American Dexter Cattle Association
ADCA Talisman Award
2008 Winner - Marcia Read - Claysville, PA

In 2005 the Directors of the ADCA established an award to be given in honor of long time members John & Belle Hays. It is called the Talisman Award in recognition of their herd name. The award is to be given to a Dexter Family or individual that has promoted the Dexter breed with tireless passion and integrity.

The Talisman Award honors a family or individual who has promoted the Dexter breed with tireless passion and integrity. This year’s winner, Marcia Read, Claysville, PA, who also is the new ADCA vice president.

My introduction to Dexter cattle was an article in a 1973 Organic Gardening magazine, and that article convinced me that I had to have my own Dexters. Some months later I brought home my little herd. However, it was not long before I realized they were not what I had hoped they would be, and that was friendly. They hated me!

One cow eventually did come around, but some of them never did. From that time I have endeavored to raise tame cattle, often failing more times than I would like to admit. I found after my first attempts to raise tame cattle that truly tame cattle are more than just former bottle babies and that young cattle need handling until grown. But, once raised to be tame, they are tame forever.

Last week, I gave away an older, non-breeding cow. I walked out to the cow field to show her to her prospective new caretaker and then led her back to the barn with a piece of baling twine. It was a long walk away from her friends and through a herd of silly horses, but she led. And she had not been led anywhere for well over 10 years.

Furthering the education of our bovines led my children into showing Dexters in 4H. It was great training for the cattle and fun for the kids! A week at the fair is wonderful “higher education” for young Dexter cattle, although I will admit that some of the dairy cattle exhibitors referred to our Dexter show as “the rodeo.” Well, maybe the girls were not perfectly behaved, but all the dairy cow kids wanted to help show the little black cows!

Another early concern was the poor quality of udders, some of which were so bad that they could barely be counted on to feed a calf and clearly had the ability to shorten the lifespan of the cow. I have always tried to use bulls that had strong udders in their backgrounds and that also had the ability to improve udders on offspring.

Udder quality and disposition were some of the concerns I have incorporated into my Dexter practices over the years. Since my first calf was born, I have bottle-raised every heifer and even occasionally bull calves. Years ago I had a milking string of about 10 cows. Some of the cows were used as nurse cows, while others were milked by machine.

I am starting to build up a smaller group of milkers. Because I work full-time and work some 12-hour days, I am currently sharing milking chores with a little heifer calf. We both enjoy our chore of milking the cow!

I currently have a herd of about 20 cows and one very incredible herd bull. Hiyu A Dora Bull is my pride and joy. Most of our bull calves are marketed as grass-fed (and milk-fed) baby beef. We generally have them processed between 6 and 12 months and have our butcher come to the farm.

All breeders are ambassadors of their breed, so it is important to match cattle to buyers. I found early on that often my buyers were purchasing their very first livestock, making it very important to have a good fit between cattle and owners. And all of us know this breed of cattle has so much to offer and has the flexibility of meeting the needs of so many different farming operations.

Enjoy!
Marcia Read


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American Dexter Cattle Association

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Springfield, MO 65807

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