By Renee Wood
On 20 acres overlooking the Yarra River, you might catch your eye on a herd of striking small breed cows.
Warburton resident Kristyn Preen launched Riverside Mist Cattle Stud in 2017 after falling in love with two breeds, the Miniature Belted Galloways and Dexters.
The dual purpose, beef and milk breed, are quite the rare sight in the region.
“A lot of people have never seen them before or heard of them,” Kristyn said.
The ‘belties’ originated in the Galloway area of south-west Scotland and Dexter cattle are a breed originating in Ireland, which both grow slowly, have nice temperaments and have curious natures.
For Dexter cows, they can be up to 107 cm and bulls between up to 112 cm.
Miniature Belties bulls are around 125cm and 120cm for a female.
Kristyn said enthusiasts and dedicated owners are why the breed is still in Australia.
“They are originally on the rare breeds trust so as the larger cattle…beefier breeds became more popular, dual purpose breeds like Galloway’s, and Dexter’s kind of fell out of favour,” she said.
Kristyn didn’t know anything about cows before she purchased them as she grew up in suburbia.
The secondary teacher was led to wanting to own cattle after developing a chronic disease, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.
The condition meant she had trouble getting out of the house, with little energy to do things requiring mental or physical labour,.
This is where gardening, owning fruit trees and chickens helped with her rehabilitation.
The cows were the next opportunity providing a relaxing hobby, while also beneficial in maintaining the family’s 20 acres.
“I really wanted something that was hardy that could deal with the cold weather and hot summers so I eventually got to Belted Galloways and Dexters.”
In 2017, Kristyn purchased her first herd members on a visit to a Victorian studs.
Kristyn said it was love at first sight and after first promising her dad she would come home empty handed, it turned out the opposite – starting her herd with two calves and six cows.
Not long after that, Kristyn then visited a Dexters breeder and again love blossomed.
“I thought I will bring four home it’ll just be a side project, and now I have some lovely bulls and some lovely cows who have come from international lines.”
The Miniature Galloways have been bred down in size, while the Dexters are a standard small breed.
“Main differences are their personality and their coats – Dexter’s are not nearly as fluffy, but they still do well in the wet and the cold and they tend to be a little more outgoing.
“Of course having calves is beautiful and I love it every year but that’s kind of an initial excitement it’s everything that comes after that I really enjoy.
“Bonding with them on an individual basis and getting to know each of them as they grow old, seeing how they come into themselves.”
The stud formed due to the stock being already registered on purchase, but Kristyn said it’s something she wants to continue to give back to the community.
“I actually really enjoy being a part of the community that is around cattle and these two breed associations and I really enjoy and want to give back to that community by breeding better cattle.”
Kristyn is looking to breed more colour into the Belted Galloways by focusing on reds and dunns, which is like a beige that can be found in the standard lines.
“Over the past three years, I’ve been working on getting smaller statutes standards to breed into my own herd and effectually it’s creating a new bloodline so that there’s more genetic diversity in the herd.
“At this point, it’s really expanding on that making sure that they’re still very functional cattle but they still look nice that they walk well, that they’re not going to be prone to any diseases.
“We’ve just had our first calf born to our smaller standard, so bringing red into the herd and having them as full Bloods and showing them will be very exciting.”
The herd hasn’t been shown yet after losing opportunities to go to regional shows over the past couple of years due to the pandemic.
Currently training is being conducted with some of the younger animals, with skills needed across socialisation, walking, halter wearing and more.
“I’m looking at is the Finley Show…It is a smaller show in relation to the Royal Show but it’s still well-known enough that it draws quite a bit of a crowd,” she said.
“It’s just a really nice way to see what other studies are doing what they’re focusing on in their breeding.”
For more information, visit the herd on instagram and facebook under Riverside Mist Cattle Stud