South Australia, Australia
Posted Aug 16, 2012
We have 700 + dorper ewes and aim to increase our number to 1200+ on 2500 acres. We started out with 50 f2-f3's a few years ago and only got them as we were both working fulltime and needed a low input sheep, now most of our commercial side is f4 to pure. In Australia's testing conditions we learnt quite a few lessons with these 50 sheep :) Where we live can get to 50degrees c in summer with the average being 45c. We bought a couple of rams and put them in with the girls for a summer lambing like the merino farmers do here in Oz. It didn't work out very well and now we never have our sheep lambing over the hottest time of the year, we aim for an October lambing and a May lambing. The reason we found was because the dorper is so fertile the ewes were throwing twins, triplets and now we get quads. At the height of summer we found the mums would look after what they could and on the odd occasion would leave a lamb to die, which I never let happen and have bottle fed alot now. Don't get me wrong they are great mum's, better than other breeds but if they can only feed 1 or 2 that's what they will do. With adjusting our lambing times our percentages now range around 130% and I don't bottle feed very many lambs now.
I love this breed of sheep and will never change my mind on them. They are low input but can be a bit hard on fences if they think the 'grass is greener' so we make sure our fences are 'dorper proof' :) The young lambs (average age 3 months) can be trying in the yards as they are very flighty but again we have learnt how to handle them and not to push them. I constantly have farmers around us trying to tell me to have merinos for the wool but I refuse. We may not get the wool off our sheep but they lamb well, we just lambed in May and we scanned them again last month and 74% are back in lamb for Oct & these girls are mostly 2 years and younger as we have culled our older stock. In Australia flies are a major problem and kill sheep in a horrendous way. We still jet our stock twice per year for flies and lice, better to be safer than sorry, but generally find if our neighbours have 300 sheep with flies we will have one. We also found very early that docking their tails too sort is a bad thing and they will prolapse if you do it. We generally go to the 3rd knuckle or bone, just over the vulva and have not had a problem since.
We find our wether lambs fatten very quickly where we are. We have paddocks of veldt grass, lucerne and primrose and we also plant paddocks with barley to fatten lambs. We have found they have to be out the door by a maximum of 8 months but we never have lambs that long. Generally they are gone at 4-5 months old 20kg - 55kg by that age, if not younger for the prime market. It is a bit of an uphill battle here in OZ to get some buyers to take our lambs, when the dorper first came here breeders were sending them off too old or the same age as merinos and they were too fatty, needless to say these buyers are slowly coming around to see how fantastic the meat is. I saw someone mention the meat taste on here and it is true it is a mild flavour and it does not have a strong smell when being cooked.
I wish everyone the best with this beautiful breed of sheep.