Why Dexters?

They are not a commercial breed, in fact they are the smallest and most ancient native cow. They are direct descendants of the black cows of early Celts and came to Britain from Ireland in 1882 – perfect. We wanted a breed that had been overlooked and as a result, hadn’t been bred to be bigger or have double muscling,  or require a monoculture of artificially fertilised grass and ‘bought in’ feed to finish. We wanted a breed that was about quality not quantity, a thrifty animal that could turn rough forage from a range of habitats into the most fortifying, nourishing of meats. A cow not so different from the ones that grazed this wet and wild landscape for thousands of years, helping create the field patterns and moorlands we see today. If we wanted to eat meat, and we did, we felt it needed to go beyond sustainable and organic. Our cows needed to be well-suited to the job of the main large herbivore and keystone species in this unique landscape. They would help us restore species rich pasture and the rich diversity of flora and fauna in habitats that are rapidly diminishing, and we are putting back. As farming becomes more intensive and mechanised with the focus on production and cheap food, more land is ‘improved’ and made accessible for larger and larger machinery. We forget that areas of moorlands, wetlands and scrubby woodlands used to be far larger, and planted hedgerows, Cornish hedges, willow carr, boggy areas, and scrubby, untidy corners and field margins were all part of the farming landscape. We used to know this and respect that wildlife needed these places too.

This is our gorgeous dun heifer calf and her mum Gemima.

To sum up, Dexters are ideal for a low input system and conservation grazing, and its good for their health and vigour too; no need for wormers or mineral licks. As a result, this breed produces exceptionally high quality beef prized by chefs. It is renowned for it’s ‘full-bodied’ flavour, and is intensely rich, tender and juicy. This results from the fine grain of muscling of a smaller cow and the ‘spider’ marbling of fat which keeps the flavours locked in. This meat is low in saturated fats and is rich in natural vitamins and omega 3.

This is our herd on Higher Downs. As you can see they come in three colours, black, red, and dun – and we like them all. They fit into this landscape well, being compact and thrifty they are not bothered by the winds that sweep over it.

My little ditty;

In times of old when cooks were bold

and ovens weren’t invented,

One wanted beef from off the heath

to eat as God intended.

By Lisa Guy

I am an organic beef and wildlife farmer

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