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Raising Dorper sheep: What you need to know

2021-09-21  Charles Tjatindi

Raising Dorper sheep: What you need to know
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Dorper sheep originated from South Africa; they were first developed as a combination of the Blackhead Persian and the Dorset Horn.

The Dorper was first created in the 1930s. It quickly rose to popularity, with an official Dorper Sheep Breeders Society founded in 1950. The nomenclature is fun and unique – it is simply a combination of the names of the two parent breeds, “Dor”set and “Per”sian.

It goes without saying that the Dorper is one of the most popular sheep breeds in southern Africa. Raised to survive in the most arid climates, it has one characteristic that is standard for the breed – a complete blackhead. However, there are White Dorper sheep, too, and they have whiteheads.

 

Reasons to raise a Dorper

Dorper sheep are unique in that they are primarily raised for mutton (rather than just lamb). Because they have a long breeding season, shepherds with a bit of experience are often able to have several rounds of lambing each year. This makes the Dorper breed one of the most economical when it comes to meat production.

Not only that, but these sheep gain weight at impressive rates. They can gain, on average, up to a quarter of a pound in weight per day.

They are not the largest sheep you will raise, but they have a great flavour. You will have the best results when raising Dorpers primarily on grass. Not only does this make the meat more flavourful and tender, but it is also recommended for management purposes.

There is no reason to raise Dorpers on grain. Not only will it cause them to get too fat, but it is not economical.

Dorper lambs grow quickly, reaching a high weaning weight with ease. Usually, they weigh around 36kg by the time they reach four months of age.

There are some sheep breeds that are more or less seasonally limited. This means they can only breed during certain months of the year. Fortunately, that is not the case with Dorper sheep.

Dorper sheep, on the contrary, can lamb up to three times every two years, with each lambing interval lasting around eight months. 

Dorpers are known for their good fertility and mothering instincts.

Dorper lambs reach maturity quickly, usually ready for market at around four months of age (though many producers will wait longer so that they can access that mutton-quality meat).

They not only put on weight faster, but Dorper sheep are also more efficient grazers. Dorpers prefer being raised on pasture rather than grain and, therefore, can also graze at a very early age.

They are some of the most precious lambs you can raise, too. Since Dorper lambs wean themselves earlier, this reduces your expenses as a shepherd since it is less efficient to feed a lactating ewe than it is to feed a non-lactating ewe and a lamb separately.

In addition, rams reach sexual maturity quickly, usually ready to breed by about five months.  

Dorpers are adapted to all kinds of grazing conditions and climates. Although they were originally developed for hot, dry areas, these sheep are now raised all over the world. 

They can find food and thrive in all kinds of range and feeding conditions, particularly when other sheep cannot.

They not only have a combination of hair and wool that is easy to care for in the summer months, but also very thick skin. This skin helps to protect Dorper sheep from extreme climatic conditions – both warm and cold – and is prized as a commodity in itself, too. In fact, Dorper skin is some of the most highly sought-after sheepskin in the world.

You can raise Dorper sheep on standard pasture, but they will also browse –unlike goats. This means they can be raised on less-than-ideal plots to which some other sheep breeds might turn up their nose.

 

Drawbacks 

Although Dorper ewes are known for their ability to lamb several times per year and are not seasonally limited, they, unfortunately, tend to drop only one lamb at a time. These lambs tend to be healthy, self-sufficient, and fast-growing.

However, if you are hoping to raise ewes that will drop twins, triplets or even quadruplets, then this breed is not for you.

You do need to be careful about what you feed your Dorper sheep. They prefer to be raised on mostly roughage – avoid overdoing it on the grain. Whenever possible, you will produce higher quality meat if you are able to raise your Dorpers on pasture or browse. Excess grain leads to fatty meat. 

In communal settings, Dorper are a hard breed to keep, as they are prone to predatory attacks due to their late grazing habits. As long as there is light, even if its moonlight, the Dorper will keep grazing and 

- tjatindi@gmail.com


2021-09-21  Charles Tjatindi

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