The evolution of the herd sires here at Shamrock Acres... what a journey we have been on since 1987. So here's a little insight on what we started with and where we are now.
Here at Shamrock Acres we use the bull to diversify the gene pool. A bull is essentially half of your herd and not a decision that is taken lightly. If my count is correct we are on bulls 12 and 13 for our herd. If you were to go look at my "Bulls of the Past" page you can see how our herd sires have evolved over the last 27ish years.
Frankly, we bought a bull before we had any cows because he was the only Dexter we could find at the time! Looking back at Callen of Old Orchard, you may wonder why him? Sometimes I wonder the same thing... the picture I have of him isn'the most becoming.
As you can see, Cal was your "old style" Dexter bull. Chondrodysplasia carrier, heavy fronted, no hind end. I personally don't remember him much as I was little when we did have him around here, but I do know that he was 40" tall and didn't like people that walked down the road past our pastures. He would follow them and bellow at them...We also had to carry a baseball bat with us in the pasture. He was played with as a calf and thought he could still "play" as a mature bull. That doesn't fly around here.
A side note about Chondrodysplasia~
Whether or not to breed with a Chondro+ bull is a personal choice. We had to learn the hard way...after a few bulldog calves, buying a new bull that "wouldn't throw a bulldog" (but did...), we decided that we needed to make a change. We made a change so big that we imported from Canada! Best decision we ever made. In 1995 we brought in Earlona genetics. Guaranteed no more bulldog calves! Mind you this was all before DNA testing really was a thing. We haven't looked back either. We slowly sold our Chondro+ cows and now we run a Chondro free herd. Personal choice. We didn't like the idea of that 25% chance of a dead calf and a year lost in feed to a cow that won't pay for herself. It wasn't feasible.
Anyway, that's what we started with...onto the now...
The last 2 bulls that we used out of our own breeding (Shamrock Yogi and Shamrock Zephyr) are a testimony to the breed as far as docility. Both these boys were dead broke, and they were the easiest to train. Not that our current bulls aren't equally as docile, but they aren't our own breeding. I'd pick halter breaking a bull over a heifer ANY day. But that's a post for a different day.
People like to ask me, "why do they have rings in their nose? Are they mean?" Definitely a common misconception and this one goes way back...cartoons, comics, movies, and books all had mean bulls with a nose ring. Any bull that I've worked with that we thought was worthy of hitting the show ring at any point in time, got a nose ring. It's a requirement for most shows. Believe me though, you will be thankful for that ring if that bull gets a wild hair when he is in the show ring with other big boys. You will have much more control and you won't go for a ride.
Docility is a key factor in any bull that we consider bringing on the farm or that we decide to keep as a prospect. It is a rare occasion but if any bull decides to have an attitude... he doesn't stick around long and won't be sold for breeding...
He'll end up in the freezer instead. However, can you ever fully trust a bull? No. They are still bulls. Its definitely a hard thing to do. I got very very attached to Shamrock Yogi. We spent many hours together be it training, in the show ring, or just hanging out in the pasture. Tears were shed when I left him on Walton's Mountain in Virginia. Its mighty easy to get attached to these big boys.
So you've seen the very first herd bull and candid shots of the current boys. Here's a couple of full body shots. All non-chondro, non-PHA...including Yogi up a bit in the posting.
As a reference, I am 5'4"....
There's so much more to talk about with bulls...
Until next time.