NFU Mutual Smallholding Insurance

Author Topic: Older dexters  (Read 792 times)

laura_nash

  • Joined Jun 2019
Older dexters
« on: June 01, 2019, 05:16:17 pm »
Hi Everyone

I'm new to the forum, I have a small farm in the West of Ireland of around 8 acres split into 6 paddocks.  We were originally only looking for 3-4 for our two ponies and despite haymaking etc our "too much grass" situation has come to a head this year, four years in, as we had such a mild and dry winter and I've had to put the ponies onto a starvation paddock with hay due to a laminitis scare.

We've been toying with the idea of Dexter's for a while as a solution, for one thing I like the idea of having the original local cow back again (it is an old farm with lots of evidence of previous cattle keeping including a race and two stalled outbuildings).  We've been procrastinating for around 2 years though, partly because of their initial cost.

Last weekend we went to see a farmer up on the north coast who keeps a herd of around 100 "ranch style" out on a mountain.  Every year he cuts out those he doesn't think will make it another winter, and usually keeps them on the farm in the normal way until they pick up or don't.  He's getting on himself though so this year he decided to try and sell them instead, obviously at a discount.

So we've bought two.  One is 15 years old, very healthy looking but thin, with a 6 month old bull calf.  The other is 10 years old, blind in one eye after an infection that appears to be fully cleared up, also a bit thin and a bit dirty around the back end but seemed sound and alert, with a 2 week old dun bull calf.  Both are pure-bred and registered and very friendly.  They've been running with the bull in a smallish herd of around 10 on about 20 acres of fairly decent grass for the last 3 weeks or so and apparently were a lot thinner when they were first put in there.  The current owner is bringing them down to us in a week or so as he has a better set-up for the relatively long journey on steep, winding and bumpy roads.

Are we mad? Does anyone have any experience of taking on older cows, especially with such a change in environment?  I'm not sure if they are going to be constantly trying to escape and feeling claustrophobic, or thrilled to have masses of grass to themselves and a field shelter in winter.

Is there anything I need to ask him when he delivers them?  I've already thought of a few questions I forgot to ask, namely are they wormed and when, and have they ever seen electric fencing before.

Anything I should get from him except the registration certificates (I keep reading stuff about TB testing?)

I've already tackled the horrendous application form to get my equine premises number expanded to a herd number, so that's in hand.

Any additional advice is very welcome, I've a lot of experience and qualifications etc with horses from a previous career (which included grassland management stuff so we have that well in hand), but although I've lived and worked on a few farms years ago my cattle experience is pretty much limited to herding them about occasionally for people and reporting any issues I spotted when I was dealing with the horses.

We're not currently planning to attempt milking or anything and aren't looking to make a big profit (not that I would be against that of course), the priority is to have something to cross-graze that will hopefully pay its own way without too much input.

Thanks, and sorry for the essay!
Voss Electric Fence

landroverroy

  • Joined Oct 2010
Re: Older dexters
« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2019, 11:53:39 am »
No you're not mad. I think it's a good idea to start with something that's been there and done it all before. I'm assuming you have got them for little money bearing in mind their ages and condition. (I've just bought a mixed lot of highland cattle, some with calves, some as yearlings for a average of £200 each. They are thin because taken off poor sand land that had very little for them over winter, but are coming on.) The fact you've bought 2 cows should mean they will stick together and not try and escape. Their calves should fatten well on your fresh grass - I would ask the owner to worm them before they come onto your land. The older one should be in calf again but the younger one won't be. She should come on heat again in about 2 months and by then the young bull calf will prob be old enough to serve her or you can use AI. (Yes they do and will serve at 8 months if big enough!) Fortunately you've got handling facilities - an added bonus.
Your older cow might carry on breeding for another 3 years or so, as long as she stays healthy, and the younger one to a similar age.
Good luck. :thumbsup:
Rules are made:
  for the guidance of wise men
  and the obedience of fools.

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Older dexters
« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2019, 12:57:12 pm »
I’d be worried that the being thin and being a bit mucky might be Johnnes disease.  I don’t know how widespread it is in Ireland, but it is widespread across much of Great Britain. You don’t want to be bringing that onto your land.  Any chance you could get them tested before accepting them?  It might cost a couple of hundred quid, but personally I’d sooner be safe than sorry.  Unless he’s on a health and welfare scheme and knows his Johnnes status already, of course, or unless maybe your vet advises that it’s rare locally.
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

Backinwellies

  • Global Moderator
  • Joined Sep 2012
  • Llandeilo Carmarthenshire
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Re: Older dexters
« Reply #3 on: June 03, 2019, 10:41:58 am »
Dexters (  ;D )  if you bought them for very little money then should be a a good buy.  I wouldn't worry too much about being a bit thin … a six month old will be taking its toll, especially if its been on rough pasture.  Ensure they are fluked and wormed BEFORE coming on your place.

As for keeping them in …. hmmm....  when bulling they will jump a normal stock fence if there are other cows/bull close by. 

Use the bull on the second cow then get him gone (he will be able to serve his mother too remember if she is not pregnant)

No idea bout Tb testing in Ireland …. you need to investigate.

8 acres isn't much for cattle and ponies ….   you will need to think about how to 'move on' your youngstock … it takes 2-3 years to rear for beef so you could soon have a herd of 6-8+ unless you sell youngstock.

Have fun …. love my cows (but my Shetlands are easier than my Dexters!)
Linda

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SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Older dexters
« Reply #4 on: June 03, 2019, 11:47:29 am »

As for keeping them in …. hmmm....  when bulling they will jump a normal stock fence if there are other cows/bull close by. 


Actually, the Dexters we had, didn’t. They’re quite a bit smaller than a Shetland ;).  (And no, ours were not the short-legged ones.)

But they will for sure find any weakness in the fencing! 


8 acres isn't much for cattle and ponies ….   you will need to think about how to 'move on' your youngstock … it takes 2-3 years to rear for beef so you could soon have a herd of 6-8+ unless you sell youngstock.


We used to send ours off at 14-16 months.  If it’s just for your own consumption and it suits you better to not keep youngsters on for a second winter, it’s fine.  The beef is wonderful.
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

laura_nash

  • Joined Jun 2019
Re: Older dexters
« Reply #5 on: June 10, 2019, 08:47:12 pm »
Thanks for the replies everyone.

I wasn't really aware of Johne's disease so I've been reading up on it now, it seems the schemes for it here in Ireland are all for dairy herds at the moment.  The stuff I'm reading is saying it appears at 3-6 years and once it appears animals rarely last more than 6 months, so not sure if its likely in a 10 year old? 

I guess we'll see about keeping them in, its dry stone walls here of variable height and quality reinforced with post and wire in places.  There have been cattle in most of our fields before and they stayed in so fingers crossed.

twizzel

  • Joined Apr 2012
Re: Older dexters
« Reply #6 on: June 11, 2019, 10:22:09 am »
I think with Johnes they spread it through their dung, I’m pretty sure it’s older cattle that can shed it as we have tested cows around 3 years old for it (luckily negative). You really don’t want it in your herd  :yuck:

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Older dexters
« Reply #7 on: June 11, 2019, 10:45:20 am »
I think with Johnes they spread it through their dung, I’m pretty sure it’s older cattle that can shed it as we have tested cows around 3 years old for it (luckily negative). You really don’t want it in your herd  :yuck:

Yes, they carry it and shed it for quite a while before the symptoms become sufficient to get a diagnosis.


 a bit thin and a bit dirty around the back end but seemed sound and alert, with a 2 week old dun bull calf. 


That was the one that made me think “Johnnes?”

What’s a suckler cow doing being thin in June with a 2-week old calf?

As it’s nearly two weeks on now, I’d be inclined to visit again.  If she’s not plumping up and cleaner now, personally I’d want a blood test.  Or at least ask the vet if they think you should.  Better to spend an extra fifty quid now than find you’ve brought Johnnes onto your land.
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

landroverroy

  • Joined Oct 2010
Re: Older dexters
« Reply #8 on: June 11, 2019, 06:37:21 pm »
I'm not arguing about the possibility of Johnnes.
However, I don't find it particularly worrying that an older cow that, as stated has spent the winter on the hills, should be thin in June. The calf is 2 weeks old so was born in May.  The cow has spent the winter, presumably on sparce grass, so even if she was brought down in April when the grass might have just started to grow, you cannot put weight on an animal in late pregnancy as it all goes into the calf. Once the calf is born then again the majority of feed goes into milk production initially and that is how a good suckler cow should be. She should not be putting on weight in early lactation at the expense of milk yield. I would be quite happy with the logical explanation of why she is thin, but that is not a reason not to get her tested if you are worried. Just saying - don't necessarily condemn an animal that is doing her best under less than ideal conditions.
Rules are made:
  for the guidance of wise men
  and the obedience of fools.

WelshGirl70

  • Joined Jul 2019
Re: Older dexters
« Reply #9 on: July 18, 2019, 01:37:56 pm »
Hi Laura
Can I be really cheeky and ask how much the 10year old and 15year old Dexters cost. I’ve been offered 2 x 10yr olds but asked to make an offer as they don’t know a price and I don’t know where to start. (Complete newbie). Also are you using just for breeding or are you sending them for meat and any idea what sort of meat you would get from Dexters of this age? Thanks for any help.

landroverroy

  • Joined Oct 2010
Re: Older dexters
« Reply #10 on: July 18, 2019, 04:01:35 pm »
This really is a "how long is a piece of string question."
First of all you wouldn't normally  buy cows of that age for meat. If sold in a regular store market they would fetch very little,  as they are not sought after by commercial farmers. Not long ago I bought 5 Dexter cows at my local market for between £50 and £95 each. They were thin, but not emaciated, up to 8 years old, and all pedigree and registered and pregnant. They all had healthy calves. At a breed sale you might pay say £150 to £350 for a pedigree registered 10 year old depending on condition, whether pregnant and how well bred.
If the 2 you have been offered are fit, healthy and in calf, I would offer £125 - £175 (very roughly) depending on their condition, how much you like the animals, whether they are quiet and even halter trained, and how much you are bothered about insulting the owners who are highly likely to think they are worth more.
Rules are made:
  for the guidance of wise men
  and the obedience of fools.

WelshGirl70

  • Joined Jul 2019
Re: Older dexters
« Reply #11 on: July 18, 2019, 04:58:20 pm »
Landroverroy
Thank you I appreciate the advice. There are 2 x 10year olds and a 6yr old. All 3 of them are pretty healthy, not thin but none are pregnant. When you say offer £125-165 is that each or for the 2 x 10yr olds? What about the 6yr old?
When you bought the 5 x 8yr olds what did you use them for? Or did you slaughter? Thanks for your help.

twizzel

  • Joined Apr 2012
Re: Older dexters
« Reply #12 on: July 18, 2019, 09:13:07 pm »
If they are all empty and you want to breed from them, it would be worth asking the seller when they last reared a calf, and whether they've been given the chance of the bull or kept away. If they've scanned empty and have been running with a bull for some time then I'd steer clear as there could be an underlying reason as to why they aren't getting pregnant.

landroverroy

  • Joined Oct 2010
Re: Older dexters
« Reply #13 on: July 18, 2019, 10:59:31 pm »
Landroverroy
Thank you I appreciate the advice. There are 2 x 10year olds and a 6yr old. All 3 of them are pretty healthy, not thin but none are pregnant. When you say offer £125-165 is that each or for the 2 x 10yr olds? What about the 6yr old?
When you bought the 5 x 8yr olds what did you use them for? Or did you slaughter? Thanks for your help.


I bought my Dexters, which were between 3 and 8 years old, as breeding cows. I wouldn't buy something that old for meat. They were pregnant when I got them (although I didn't know at the time) and after they had calved I ran them with my Hereford bull for a few months. I then sold them with their calves (again as breeding cows) for several times more than I had paid for them.


As for the ones you have been offered - the 6 year old is likely to be worth say £100 more than the older ones because she has (hopefully) 4 more breeding years than the older ones. Obviously, again this is only a rough idea, and depends on how much you like them, how much you want them, how much grazing you have, and what you are going to do about getting them mated. As Twizzel points out, you also need to know something about their breeding history and why they aren't pregnant. As you keep asking about slaughter, I'm presuming you are interested in getting an animal for meat? This is where the Dexter comes into its own as a smallholder's animal as it is a handy size for home consumption and you can fit the meat from a whole animal in the average sized household freezer. But if this is what you want, you'd be better buying a young Dexter steer or 2 (again for little money!) and fattening them up for the freezer. I mentioned 2 because it's unfair to keep one on its own.
Rules are made:
  for the guidance of wise men
  and the obedience of fools.

laura_nash

  • Joined Jun 2019
Re: Older dexters
« Reply #14 on: July 24, 2019, 08:18:16 am »
Hi

I've replied to your PM, but just to add that although our plans are still rather open we will be breeding them not sending them for meat (I hope).  One should already be in calf as she's been in with the bull and has had a calf every year since she was old enough (easily verifiable as they are all at a minimum birth registered) so its a bit different than your situation. 

Going forward we'll hopefully be using AI.  We'll have to see how that goes, but our neighbours have been very reassuring on that front.  Apparently there are several very good AI techs covering our area and everyone around here seems to think its very straightforward (which is not what I read on the forums!),

Laura

 

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