When we first dreamed of owning our own farm, one of our objectives was that we would breed and sell heritage breed animals- those animals which are rare or endangered because they don’t necessarily fit the goals of large commercial production farms, which are still worth having. We chose Dexter cattle, partly for this reason. They are a small Irish breed, with a reputation for being quite docile, easy to handle, easy birthers and good mothers. Dexters have been in Australia since the late 1800’s but overall herd numbers remain low across Australia. They are considered a ‘dual-purpose’ breed. If we want or need to milk them in future, we will be able to do that. But for now we will enjoy breeding them, sharing them with others and, yes eating their meat when the time comes. They have less impact on the soil as their feet are much smaller than their commercial cousins and two Dexters can be raised and maintained on the same amount of land that would be required for one standard breed of cattle.
When we first embarked on our journey towards living a more sustainable life and considered the impact we had been having on the planet, we spent a lot of time discussing whether we could become vegetarians or whether, for us, meat is an important part of our diet. I fully respect those who make the decision to go without meat, for ethical or personal reasons. We, however decided that meat was a part of our diet we both valued, and so we knew that we needed to produce our meat as sustainably as possible, with as little impact on the planet as we could.
So we grass feed our small herd and don’t supplement with any grains or other mixes. The cattle free range and self-wean their off-spring to keep them as close to their natural state as possible. We try to give them a relaxed, cattle-friendly life for however long they are with us and we only keep as many as we need.
Our breeding plan was subverted last year when we realised some of the cows we had purchased earlier in the year were already pregnant. You can read about the surprises they gave us here.
One of our objectives is to breed and share our Dexters with others and so on the weekend, we sold 2 of our lovely girls to a friend. They were our first sale and while we were a bit sad to see them go, it is nice to know they are going to a farm where they will be appreciated and well cared for. And it gave us both a sense of achievement that we have started to sell these wonderful animals for others to enjoy as well.
So we said good-bye to Astrid and Bella, her calf – we loved having you on our farm!