Acquired: Breeder (non-professional, hobby breeder)
Virginia, United States
Posted Dec 17, 2012
A Belfair Cow is a cross between an Irish Cow called a Dexter and a Miniature Jersey. The International Miniature Cattle Breeders Society and Registry calls this cross a Belmont (Irish Jersey).
The breed combines the traits of the Miniature Jersey with the Irish Dexter which was once called the Irish Peasant cow as it was small and easy to keep. Both breeds are easy keepers with the exception that the Jersey is a little more sensitive to the cold. If you live in the extreme North, you will have to provide more shelter than a wind break. To be honest, I think all cows fair better when allowed to come and go under some sort of shelter though it does not have to be fancy. With adequate shelter, they will need less food to stay in condtion in the winter and will have less heat distress in the summer. Although trees work equally well for either small breed in the summer. For our Belfairs they need shelter more in the hot sun than the winter with the exception of cold icy rainy weather. It does not have to be fancy but tall enough for the heat to escape and on our shorter run in type shelters we insulated the roof so it stays much cooler in the summer. Roof venting on a shorter type shelter is a must to allow the heat to escape. You can also hang a fan in the shelter.
The main positive to this cross breed is you get more meat than you would with a straight Miniature Jersey as Jerseys are much slimmer of frame and as a rule, more dairy looking.
The negitive is that you will not get as much milk. Especially since most Dexters are not milked and therefore, the milking lines are not as well developed. There are milking lines available but you have to search for them. They are called Milking Dexters.
So if you are a small family and want meat and milk more than lots of milk for feeding several people, cheese-making, and to other animals such as an extra calf, it may be the cross for you. Keeping in mind that the first lactation of any cow is smaller. The second lactation is bigger and then there is a smaller increase with the third lactation. With a smaller producer like a Belfair, you may not have extra milk especially with the first lactation. So don't judge your little cows abilities until she's older!
A good thing about this cross is that they are efficient grazers because of the grazing genetics from the Dexter. They are not a registered breed but can be registered as miniature cattle with the International Miniature Cattle Breeders Society and Registry at www.MiniCattle.com. Misty Morning Farm in Virginia is just now becoming a member with this organization. The reason being is that the other organization that registers miniature Jersey cattle has to many internal problems and registrations take months to be returned and several phone calls.
I have heard it said that they do not produce the "yellow fat" like the Jerseys do. We have butchered several Jerseys and they are the best meat we have ever had. Albeit, less meat! Of course we mostly grass feed for the health benefits of grass fed products with only a very little bit of grain for our milking girls. The Belfair cross is excellent meat because of the influence of the fine texture of Jersey meat.