American Dexter Cattle Association

Ferne's Wish
by Dan Butterfield

Like everyone, 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.

Fast-forward to 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 anyway!"

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 cow.

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 pass on.

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 a heifer.

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 to stay.

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 prefixes.

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!


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American Dexter Cattle Association

1325 W Sunshine #519
Springfield, MO 65807

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