How Now House Cow
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Dexter cattle eat about 12 to 15 pounds of hay per day, which is about half the ration of a typical large breed.
Additionally, Dexters provide excellent, delicious meat. Grass-fed Dexter steers dress out at about 55 percent of their live weight. Since Dexters are small-boned, they have a relatively high meat-to-bone ratio compared with some breeds.
When milked twice a day, a Dexter cow at the height of lactation can produce 1 1/2 to 3 gallons of milk. Since I milk only once a day, I get about 3/4 gallon of milk per cow, and the calves get the rest. I find that this milk volume is a more manageable quantity than the 6 to 8 (or more) gallons per day expected from a standard dairy breed, such as Holstein.
Those are all the dry facts and figures for Dexters. What doesn’t come across in this data is the sheer enjoyment we get from our animals.
I gain immense satisfaction from looking over our pasture and watching seven black heads down, grazing happily. Or observing the animals, content under the trees, relaxed and endlessly chewing their cuds.
When I call across the pasture in the evening, seven black heads pop up, and the animals either hightail or amble to the gate to get into the barnyard. In bad weather, it’s nice to let the animals into the barn, sweet with fresh hay on the floor and with a bit of grain as a treat for the night, where they’ll be dry and comfortable. The calves trot into the calf pen for the night, as they’ve been trained, so that the cows will have milk for me in the morning.
After the barn cat gets her share of the milk, I return to the house to strain and chill that life-giving liquid and skim the cream from yesterday’s yield. Maybe today I’ll make a batch of mozzarella cheese. No, I’ll make yogurt instead, although since it’s a hot day perhaps I’ll make ice cream. What a delicious dilemma.
We butchered our steer last fall, so I reach into the freezer to pull out a roast and put it in the slow cooker for dinner. Never – and I mean never – have we had better beef than this from our own organically raised and humanely slaughtered steers.