animals where a breakdown in heath of the herd would cost you thousands in lost sales. I, in 30 years of selling privately have only once been asked for BVD and Johnnes testing and that was for some highlands I sent up to the Shetland Isles which is a high health status area. (Yes they passed!)
Rules are made:
  for the guidance of wise men
  and the obedience of fools.


  • Joined Jan 2015
Re: Starting with beef cattle
« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2016, 12:50:28 pm »
Well, I decided it wasn't worth the risk of having the hereford calves - the guy is a bit of a wheeler dealer. Then last Tuesday the Dexter lady rang to say they'd had the all-clear and did I still want the two steers I'd agreed to buy last October! So I said yes, and collected them on Wednesday. I've started a new thread about them.

Many thanks for the comments and advice.


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