We have two different breeds (pictured below). The one on the left is a Scottish Highland and on the right is an Irish Dexter.
The Scottish Highlands obviously have lots of hair compared to most cattle. This serves them very well in the winter. They do not struggle with getting cold. This is an adaptation from the Scottish Highlands where they came from. Additionally, they have very large horns that help them stay safe from predators. They grow up to around 1,000 pounds before they are processed into beef. There are two downsides to them that don't fit the model that we are pursuing. First, is that they end up being stressed with our summer heat & humidity here in Missouri with all that hair; especially since we have very open pastures without much shade. Second, they take around 4 years to mature to adult before they can be taken to market.
Our goal herd, the Irish Dexters, have a unique trait to them and that is their size. They are much smaller than cattle you see going to feed lots. Their height is between 36 and 44 inches at the shoulders, about up to my stomach, and they weigh around 700-800 pounds at the time of butchering. This yields about 200-250 pounds of meat in the freezer. Irish Dexter meat has a deep red color and wonderful flavor. They can also be a wonderful milk cow, producing milk with high fat content for making butter and delicious cheese. Another benefit to smaller cattle is that you can get more beef per acre. Since we are a smaller farm this allows us to maximize our use of the land. Also, a smaller animal is easier to handle and that is always good. The fact that they have a docile personality in both the cows and bulls helps with the handling as well. Finally, the last benefit is the horn issue. Some are polled (have no horns naturally) and some are horned. The ones that do have horns have smaller ones which are not as dangerous as the Highlands.
This is where we stand on our breeds. There is no right or wrong breed, only the breed that is best for your situation. We hope we have found the best one for us; we feel the Irish Dexter allows us to make the most of the resources we have been blessed with.
"His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’" Matthew 25:23