Thursday, January 19, 2012

Kerry Cattle

JUNE 1, 2012 UPDATE: I am now blogging full time about these wonderful cows

We are starting the new year with a new project. We recently brought home a small herd of Kerry Cattle (as well as six Dexter heifers).  We are doing this as a partnership with our friends, the Dean Family. The partnership enables them to  keep the Kerries as commercial milk cows, while providing  a source of  beef feeders and replacement heifers for us to raise and sell.

The Kerry is a frightfully rare breed, and we are honored to be apart in preserving the breeds unique genetics. However, conservation was only a part of our interest. Rare Breeds are important and there is no better explanation of why than this essay from Auburn Meadow Farm. 

Our long term interest is developing the Kerry as a minor  breed of commercial value. I would like to see increased   interest among dairy farmers looking  for a long lived,  moderate size cow who can provide both beef and dairy production with less feed costs. While we are committed to breeding with only  Kerry semen or bulls on the rare cows, our Kerry bull is enjoying his work crossbreeding on cows of other dairy breeds.

Why the Kerry?
We spent a lot of time discussing this project before taking the plunge into the Kerry.  Here are some reasons:

I like the fact Kerry Cattle are black. Whether  feeders or fat cattle, black hair is worth extra money at the sale barn: (sometimes even if their carcass is inferior to a Hereford).  For a dairy farmer, a pure black bull calf should bring a premium over a Holstein bull calf as well.  A Kerry Bull on a Holstein cow should always give us a black calf. Kerry cows are also small, and I think there will be a growing market for smaller sides of beef for the freezer trade.Many people no longer have freezer space for a 400 pound side (half) of beef. Small calf birth weight  mean less work and worry as well. 
Finally, I am impressed by the breed's intelligence. I have wrestled dumb dehorned cattle who stuck their heads in feeders. Even with impressive horns, the Kerries seem to know where their heads are in space and don't seem to  get stuck.   In spite of the regal horns they have thus far proved to be docile.


Auburn Meadow Farm said...

I am so very excited about your Kerrys - I can't wait to see them!

Of course when I started, I didn't know any different so I had no prejudice or fears of horned cattle. It seemed to me if a cow wanted to hurt me, they didn't need horns to get the job done.

I was stunned at how strongly established farmers feel about the horns.

It's been my experience that the horns make little difference. I can't cram them in as tightly as a feedlot would, but I don't want to anyway, so it's been no big deal.

Glad you liked the essay....

Dan said...

Oh I am sooo jealous! I would love to have a Dexter cow for milk. Kerry's are said to be a possible source for the Dexter breed. Either way, they're both really great breeds and I'm thrilled for your new endeavour.

Best of luck.

The Midland Agrarian said...

We are hoping to have some breeding stock for sale in the next couple of years.

We are not planning on asking outrageous prices on crossbreds.I think a Kerry/Jersey cross will make a great family cow and hope we can make some available to people.

PS glad to see you back blogging, I will add you to the links!

Stacey said...

They look great! I have to ask, though, what is the difference between allowing them to have horns or cutting them off?


The Midland Agrarian said...

Hi Stacey,
Horns are potentially a bad problem. In a dairy barn, they can catch waterlines. In crowded areas, they can horn another cow, usually in the backside. One of the Kerries got a slight horn wound when we loaded them in the trailer.
In summer, they can turn their head to chase a fly and horn their keeper in the face--just the right height. Polled versus horned is the difference between being punched or stabbed.

It is painful and difficult to dehorn older animals. They will likely stay intact, but calves will likely be dehorned.

Anonymous said...

My sentiments, precisely. I have small herd of registered Dexters that I have been raising for 4 years like pets, primarly for dairy, although have not bred for 2 years... which turned out to be very "lucky," as this past year has been devastating for Texas cowboys and cowgirls, not to mention the cows. I had to let 3 of my herd go for "processing." I am amazed at the quality and quanity of the beef.

Since starting, I have also raised 2 registered Dexter bulls, selling as herd sires, with a 3rd in the process. This has all been very rewarding, not to mention the wonderful milk.

Here in northeast Texas (more dairy farms in this area), the rains have been tremendous this past winter and spring, so we are back in the grass, Praise God.

Now, here is just one more story about the resiliency of these animals. Since I didn't breed in 2010, was VERY surprised when 3 of my cows delivered healthy offspring last year (3 bullcalves). Well, turns out they were bred by my neighbor's HUGE Brangus bull (yes, he did get in pasture a few times...) I am raising and marketing 2 of these bullcalves. The Dexter dames delivered with no problem... I certainly do not intend to ever let this happen again, but it does make for interesting addition to the long list of remarkable attributes of these animals.

Now I am ready to buy my first herd bull - (leased one in 2009) - and am thrilled to learn more about the Kerry, and hope to find a young bull for sale to cross with my Dexters for best of both worlds.

Best wishes to you and your endeavors! Here is a book that will knock your socks off: Drama of the Lost Disciples, available from the Shepherd's Chapel, Gravette, AK. First published in Britain many years ago. 1-800-643-4645.

Texas Dexter Cowgirl