Farmers are generally patient people. There is a lot of waiting from the time a seed is planted until you can eat the results, and depending on the animal, it can be a very long time waiting for the arrival of a baby! But sometimes even patient farmers get excited about an upcoming event...that's why we can't wait until Wednesday, when our newest member of the farm family will arrive. Her name is Finniat and she is a Dexter cow. We purchaced her yesterday and we are beyond anxious for her arrival. We would have brought her home with us, but we don't have a stock trailer and so had to make arrangements for delivery. I am grateful I have Veteran's Day off from my day job, or I would be sorely tempted to stay home and use up vacation time!
So, what is a Dexter cow and why do we want one? Although Dan grew up milking Jersey cows, we aren't really interested in becoming dairy farmers. However, we are interested in having milk for personal use and to make our own cheese, butter, yogurt and other yummy dairy products. We did research on the wide variety of breeds available to find one that we felt would fit our needs best, and we fell in love with the idea of getting a Dexter cow. They are the smallest non-miniature breed of cow and are celebrated as a tri-purpose animal, having qualities for beef, dairy and also as oxen for draft animal power. A cow will be between 36-42" in height at the shoulder when she is full grown, making for a small, manageable animal. They have the highest output of milk per pound of feed consumed, and are docile and easily trained. They originated in Ireland as a family, backyard cow for milk with the ability to process unwanted offspring (usually males) as beef or to train them as oxen to work the field. Dexters are becoming more popular in America as a homesteading cow, and luckily for us we found breeders of these amazing little cows within a reasonable driving distance of our farm. We had a lovely time talking with the couple that owns the farm and really learned a lot. They had several cows for sale and we got to meet the whole herd. Dan was most interested in the practical concerns of buying a bred cow that would be producing milk in as short a time as possible. All the cows were bred for the spring, so that didn't make the choice any easier. I had an idea that I wanted a black one (the most common, but not only, color) and one that had horns, just because I like the look and think it lends an old-time appearance to the animals. When I contacted these folks by email ,they stated that they had bred cows for sale, but that all but one was polled (naturally hornless) or dehorned, except one. While standing in the middle of the paddock, discussing bloodlines and general information about the girls, one cow came up to me a couple of times, sniffing my outstretched hand as though she were curious and wanted to greet me, on her own terms. The other cows tolerated our presence, but didn't go out of their way to investigate us. This friendly little cow was among the ones for sale, and was the one that had horns! So of course, there was no question in my mind she would be the one we should buy. Although Dan looked over the other cows closely, the horned one was named Finniat and will be coming to live with us. She will be having her first baby this coming spring and will be our hand-milked family cow. So now I feel like a small child that knows Christmas is coming really soon, but isn't quite here yet...it can be so hard to be patient sometimes!