Because We Are Too Many

I’m a contadina ( peasant woman) at heart, having moved to the country years ago, when self-sufficiency and the ‘back to the earth’ movement was in its heyday, long before real estate agents and marketers grabbed hold of the catchy phrase ‘tree change’ to hoodwink city folk onto small farms in the bush. Looking back on that life of vegetable growing, chook breeding, orchard planting and raising a few miniature Dexter cows, I can see that it has been a rewarding yet extremely demanding lifestyle. And now some tough decisions need to be made.

Auntie Derry
Auntie Derry

This year’s drought has been challenging. Our five Dexter cows, all named and loved, have been relying on bought hay for months. The front cleared paddocks, around 13 acres, have been bare and bleached since Christmas. The five Dexters unwittingly share their grass with mobs of hungry kangaroos and rabbits, the latter becoming more invasive during drought years.

The Hungry Dexters
The hungry Dexters and some welcome rain.

The Dexters listen for the sound of the back door opening in the morning and begin their hungry mooing. They wait for a car to travel up the driveway and chase it like crazy circus animals, all legs flying in the dust. Stepping outside into the morning’s Autumn mist, they are waiting for me, their gentle gaze longing for another hay bale. I look back at them, our pets, Delilah, Derry, Duffy, Dougie and Oh Danny Boy and all I can think of is Little Father Time’s maudlin phrase, “because we are too many” from Jude the Obscure. Two or three of our Dexters have to go.

Friendly and Inquisative Dexters
Friendly and inquisitive Dexters

About Dexters

The Dexter breed originated in south-western Ireland. The breed almost disappeared in Ireland, but was still maintained as a pure breed in a number of small herds in England. The Dexter is a small breed and is naturally a miniature cow. They are usually black, a dark-red or dun, they are always single-coloured except for some very minor white marking on the udder or behind the navel. Horns are rather small and thick and grow outward with a forward curve on the male and upward on the female. The breed is suitable for beef or milk production.

We keep Dexters to mow our grass and use their manure on our gardens. They are inquisitive and very friendly.

30 thoughts on “Because We Are Too Many”

  1. I’m so sorry for your difficult decision. I hadn’t realised you had Dexters as well as your veggies and fruit. The farming life seems to provide equal portions of reward and heartbreak. Sending you supportive and loving thoughts for your situation.

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    1. Thanks Ardys. It doesn’t pay to become attached to farm animals- most proper farmers don’t worry at all when their cows go to market. We are ‘hobby ‘ farmers I guess- and the Dexters have become our pets.
      Heartbreak comes more often lately, with global warming.

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    1. Just a few cows as we were paranoid about 13 acres of grass out the front when we moved onto this block 6 years ago. They have done their job well, keeping down the grass and therefore keeping potential grass fires at bay. and their manure is so dynamic in the compost.

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  2. Oh dear, what heartbreak. Choosing the lesser of two evils can be an awfully heavy burden – even if you turn it on its head and think of it as the greater good – it ain’t easy – and I feel for you. If only wishes could be rain drops. Seeing land so dreadfully dry and dessicated is quite frightening.

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    1. It has been a tough year, rain wise. The vegetables, however, have been magnificent this year thanks to the Dexters’ manure. It will be hard to choose which ones go, and where to. Do they just become hamburgers or can we find them a ‘good home’ in a time when no one has any grass.

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    1. Yes, for all five. Sometimes we buy big bales, and they just go crazy eating flat out and stomping and spoiling at least a third of it. We gather the spoilt stuff, along with their poo, and make huge stacks of compost.
      It is too hard to sustain.

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  3. A very poignant post. It will be a tough decision and just reading your comment above about re-home vs hamburger, that makes it tougher. If you do decide to get them butchered, at least you will know the beef you eat was well raised and cared for. xxx

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  4. Such a complicated thing to take on dependants. Hence we have only a share cat, but another stray is hanging around which we don’t need but can’t ignore. A solution will present itself. Hopefully same with your Dexters now you’ve put it out there. Maybe there is someone with grass who’d like to share them for a while.

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      1. Maybe someone further away, who has grass, a use for manure and an affection for cows… if only we had acreage. We loved our visit too, and we did see how lovely but dry your place is, and the wonderful Dexters. You wouldn’t say it was dry here but we too could use rain. Luckily our new rainwater tanks filled while we were travelling as the G.O. had to transfer water to the house tanks after my busy washing-cooking day.

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  5. Heart wrenching indeed! Something special about the way cows look at you. Have you thought about renting/lending them out to other smallholdings? Some people have the paddocks but not the wherewithal to manage stock or because they aren’t in attendance full time prefer not to. At Fish Creek we used to get the adjacent farmer to run a few head a couple of times a year to keep the grass down and feed the soil. Probably not suitable though if other properties are also struggling with the drought. Then there is also the fencing issues, management, people complain cause the cows ate their daffodils, will the climate ever improve etc, etc, etc. I’d happily take one if I could! Don’t envy your dilemma at all πŸ™‚

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    1. I can see one of our cute Dexters in your backyard. Or maybe it could be a laneway dexter?
      Yes, all the folk up here have a similar dilemma. I think we will try a Gumtree ad first, although I have noticed that Stuart has been playing with a solar panelled electric fence out the back- another found acre.

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    1. Yes, I share your thoughts about politicians. I might advertise the Dexters on a local trading sight so they don’t end up as hamburgers. We bought three, then borrowed Paul, a handsome bull, who did his duty, then we had five, thinking that our small acreage could support them. Enter Global Warming!

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    1. You probably saw how dry it was here when you came to visit. It is still dry, and now that we are getting a little rain, it’s a bit late for much grass to grow. I think you would love a Dexter, you can have little Derry, she is cute.

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