Tara and Easter

Tara and Easter
"Aw, mom"

Monday, October 24, 2011

Armstrong, the small and mighty Dexter bull

I must admit that I was skeptical when we unloaded that 8 month old bull calf this past June.  Our long trip to Virginia was far from disappointing.  Here was a lovely built bull....in miniature!  He is certainly on the shorter end of long-legged Dexter bulls, which is exactly what my herd needs because I feared they were approaching the upper end of the height standards.  However, that means there is a basic physics problem of how a small young bull can cover older taller cows.  I joked about leaving a step-stool in the pasture.  I wasn't anxious for him to breed my cows, but I have four cows that will be going to their new homes as soon as they are bred.  Summer means grass is available and if he can't settle them until fall, well, then it costs money to feed the sold cows hay so it is in my best interests for the cows to be bred as soon as the bull is able.

I looked at my crabby 6 year old cows eyeballing him with amusement and wondered how he'd ever woo them or if they would send him straight to a playpen at the far side of the pasture.  At first, I tried to put him in an adjacent pasture in hopes that he would be accepted more readily with such a formal introduction (like an old fashioned lover's gate of sorts).  He would have none of it.  He bellowed his calf-like cry and made it clear he wanted in with the girls.  I relented.  As soon as a I opened the gate, he marched right up to the first cow like he was ten feet tall, and sniffed her boldly.  She was taken aback but tolerated him.  It was like watching a little terrier strut right up to a big shepherd.  He had no doubts.  Confidence seemed to walk with him as he checked out his herd.  I left feeling that at least they were probably intimidated enough not to chase him through a fence. 

The next few days were a marvel.  Junior herded his cows and checked them like a seasoned bull.  I watched bemused but still wondered if I should dig some holes for the cows to stand in or cart in some rocks for the bull to climb up onto. 

Now, for those that know standard breeds, a bull should be a year old before you can expect him to produce any calves.  We had the vet out to check our cows for pregnancy at the beginning of October.  All but one is at least two months pregnant.  A few are three months along.  The one cow is most likely just too early to confirm as pregnant.  Armstrong had a busy summer.  I do not know how he accomplished this task, and, frankly, I don't need to know.  I never saw him do anything but groom and herd the cows but he's the only bull for miles.  His first calves are expected in March and April.  ;)


  1. I am so glad to hear that you finally have your bull and that he is successfully doing his job. :) I haven't blogged in a long time, but I signed on today and saw your post. Esther and Annabelle are both doing great. We AI'd Esther last year, but it was unsuccessful. We are planning to try again as soon as she goes into her next heat. Annabelle will be ready to be bred soon too. If we can't get them pregnant that way, we may have to see about renting a bull for a few weeks. I really don't want to go that route, so I'm hoping the AI works next time. Not to mention we paid good money for a red polled bull.

    Unfortunately, I broke my leg and ankle last June. I was out of commission for months, and consequently we got out of our milking routine. That is also why I didn't know for so long that she wasn't pregnant. Annabelle continued to nurse though, so she didn't dry up. We started milking her again a few months ago and permanently seperated them so that Annabelle can't nurse. We are getting close to a gallon of milk a day. It's not a lot, but it meets the needs of our family.

    I have learned to make cheese, yogurt, sour cream, buttermilk and butter. Her milk is FAR superior to any other milk I have used to make cheese. It is naturally homogenized, and makes the creamiest cheese, and the yield is almost twice what I get from the Holstein milk I get from a local dairy farmer.

  2. I apologize for the delay. I thought I had responded months ago. I am very happy to hear that you're pleased with the milk and that the girls are doing well. Leasing a bull is one option, but not very much fun unless your fences are quite strong. Another option is to send the girls to the bull and let them stay with him for a few months. You pay a board fee for the cows and a stud fee for the bull, but it's usually worth it if AI is a pain. The success of AI is dependent on the AI tech. We tried it with one cow and it wasn't the best experience.