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Small breed draws big crowds

The Nelsons of Colinton, Alta., have been promoting their cattle,  including their Dexters, at Edmonton

EDMONTON – Regular visitors to the cattle barns at Farmfair International in Edmonton often see familiar faces among those who show and promote their cattle.

Probably no couple is more familiar to Farmfair goers than Allyn and Rita Nelson of Colinton, Alta.

The Nelsons have raised Dexter cattle at their Hillside Dexters farm since 1986 and soon began showing and promoting the smaller breed at Farmfair.

Dexters have never had a show at Farmfair, but the breed has become well known there, thanks to the Nelsons’ personable manner.

Until recently, they were the only breeders showing Dexter cattle at Farmfair.

The Nelsons say they don’t care that their efforts haven’t been rewarded with ribbons and prizes.

“Our reward is the many, many people we have met over the years,” Allyn said.

Added Rita: “We’ve met so many people over the years.”

Young people are drawn to the Dexter display because of the breed’s small size. The Nelsons are quick to introduce them to the display animals.

Dexter cattle are the smallest of the European cattle breeds, about half the size of a traditional Hereford. Mature cows weigh 600 to 700 pounds and mature bulls weigh 1,000 lb.

They were considered a rare breed until recently, but the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy now classifies it as a recovering breed.

The breed originated in southwestern Ireland and was brought to England in 1882. Dexters were in North America before the 1900s.

The cattle’s bodies are small but wide and deep with a well-rounded hindquarter. Although usually black, Dexter animals can also be dark-red or dun.

The animals are always a solid colour, with only minor white markings on the udder or behind the navel.

Horns are small and thick and grow outward with a forward curve on the male and upward on the cow.

The breed is typically dual purpose, although producers often concentrate on producing either a beef or milk animal.

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