Breeding Program

 

Here at Hope Refuge Farm, we want to produce Dexter cattle that can function as truly dual-purpose, homestead cattle, providing meat & milk in a small, economical, efficient package.  We desire to maintain the small, proportionate build and the docile temperament the breed is known for.  We currently, and will always, maintain a herd free of both chondrodysplasia & PHA.

We strive to breed animals who are conformationally correct, with good length, depth & width of body, a nice straight, level topline, and good hook to pin length & angle.  We look for structurally sound feet & legs, with a nice long hip, good width between legs placed “on all four corners”, and good heel depth.  We are also breeding for cows with improved udder structure & attachments, with good teat size & placement, producing at least 3 1/2 gallons a day.

We also are endeavoring to develop good grass-fed genetics in our herd, for animals who will thrive & produce well with little to no grain inputs.

Eavie is a fine example of a Dexter milk cow.

 

Our Breeding Priorities:

PRODUCTION – Good production qualities are top priority in our breeding program.  As dual-purpose animals, this means our Dexters need to have good beef/muscling traits, as well as good milk yield.  Dexters that cannot produce at a sufficient level are not much more than useless lawn ornaments.

TEMPERAMENT – As our second priority, disposition is nearly as important as production.  A nervous, wild, flighty, or aggressive animal is not only harder to manage, they can be a hindrance to good gain/production throughout the herd.  Calm, easy-to-manage animals are a must.

STRUCTURE – Our third priority is really a requirement of the first.  A good production animal needs to have the proper conformation & skeletal structure to support their weight and allow for good movement, while maintaining soundness.  For cows, strong udder structure is imperative to support the volume of milk they produce over the years.

LONGEVITY – This is the ultimate goal.  By using bloodlines from long-lived animals, and the accomplishment of our first three priorities, excellent longevity can be attained.  Such animals will be able to remain healthy, sound, productive, and reproducing, well into their upper teens without “falling apart”.

On Colors & Horns:

We firmly believe that the above conformation & production characteristics are what make a quality Dexter.  Certain colors or polledness are simply fancy extras, and DO NOT substitute for true quality.  We enjoy having all three colors in our herd, and do not foresee that changing.  We also appreciate the dignity of a nice set of Dexter horns, and would hate to see that aspect of the breed disappear.  We do understand that most people looking for a family milk cow are not comfortable with horns, though, so we are breeding primarily polled animals and look forward to having a fair share of homozygous polled calves.  The horned heifers that we do have born, however, will always be allowed to keep their dignity.