by Dan Butterfield
I have a story on how I got involved with Dexter
cattle. My grandma, Ferne Rawson, and I started
in Dexters in June 2004 after watching Maureen
McCready on RFD-TV. Grandma was very sick at
the time, and after watching a 19-minute show
about these amazing cattle, we were hooked.
At the time, Grandma
was unable to travel due to health constraints.
She kept saying, “We are going to get
some of those if I get better.” That was
around Easter weekend 2004.
June 2004. We had planned to attend the Missouri
Dexter Breeders Association show and sale, and
the night before, with our bags packed, Grandma
was sick. So, after the show was over, we called
our regional director, and he said, "Come
on over! I don't have a thing to sell, but come
Before the trip,
we were looking for one heifer calf to spoil
rotten and eventually A.I. her. By the end of
the very long day of driving, we owned a bull,
two cows and a heifer. One of those cows, Miss
Ellie, was a fairly old Dexter. Before she was
picked up, she ended up with a foot problem,
and to make a long story short, she was nearly
crippled due to hoof trimming. Even with her
limp, she quickly became Grandma's favorite
Grandma began enjoying
life again because she had a reason to get up
every morning: She needed to go check the cows
– especially the Miss Ellie. She was so
excited because she was open when we bought
her, which meant she would be the first cow
to produce a calf with our farm name. Grandma
(and I) eagerly awaited her calf. It was a bull.
No problem, the next one would surely be a heifer.
Another year passed,
and we awaited a new bundle of joy's arrival.
It was also a bull. At this point, Miss Ellie
appeared to be sliding downhill, and the vet
felt it likely that she might not settle again.
Grandma was worried; her favorite cow would
never produce a heifer before Miss Ellie would
In August 2006,
Grandma passed away. Miss Ellie had yet to produce
a heifer calf. Since almost 18 months had passed
since her last calf, I had assumed that Miss
Ellie would not have another calf, let alone
The estate of my
Grandma was a fairly messy affair, but it was
her wish that her original cows would never
leave the farm. She wanted every last one to
die on the farm from old age. So, the cows got
I had figured Miss
Ellie was retired, and she would just do her
own thing. Late last fall, I thought, “Boy,
she is sure filling out.” Come to find
out, Miss Ellie was pregnant. Once we had confirmation
that she was bred, I think I told half the breeders
in Iowa that the old girl was pregnant.
I wished for a
heifer, but since we hadn't expected her to
have a calf, I would take it either way. On
Feb. 4, 2008, Grandma Ferne's wish came true,
and Miss Ellie finally had a heifer calf, 16
months after Grandma passed away. I decided
to name her Grandma's Miss Ellie, so mother
and daughter have the same name but different
Breeders who were
lucky enough to meet her knew how much Grandma
loved Dexters and especially Miss Ellie. Those
breeders were just as excited as I was when
we got to announce that she had a heifer, and
they asked me to write this article.
Between Miss Ellie's
first bull calf for us and this little heifer,
Miss Ellie, 58 registered calves have carried
the Grandma's herd name. I know if Grandma were
alive today, she would be telling everyone about
her new little heifer!