BUCKLAND, MA — When Edward Scott was a boy growing up in Ashfield, MA his family’s farm had an apple orchard, chickens and cows. He became well known for his gift of working with apple trees. “The kids would pick apples when the other apple pickers were away at war,” said his daughter, Donna Scott. Her mother, Janice, and Edward attended the same school. “During WWII, the high school closed and students went out to help farmers. Apples were a big crop in this area, a way farmers got money. They’d pick apples in the fall and ship them.”
Then Scott went off to war. “When he got out of the service in the Korean War, he was approached by the old farmers — in that time, everyone had a farm, trees, cows — to take over their trees. He rented the trees from the farmers, gave the farmer and his wife an income.”
Now Edward’s son, licensed logger Colin Scott, and Colin’s wife Laura raise fruit and Irish Dexter cattle on the 140 acre farm, and manage the Buckland fruit stand. Donna manages the Ashfield store. Colin logs and farms fulltime but, “When Dad retired, the farm came first, logging came second.”
Laura grew up in nearby Goshen. Her grandfather, Herbert Bissell, raised registered Holsteins at Bissell Green Acres Farm before she was born. When her son, Dustin Culver, was 9 he wanted to be a farmer. She read an article about Irish Dexter cattle in a magazine that started an odyssey searching for Irish Dexters to grant his wish.
In 1996, she located and bought a heifer from a woman farmer in Gill. Soon afterward, the woman farmer retired, selling them a bred cow that soon calved a heifer. “All the first breeding we did had heifers,” said Laura. Dustin, his sister Colleen, and his brother Brian loved working with and showing the Dexters, attending the Hancock Shaker Village rare breed show and shows where they spent most of their time explaining about the breed, repeating, “They are not miniatures, they are just a small breed.”
They bred traditional Dexters, with horns, under the registered name of Double D, to sell as breeding stock. Their first bull became an AI bull for another farm.
A Dexter bull weighs less than a ton, measuring between 38 to 44 inches at the shoulder. The cow measures 35 to 42 inches at the shoulder, weighing less than 750 pounds.
Dexters were on the rare breed critical list. The American Kerry and Dexter Cattle Club started in 1911. “We were the 326th member. Since then, they’ve been bred back, and they are no longer on the critical list,” said Laura.
With the kids grown, the herd is rotated between her family’s Goshen farm and the Buckland farm. “The kids are all done with them, but Mom’s still got them,” said Laura.
The Scotts traditionally raised Herefords. For the past two years, Laura and Colin have started a new tradition, adding Irish Dexters, to form a herd of nine Irish Dexters, three Herefords, and their crosses.
Dexters can be dun, red or black. “When we first got into it, dun was the color people wanted. Now it’s the red,” said Laura. As she prefers black, hers carry both black and dun genes. “You never know what kind of calf you’ve got until it’s born.”
What does she like best about Dexters? “They’re quiet, have an easygoing personality. They’re respectful of the fence, good at calving. Over the years, I’ve only seen a couple of the births. They’re pretty sneaky about it.” Once, in the amount of time it took her to get home and changed from church, her mother called to say that a calf had been born in the Goshen pasture. They are very healthy, foraging on brush and grass that other animals won’t touch. “We’ve noticed the Hereford’s have their noses to the ground eating grass; the Dexters will have their noses up, eating weed tops.”
They produce a lot of milk that’s very high in butterfat. As their beef is high in protein, Laura and Colin are considering raising grass-fed beef to add to their three acres of stone fruit- peaches, nectarines and plums- and a half acre of blueberries and raspberries as another diversifying effort.
Laura loves waiting for the cows to calve, each time resulting in a wondrous surprise.