Stories of life on our farm in Northwest Georgia where every day is an adventure in this beautiful spot that God has entrusted to our stewardship.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

How to Register Your Dexter

In the past, I didn't think of myself as a procrastinator.  However, the whole affair of getting Siobhan registered has shown me that I can be a terrible procrastinator when something intimidates me.

Siobhan (pronounced Shih-VAHN) was born Nov. 4, 2010.  It was over a month before Sara would let us near her.  That made me realize that the first step for registering a calf begins BEFORE it is born!

1)  Have a system set up so that you can separate an aggressive mother from her calf if needed.  Luckily Siobhan didn't need colostrum, dehorning or medical care so we squeaked by with nothing more than some inconvenience and delay.  The next step also needs to be done BEFORE the calf is born.

2)  Have your own tattoo equipment.  One model for under $100 can be found on Livestock Concepts' website.  Valley Vet has sets beginning at about $50.  One person recommended this one from Valley Vet, although you must remember to purchase an additional kit for letters since Dexter tattoos are a combination of letters and numbers.

3)  Don't hesitate to call your ADCA Area Representative.  You can find contact info for your regional Area Rep on the ADCA website.  Dexter people are friendly and helpful.  They see new breeders not as competition, but as new members of a growing family and they are glad to help.  Our area rep Charles Townson told me that online registration is quick and easy, and he answered my questions about whether to register or get DNA testing first.

4)  Choose a farm prefix.  The "Registrations Basics" page (see below for link) says that new members must request a herd prefix (maximum 10 spaces) and if it is not already in use, the registrar will enter it in the registry.  Despite what may have been practiced in the past, the present Registrar, Jill Delaney, confirms that it is always best to ask if a prefix is available.  Some people do this when becoming members.  She also says it is not mandatory to have a prefix.

ZH for Zephyr Hill Farm obviously isn't a commonly used set of letters.  We will use this prefix in all our calves' names.  (We could have also opted to use "Zephyrhill" in one word because it is only 10 letters.)

At the first ADCA show we attended, we noticed that many winning animals had a name beginning with "FF."  FF is Freedom Farms, and that's how we found a bull to breed to Siobhan.  Her father's name begins with "Hillview," which is a good recommendation in an animal's name.  Another is "Belle Fourche."  The Newswangers of Hope Refuge Farm use "New Hope," part of their name and part of their farm name.  These are just a few examples.  We chose the shorter ZH because it gives us more leeway in choosing a name since you may only have 25 letters AND spaces in your animal's name.  Hopefully ZH will eventually become synonymous with good Dexters!

5)  Tattoo your Dexter.  This is the first step to register your Dexter.  Remember which ear the tattoo is in.  You will need to know this for registration.  Obviously, it's simplest to always use the same ear on all animals.  Remember to use an ink color other than black on black animals.  (We finally asked the AI tech to tattoo Siobhan when he came to do her AI at 18 months old!  Blush!  I had not thought to write down which ear was used.  Luckily, I take pictures of everything the first time we do it, so I only needed to check my photos!)  

Guidelines for tattooing your animal are a bit hard to find on the ADCA website.  On the Home page, click on "Registration Information." Next click on "Registration Basics and Questions."  A PDF called "Registration Basics" will open. "Tattoo Letters Guidelines" are at the end of the Registration Basics page.

Let me try to simplify tattoo guidelines:

The tattoo consists of:
  1. Your farm prefix
  2. That calf's birth number on YOUR farm for that calendar year
  3. The tattoo letter for that calendar year
For example, Siobhan's tattoo was Z1X:
  1. Z for Zephyr Hill Farm
  2. 1 because she was the first and only calf born on our farm that year
  3. X for 2010  (You can find a list of letters and years on the ADCA website.)
6)  Decide on your animal's name.  Finally, something fun!  Some breeders use fairly complicated systems of letters in their animals' names, but I personally prefer something straightforward and easy to remember!  Since Herb lets me choose names, I'm on an Irish kick.  There are lots of Irish baby names available online, including translations.  Think of names that mean "black" or "dark" or "raven" for a black calf; "fire" or "bright" for a red calf; "sunny" or "pale" for a dun calf.  Many Irish names have both masculine and feminine versions.  You can even find Irish names sorted by their meaning in English.

Other breeders use flower names, Indian names, or names that reflect their location.  You can check out Dexter websites for inspiration; most of them have lists of their bulls' and cows' names.  Type up a list of your favorite names and save it so you only have to do the research once.

"Siobhan" means "gift from God" and is the feminine, Irish version of John.  If Siobhan's calf is a heifer, I have thought of naming her "Christmas in June."  The calf is due in June, and the bull is "FF Christmas Cash."  I sure wouldn't name her "June" in Irish because it's "Meitheamh!"  But if the calf is red, I'm really tempted to use one of the great Irish names for "fire," "red," or "bright."

7)  Check on the Required Testing for registering an animal.

If you are registering a bull calf, you must insert another step here and get its testing done by Texas A&M FIRST. Note that all bulls must now be genotyped and have the report on file before registering the animal.  You can request testing from Texas A&M using just his tattoo number.  Be smart and get Chondro and PHA testing at the same time, and Color if he is red or dun.

One important point to remember is that the Registrar does not automatically receive test results from Texas A&M.  It is the owner's responsibility to send test results to the Registrar.  If a bull's registration is sent in before the test results are available, it will languish in a file until the results are received.  It's much more efficient to test for genotype first, then register the bull.  

In addition, ALL animals now being registered must have their sire's genotype on file with the ADCA in order to be registered.  If you use an ADCA bull, you've already covered that base!  If you use a PDCA bull, you can check to see if he's cross-registered with the ADCA.  If not, I recommend you talk to your Area Rep or the Registrar.

I'll go into testing more in a future post since it's a bit complicated.

8)  Fill out the ADCA form and register your animal!  There are two ways to do this.

A)  Online registration  On the ADCA Home page, click on the "Register Online" tab at the top. 
  • Check the Fees near the top of the page.

Click on the link [Process Registration Online] to go to the form for Online Registrations.

  • Begin filling in the form.
  • You will note that you must be a member of the ADCA and have a member number. Upon joining the ADCA you will receive a membership certificate with your number on it. Keep this somewhere you can find it! File the certificate in your files or computer under" ADCA Registration" and/or keep it in a fireproof strong box.

  • Continue on down the form.
  • Fill in the dam's and sire's registered numbers.  You can find these on the ADCA website by searching for their names in the Online Pedigree tab at the top of the Home page.  (I got caught up in the confusion between the ADCA and the PDCA since Sara is dual-registered.  Somehow I put her PDCA number on the application form, but the application went through anyway.  I intend to rectify this error with the Registrar so that Siobhan's ADCA registry correctly reflects her parents' ADCA registrations.)
  • Fill in your animal's chosen name and whether it was bred by AI.  You do not need any further identification as long as your sire is ADCA registered because his genotype is on file with the ADCA.

    Continue on down the form.
  • This is where you need the Genotype Number from Texas A&M when registering a bull calf.  You can get that done with just the tattoo number filled in on A&M's form.  That tattoo is all-important!
  • Fill in your animal's tattoo information, including which ear the tattoo is in.  Be sure to select for Color, Horned and Sex.
  • If you are registering a bull calf, you will already have sent tail hairs to A&M for genotyping.  Hopefully you were smart and requested Chondro and PHA testing at the same time along with Color, especially if your bull is red or dun.  If you are registering a heifer, you can send the test results to the ADCA later.  If you request that A&M send you results by both snail mail and email, you can simply forward the email to the ADCA Registrar.  Otherwise you will need to snail-mail a copy of the test results.
  • Follow the instructions for online payment using either a check, PayPal or a credit card through PayPal.  While online registration normally takes only a couple of days, do be aware that delays can happen with PayPal.  (This happened to us, and it took over a week for the results to appear.  I'm afraid I peppered poor Jill Delaney with phone calls and emails wondering if I had done something wrong!)
B)  Snail-mail registration  On the Home page, click on "Forms and Applications."  Look under "Forms and Applications Print and Mail" and click on "ADCA Registrations."  You will get a PDF of this form:

Fill out the form and send it in with a check for the fee.

9)  Pat yourself on the back.  You've done it!

10)  If you haven't already done the genetic testing for your animal, stay tuned for a future post.

11)  Stay tuned for a post on photographing your animal for the online pedigree.

12)  And keep checking your mail because in about two weeks you'll get a lovely certificate that looks like this:

Your animal is officially registered with the American Dexter Cattle Association!


  1. Thanks for the walk through, I hope to be registering four heifer calves this spring for the first time!

    1. That is really exciting, Joseph! By the time you do the last one, you'll be able to write a tutorial! :) Four heifers--that's great!


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