Playing With Cattle Genetics


Milk Maid RanchSo, what’s so new about breeding cattle and playing with cattle genetics? Well, with so many people homesteading and many only have a cow or two, a bull doesn’t have to be in the barnyard or pasture 365 days a year. The expense alone just to buy a bull would make some of your mouths drop. Cattle prices in the U.S. have jumped up in the past few years, and it’s not uncommon to pay a few thousand dollars for a bull. Then feeding him will be costly and if there are cows on the common fence, well, that’s a problem in itself.

We have one short-legged Irish Dexter cow and one standard Jersey heifer. Why would I need to buy a bull? Well, I didn’t. My Polled, red Dexter bull was born to me, and he is what I wanted from his dam. At weaning, she was sold because I wanted to keep him. Sometimes I can get creative with names but really, he is a Red Bull, get it? I don’t drink the stuff but I do like that red bull on the can so the name fit for two different reasons. 

Red Bull 

Please keep in mind with most of the standard-sized cattle breeds, the bulls need to be 18 months to 2 years of age before they can cause a cow to get pregnant. Not so with the Irish Dexter. Red Bull was 38 inches tall and 10 months old when he bred Mahogany and she took (got pregnant) the first time he bred her. She’s due in March. The month he turned a year, he bred the Jersey heifer. I hear some of you laughing. Yes, he did reach, and at that time he was 40 inches tall. Jersey cows are taller than a Dexter bull, and he’s a long-legged Dexter by the way. Still shorter than a standard Jersey cow, but believe me, when a bull is following a heifer in her cycle, he’ll figure it out. He did, and she is due in June. She took the first time also, as I expected.

Well, here’s where the “Playing” comes in. I’ll try to make it simple, not promising that.

Down the road from me is a dairy. Over the years, the owner, his wife and I have come to know each other and we talk about our cows and goats. They are from Holland, and when we met and I said I have Dexters, their faces lit up. They love them but Dexters don’t produce the amount of milk they need to make a living. Well, we got to talking about my Jersey heifer and all the milk she’ll be producing next year, really, do I need 6 to 7 gallons per day? NO! So, we got to laughing about the cross of the Holstein and my Dexter bull. It got to the point that we made a deal for me to get two heifer calves, so they can nurse the Jersey cow, by my bull and out of my neighbor's cows.

10/9/2014 8:08:36 AM

Suzy, I guess where there's a will there's a way when Red Bull is in love. It has to be a great advantage to have a smaller bull when transporting. We never had a bull for our 13 milk cows and Dad always used the vet and AI for breeding. Our rag tag herd was just a mix of genetics which he bought from a place in Minnesota. My job was to milk them morning and night. When I left for college, the herd was sold. It was a great experience for two years. I always wanted to be a farmer and Dad was training me to be one but I followed a career in the new budding field of technology for 41 years. Now being retired, the farming DNA has kicked in and I'm buying and gardening vacant foreclosed lots within the city limits. ***** Have a great playing with cattle genetics day.

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