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Stackyard News Sep 2012

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Big Interest in Small Cattle Sale

An increasing interest in the virtues of the smallest breed of British cattle, the Dexter, is likely to attract plenty of buyers at the third show and sale at the Rare, Minority and Traditional Breeds Sale at Borderway Mart, Carlisle, on Saturday September 22.

photo © Jennifer MacKenzie

Dexter cow and calf

The sale conducted by Harrison & Hetherington has an entry of 58 of the versatile, dual purpose breed of cattle with a varied selection of bloodlines

The cattle forward from 14 different vendors include three bulls and 50 pedigree females around 20 of which have calves at foot - and also a commercial section for crossbred females and yearling steers.

All cattle will be independently inspected by Dexter Cattle Society inspectors who will be available at the event to offer advice to new purchasers.

Duncan MacIntyre, Dexter Cattle Society Council member and one of the sale inspectors says “This sale has met a good, solid trade for the last two years, virtually every animal has been sold with no silly prices and both buyers and sellers for the most part happy. It is a good opportunity for buyers to see a variety of cattle from a number of well known lines in an inspected sale."

The Dexter, the smallest breed of British cattle, originated in the south west of Ireland, yet it is only relatively recently that there has been renewed interest in the cattle in Eire. Last year’s champion, Burnside Deacon, the Reserve Champion and several other lots were bought by Irish breeders.

First introduced to England in 1882, they were in demand by landowners who wanted small cattle to graze their parkland. These included Edward VII who was president of the recently formed society from 1901-2 as well as Lady Lonsdale, wife of the “Yellow Earl” at Lowther near Penrith.

photo © Jennifer MacKenzie

dexter cattle
Today society membership is probably at its greatest with over 1,200 members in the UK and Eire. In 1977 there were 134 pedigree female registrations during the year with 70 on the grading-up register, plus 11 bulls.

In 2010 the society registered 2,328 female calves and 129 breeding bulls with a total of 22,183 live females on the database.

The breed appeals to the growing number of part time farmers and Dexter beef is fine grained, well-marbled with a great flavour. The beef has been featured on numerous TV cookery programmes in recent years and producers have been adept in developing their own niche markets for the meat through farmers’ markets, farm shops or freezer packs direct from the farm.

The easily managed breed has partly sold itself and while the majority of producers have smaller acreages, some herds now run into the 100s.

The breed’s resurgence has been one of the Rare Breed Survival Trust’s success stories, moving from its endangered list 30 years ago.

But it has also benefited from a forward-thinking society which has been heavily involved with issues including improving health, conformation and genetics and is now actively marketing the beef via its website.

Prospective purchasers can find out more about the breed from Breed Secretary, Sue Archer on 02476 692300.

link Carlisle Charolais Cattle Peak at 6,700gns
link Aberdeen Angus All Ireland Finals at Virginia Show
link Beef Shorthorn and NFU Scotland Open Day

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Dexter Cattle Society