Oklahoma cattleman explains why a smaller breed made for the perfect circumstance

Spend just five minutes talking cattle with Gene Pittman and his enthusiasm about his lifelong dream becomes apparent. Gene, who has been in the area most of his life, lives on a 42-acre farm outside Tahlequah, Okla., and has been at his current residence for almost 30 years. Gene’s love of the farm life was nurtured by his grandparents; he spent as much time as possible on their farm. Today, Gene is proud to be one of the largest breeders of Dexter cattle in Oklahoma. 
Gene started out in the ranching industry by raising Brangus cattle. He had 13 cows and one bull and was thoroughly enjoying his new vocation. However, an article he read on long-legged Dexter cattle started him thinking about making some changes on his ranch. Gene went to a show featuring Dexter cattle and that cemented his decision: time to go from Brangus to Dexter. The change went smoothly, although Gene did have to rethink his fencing due to the Dexters smaller size.  He currently has 62 head of cattle. Most of his sales are from word-of-mouth or the internet. He has never sold them at a sale barn, and said, “There just isn’t a market for them at a feedlot.”
In January, Gene was named Regional Director of the American Dexter Cattle Association (ADCA), Region Six, which includes Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. Gene has the privilege of helping introduce young people to the world of raising Dexters.
Gene said that Dexters are perfect for people just starting out in the business or those with smaller acreage. He went on to say, “If you have five to 10 acres of grass, you can have five or six cows and a bull.” Gene’s advice to those considering Dexters: “don’t be scared of animals with horns. Be aware of the horns, but don’t be scared of them.” Gene said one of the best things about Dexter cattle is that a person can interact with them, and their smaller size means they require less to eat.
There are only 18,000 or 19,000 Dexters in the United States today. Black is the most common color for Dexters, and dun and red are the other color possibilities. Gene’s farm has all three colors and includes both horned and polled. Dexters are good for beef and dairy, and are even used as oxen teams by some in the Northeast.  Dexters, originally from Ireland, are the smallest old breed of cattle. All Dexters are registered animals, with pedigrees that go back several generations.
Gene is getting the chance to do what most people wish they could do:  fulfill a lifelong dream. Despite all the work involved in taking care of cattle, Gene would make the same choices all over again. Gene genuinely loves his life on the farm, and is grateful for the chance to do what he loves.


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