The Right Sheep For You.
So you are interested in getting into Dorper Sheep.
The slick entrepreneurial Dorper Breeder talks you into
spending a fortune buying the best stud ewes and a ram to go with
them. Now this solution is the best for some people but not all.
You have options
Breed Stud Dorper Sheep
Even with low maintenance breeds of sheep, stud sheep
breeding requires a lot of work, knowledge and the right
Points for consideration if you are thinking of setting up a Dorper stud.
- Love of the breed.
First and foremost a preference and love of the breed
is imperative. If you don't really like the sheep, nor believe in
their potential then you will not make a success of a stud Dorper
- Situation of property. It is not much good running a
stud hundreds of miles from your potential markets. Many Dorper Stud
breeders in NSW have had to quit their Dorper studs and change to
White Dorper studs as the biggest meat processor in NSW doesn't like
exotic sheep breeds (as he also has a large wool scouring plant), but
especially doesn't like coloured exotic breeds of sheep.
- Quality of grazing.Stud animals will need to look in
tip top condition.
- Supplementary feed. The production potential of property or
accessibility to a source of supplementary feed supply. This is
necessary once again so that stud animals can be kept in top
- Good stock water supply. Once again animals need to be
well watered in order to maintain top condition.
- Good handling, yarding and if necessary shedding
facilities. These will be necessary for the frequent yarding and
handling of animals that needs to be done with stud stock.
- Good subdivision. Subdivision of the property into several paddocks is required.
This is necessary so that rams and ewes can be kept apart unless the
stud master puts them together for breeding purposes. The studmaster
needs to know the parentage of all lambs born to run the stud
- Record keeping.
The studmaster must be prepared to keep detailed and
precise records for each animal from the time of the dam's mating
with a particular stud ram. In many cases for records to be
accurate, this requires tagging all lambs as they are born; a time
consuming job, even with smaller numbers of sheep.
- Financial resources.
You must have access to a fairly substantial amount of
money, especially in the beginning, in order to finance the initial
purchase of the quality stud stock which will form the basis of your
stud. Spending money on quality stock is a good investment at this
stage. If you think to save money by buying lesser quality stock at
bargain basement prices, think again. Such behaviour will probably
prove to be a poor investment in the long run as lesser animals will
probably prove to be more difficult to sell if not unsaleable.
- Long term investment.
Stud breeding is a long term investment, so if you are
looking to make a "quick buck", think again!
- Willingness to learn.
A stud breeder must be willing to continually work to improve and
develop his flock. To this end he must be willing to learn, broaden
his knowledge and keep abreast of new
trends both with his chosen breed and within the sheep industry in
The studmaster needs to set breeding aims and develop a breeding program
which will enable him to achieve those aims. Good skills will be
necessary in planning, decision making and
and care of animals, to enable the breeding program to be
implemented in such a way as to be successful.
- Good communication skills.
The studmaster will also have to have good
communication skills in order to be able to deal successfully with
- Society membership and animal registrations.
It will be necessary to join the breed society (Dorper
Sheep Society of Australia Inc)and then pay the annual membership
fee to remain a member of the society. Animal registrations cost
$6.60 per animal. Animal transfers (required when animals are sold
from one breeder to another) cost $6.60 per animal. All animal
registrations and transfer are done through the Breed Society.
- Downgrade inferior animals.
Be aware that not all offspring of stud animals will
be of stud quality. This is a trap that I have seen many small studs
in other breeds fall into. They have kept all rams lambs and tried
to sell them off as stud sires, thus putting the genetics of
inferior animals into the breed and downgarding the breed. Those
breeders who are working hard at breed development will be
especially hard on their stock and only the very best will be deemed
to be stud quality animals. Other animals will be either sold as
commercial animals, castrated or sold as culls into the meat market.
For the posterity of a breed this is the way it should be.
If you think that you have the requirements to be a
successful stud Dorper breeder then you need to proceed slowly. You
need to learn as much as possible about the breed, and what
characteristics to look for in quality animals before you invest in
the best stud animals that you can afford. If done well a stud Dorper
operation can be both personally satisfying and financially
Run a Flock of commercial purebred Dorper Sheep
Commercial or flock purebred Dorpers are purebred
animals which come without stud papers. Commercial purebred Dorper
sheep are often sheep which are the progeny of stud Dorpers which
have not been been accepted into the stud flock. The quality of
commercial Dorpesr may vary from one flock to another. The quality
will depend upon how hard the studmaster is upon his stud flock. It
might be interesting to ask why the animals have been deemed to be of
commercial quality. If it is for purely cosmetic reasons eg. too much
white on the head of a Dorper or ginger colour on a White Dorper,
then the animals may be of a very high quality.
The commercial Dorper flock requires less financing than
a Stud flock. The initial money outlaid to purchase stock will be far
less for a start. There is a lot less work involved in running a
commercial purebred flock of Dorper sheep, for less paperwork and
meticulous recording of individual animal data is required. As the
animals are not stud recorded, there is no need to belong to Breed
Society, saving the cost of annual membership fees, nor is there any
requirement to register animals (presently $6.60 per animal) in the
breed Society Stud Book.
There are now large numbers of good Commercial Dorper
and White Dorper rams available for purchase. The cost of these rams,
in most cases, is now quite reasonable also. Commercial ewes are in
demand and more difficult to access. In recent years Dorper and White
Dorper sheep breeders have taken advantage of the opportunity to sell
their ewes in large numbers to China and other lucrative overseas
markets. Hence the price of all purebred ewes has remained high.
Most producers are asking $700 - $800 for good sound young commercial
ewes. Even at this high price ,these animals soon pay for themselves
as they require few inputs and their numbers build quickly. You will
soon have animals to sell at these sort of prices yourself.
Run a Flock of commercial crossbred Dorper Sheep or Dorper Upgrades.
Some farmers have overcome the problem of the lack of
availability of Dorper ewes by using Purebred Dorper rams over ewes
of other breeds. Some are producing the crossbred lambs purely for
the meat market, whilst others are keeping the ewes lambs and
continuing crossing back to a Dorper ram (upgrading). These crossbred ewes (also known as upgrades) are becoming quite sort after: some types of crosses (upgrades) more so than others.
There are large numbers of Merino / Dorper and White
Dorper cross sheep in Western Australia, South Australia and New
South Wales. This is because farmers in those areas purchased Dorper
and White Dorper rams and used them with their existing ewe flocks.
The Crossbred lambs have performed well for these farmers. Where in
the past they would have had great difficulty turning off a lamb into
the meat market, they can now do so.
However the best type of crosses are arrived at by
crossing with meat type breeds of sheep. Suffolk and White Suffolk
produce particularly good Dorper and White Dorper Cross lambs. In my
opinion the best cross is the Wiltshire Horn / Dorper or Wiltshire
Horn / White Dorper. This is the cross which we have been doing for
several years now , and one which never fails to impress us.
There are numerous advantages of this cross over others.
Most Wiltshire Horn ewes are excellent shedding sheep;
that is they shed their wool cleanly (all over as if they have been
shorn). You do get some Wiltshire Horns that don't shed their wool
all that well (woolly types), however on the whole the breed is an
excellent shedding breed. This is because stud breeders have put
emphasis upon this characteristic as being one of importance to the
breed (it is a characteristic upon which Dorper stud breeders should
also focus in the opinion of this author).
Using a Wiltshire Horn ewe upon which to base a
breeding up (upgrading) program or a crossbred Dorper flock therefore makes a lot
of sense, as the ewes and all of the progeny will be easy care. If you
use woolly breeds of ewes as a basis for your crossbred flock (or upgrading flock) you are
still going to have to shear,crutch and maybe watch for flystrike the
progeny of at least the first few crosses.
Wiltshire Horn ewes like Dorper sheep have multiple
births, so your flock size increases fairly rapidly.
The secret is out about how good the Wiltshire X
Dorper ewes are , so they are in demand and which makes it easy to
sell excess stock for good money to people interested in breeding
The Wiltshire Horn and indeed the Wiltshire X
Dorper ewes are excellent milkers and very good mothers, hence all
lambs grow quickly. While it is difficult to turn a purebred
Wiltshire Horn lamb off at weaning into the meat market, this is
not the case with the crossbred lambs. Even in these difficult times
of drought, we have weaned crossbred wether lambs with live weights
of 31- 40+ kg at ages of 11-16 weeks of age.
Like the Dorpers, the Wiltshire Horn Ewes are long
lived and will keep on producing and rearing lambs in old age.
The Wiltshire Horns seem to be able to cope with a
variety of climatic conditions. However they do require better
nutrition in order to thrive than do the Dorper sheep. In a harsh
environment it may be advisable to start with first or second cross
ewes (from a Wiltshire Horn base) and use a Purebred ram to produce
a second or third cross lamb.
Dorper upgrade ewe ( 2nd cross) with 3rd cross lamb.
Dorper Sheep Or White Dorper Sheep...the choice is yours.
We have chosen the Dorper over the White Dorper sheep as we have found them to be a better sheep, both as purebred sheep and as crossbreds. We had higher weaning rates with the Dorpers & found the lambs to be faster growing and therefore able to be turned off at an earlier age than the White Dorpers. The Dorpers had better feet than the White Dorpers; the White Dorpers seeming to require quite a bit of foot trimming to keep their feet in order. The Dorpers also seemed to us, to be hardier animals.
We initially sold lambs for slaughter over the hooks. In this way the meat buyers got to know what the sheep were and how well they dressed out & any prejudice associated with colour & different looking sheep was nipped in the bud. Unless buyers (or stock agents for that matter) have had a lot of experience weighing Dorpers & Dorper cross lambs they will underestimate their weights. Dorpers & Dorper Crosses are chunky, very solid animals & the uneducated are usually surprised by their meat yields. Hence by selling them over the hooks (by carcass weight) you avoid the often inaccurate guesstimate of weight made at the saleyards.
When considering whether you'll have Dorper or White Dorper sheep you need to consider the markets you wish to supply. The NSW Dorper breeders who quit their Dorpers were faced with this situation. They realized that it is a waste of your time and effort breeding animals that you will have difficulty selling when they reach a marketable state. Fortunately most Australian meat processors & buyers just want good quality carcasses and are not fussed about the colour of the animal skins.
Lastly, to be successful, it helps if need to like the animals that you are working with. So for you, if there are no restrictions on which you should choose, the Dorper or the White Dorper, choose the one you like best.