Dorper Sheep farming

The Dorper sheep is a fast-growing meat producing sheep. The breed was developed for the arid extensive regions of South Africa. The Dorper is a South African mutton breed developed in the 1930s from the Dorset Horn and Blackhead Persian. The Dorper is an easy-care animal that produces a fleece of little wool that is shed late spring-summer. The name ‘Dorper‘ is a coupling of the first syllables of the parent breeds Dorset and  Persian .

The Dorper breed was developed through the crossing of the Blackhead Persian ewe with the Dorset Horn and this resulted in the birth of some white Dorper lambs. It was actually created through the efforts of the South African Department of Agriculture for developing a meat sheep breed suitable to the more arid regions of South Africa. Other sheep breeds such as the Van Rooy are also believed to have contributed to the development of the White Dorper sheep breed.

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The difference in color is therefore merely a matter of preference for each breeder. Black-headed breeders constitute more percentage than pure white breeders. The Dorper sheep can grow 110 pounds in five months. They grow really fast.

The Dorper skin is the most sought after sheepskin in the world and is marketed under the name of Cape Glovers. Dorpers are known to adapt well to feed conditions which offer farmers an alternative method to finish lambs in times of drought.

One of the biggest hassles with Dorpers are leg and feet problems, so try to avoid that by buying rams with good structure in their legs and shoulders.

The Dorper has thick skin, which is highly prized and protects the sheep under harsh climatic conditions.

The Dorper sheds its fleece during the warmer months – late Spring/Summer. The wool simply falls off the skin and onto the ground where it breaks down into the soil over time. The fleece regrows in Autumn when the temperature becomes cooler. As they shed their wool, they are a favorite breed in pastoral areas as they do not require shearing and are less susceptible to flystrike, eliminating the need for mulesing or flu treatments.

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Purchase a well-muscled ram to produce great meat that produces as quickly as possible. Some breeders spend around $15 (1000 rupees) ahead to bring a lamb from 35 kg to 45 kg, but get much more when they sell back.

Dorper has gained much popularity mainly because of its resiliency and hardiness. There is little difference between black-headed and white-headed Dorpers – the choice is a matter of target market preference.

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Grazing behavior by Dorper Sheep

The grazing behavior and diet selection by Dorper sheep, as well as other related aspects (pasture intake, walking habits and trampling),  is reviewed. It was clear that Dorper sheep are less-selective grazers, compared to other type breeds. Dorpers utilize shrubs and bushes to a greater extent, but grass to a lesser extent in relation to Merino sheep.

The Dorper also utilize a larger number of different plant species. Dorpers walked less to select food, or a suitable spot to graze, which consequently led to a shorter grazing time and less separate grazing periods.

Dorpers prefer fiber to grains and they respond well to good quality hay.

Dorpers consumed less herbage per metabolic size compared to other sheep. No uniform pattern in the walking distance of Dorpers was observed when compared to other sheep breeds. The relative trampling factor for Dorper sheep was less than that of evaluated other sheep.

Dorpers are fast Growing

Dorper lambs have inherent growth potential (ability to graze at an early age). They grow rapidly and can attain a high weaning weight.

The growth rate is incredible reaching 36 kg [~80 lbs] at three and a half to four months, this ensures a high-quality carcass of approximately 16 kg.

The average daily gain of Dorpers under extensive conditions is around 200 g per day.

Dorpers respond well to increased planes of nutrition, giving growers the potential to increase weights rapidly in response to market demands.

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Dorper Sheep Management

Nutrition

Dorpers easily gain weight, and a few bites of corn with each meal adds the extra weight necessary for heavy market sheep. Empty the trough if the corn gets rained on to prevent digestive issues from moldy corn.

At specific times of higher nutritional needs, especially in the month before lambing, during lambing and lactation and at weaning, cereal hay may be provided if little quality paddock roughage is available.

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If conditions allow, forage oats are grown for grazing by the lactating ewes and their lambs. Keep the water trough filled with clean, fresh water. While young, growing grass may be tasty to Dorper sheep, it may lack nutrients. So replace with few bits of corn or oats.

Breeding

The stud ewes are mated in single-sire groups from late February to late March. The sheep are at their natural breeding peak at this time so this correlates with most lambing occurring in July and August.  Despite the common dry conditions, the ewes prove their high fertility by conceiving quickly, as the majority lamb over a four week period.

To avoid inbreeding, it is crucial that farmers practice ram rotation. This can be achieved by exchanging rams or buying from other farmers after every one to one-and-a-half years.

If you are raising organic meat, the Dorper is a good choice because they are more tolerant of intestinal parasites than some other breeds.

Needs to check the rams bi-annually. All lambs are vaccinated twice to protect against significant diseases.  Pregnant ewes and breeding and sale rams are also to be vaccinated at appropriate times.

All fences that the sheep are housed behind are built to a high standard, and also helps to keep guard dogs along to protect from predators.

Meat Production

The meat produced from a Dorper flock seems very popular. The evidence points to mild taste with little mutton flavor at all.

Breeders report that even older culled ewes can be sold for meat. This is important when raising a breed for the market. Most lambs can reach a market weight of 80 to 90 pounds at around four months of age. Mature rams range in weight from 240 pounds to 275 pounds (90-120 kg). The Dorper ewes range from 150 to 200 pounds( 50 – 80 kg) mature weight. Fertility, great feed conversion, and adaptability to weather conditions have helped the Dorper sheep breed rise in popularity among sheep farmers. Dorpers are the fastest growing breed in many countries  

Dorper Sheep Benefits

  1. The Dorper breed shows exceptional adaptability, hardiness, reproduction rates, and growth as well as good mothering abilities.
  2. The Dorper is well adapted to a variety of climatic and grazing conditions.
  3. Dorper reacts very favorably under intensive feeding conditions.
  4. Parasite-resistant compared to some other sheep breeds.
  5. lambs are vigorous, fast-growing and early maturing.
  6. The growth rate is incredible reaching 36 kg [~80 lbs] at three and a half to four months.
  7. Purebred Dorper rams reach a live weight of 90-120 kg and ewes 50-80kg. The Dorper carcass has good conformation and fat distribution.
  8. The Dorpers will dress out at 60 percent or more, which is considerably better than goats at 52 percent.
  9. Inherent characteristics of the breed such as rapid growth rates, good muscling, ability to produce low-fat scores make them ideal for the domestic and export trade.
  10. Dorper sheep is considered as the most fertile of sheep breeds.
  11.  Dorper has a long breeding season which is not seasonally limited.
  12. Can organize breeding programs so that lambs can be dropped at any time of the year.
  13. Dorper ewe can lamb three times in two years.
  14. A lambing percentage of 150% can be reached under good conditions.
  15.  Live weight of about 36 kg can be reached by the Dorper lamb at the age of 3- 4 months, this ensures a high-quality carcass of approximately 16 kg.
  16.  The average daily gain of Dorpers under extensive conditions is around 200 g per day.
  17. The Dorper is an easy-care breed which requires a minimum of labor.
  18. The Dorper skin is the most sought after sheepskin in the world.
  19. The skin comprises a high percentage of the income (20%) of the total carcass value.
  20. Unlike a lot of wool sheep, hair sheep don’t need much care.
  21. Dorpers are really good mothers, and most can have their lambs unassisted in sub-zero weather.
  22.  lambing intervals of only 8 months or 3 times in 2 years.
  23. Short lambing intervals have various advantages, of which greater selection possibilities and the sale of larger numbers of lambs are the most important.