Dorper switch a success

Dorper switch a success


Sheep
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AFTER owning stud Arabian horses, Murray Grey cattle, running a Merino/Poll Dorset enterprise and dabbling in Suffolks, Mount Pleasant's Cheryl Hornung said she wished she'd got into Dorpers "years ago".

AFTER owning stud Arabian horses, Murray Grey cattle, running a Merino/Poll Dorset enterprise and dabbling in Suffolks, Mount Pleasant’s Cheryl Hornung said she wished she’d got into Dorpers “years ago”.

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Mrs Hornung and husband Horst run a small stud, Elmtree Dorpers, after downsizing from a large property at Springton.

They sell eight to nine rams a year, and ewes to small breeders, commercial operations, hobby farmers and a handful of studs.

There are two stud rams kept on the property for breeding purposes and ewe numbers range from 30 to 90, with birth of twin lambs prevalent, according to Mrs Hornung.

Elmtree has built a reputation for quality, with a firm focus on characteristics like Lambplan figures, fertility, and feet health – the latter a focus which stemmed from their history with Arabian horses.

“We’ve carried that over into our sheep breeding,” Mrs Hornung said.

“We’ve always been of the opinion that shedding is one of the most important things. We’ve never used a ram that doesn’t clean shed.

“We’re in the fortunate position where 95 per cent of our ewes clean shed completely so that’s what we’ve been working on along with foot problems.

“We’re in a very wet area and when we got into Dorpers originally they had all sorts of foot problems.”

Cheryl Hornung said shedding is a major focus at the Elmtree Dorpers stud at Mount Pleasant.

Cheryl Hornung said shedding is a major focus at the Elmtree Dorpers stud at Mount Pleasant.

While selecting the right rams was of importance, Mrs Hornung said it was equally important to select the right ewes.

“That’s where it’s hard because people who have clean shedding ewes tend to hold onto them,” she said.

The Elmtree stud was established in 2009, with their foundation ewes bought from Adrian Veitch, manager of the renowned Kaya stud in Narrogin, WA.

“He picked what we asked for out of his nucleus flock so we didn’t just buy from a sale,” Mrs Hornung said. 

"We told him specifically what we wanted and we ended up with six outstanding 207 ewes that shed and had good feet to start with.”

Elmtree Dorpers stud sire Jax. The clean shedding ram was bought for his correct conformation and Lambplan figures.

Elmtree Dorpers stud sire Jax. The clean shedding ram was bought for his correct conformation and Lambplan figures.

Starting out with quality sheep has allowed the Hornungs to cull for numbers, not for faults.

Mrs Hornung said the main advantage of the switch to Dorpers was the lack of maintenance needed, particularly with regards to shearing.

“We had a commercial Merino/Poll Dorset enterprise for a few years then we got into stud Suffolks for a while,” she said.

“To get shearers was really difficult.”

The Hornungs bought a stud Dorper ram to put over their Suffolks and after two crosses, decided to make the full transition to purebred Dorpers – a decision Mrs Hornung said has reaped multiple benefits.

“They are so prolific,” she said. 

“They breed all year round, which is unusual, they seem to have twins a lot and they have such a huge amount of milk compared to the other breeds we’ve had.”

One of Elmtree's clean shedding ewes.

One of Elmtree's clean shedding ewes.

Mrs Hornung said lambs grow at a faster rate than previous breeds they've owned and also dress well at the butchers.

“They reach that weight the butcher wants, 24 kilograms dressed, at a much earlier age,” she said.

Having made a successful switch to Dorpers, Mrs Hornung had some advice for those considering the same move.

“Beware. There’s a lot of animals out there that look like Dorpers but are upgrades or bred up and people will try sell them as Dorpers,” she said.

“They throw back. Maybe not in the first generation but they’ll throw back."

Mrs Hornung also said buying from a stud gave a buyer a safety net, as most stud owners will address any health issues that arise.

“Always ask a breeder what percentage they shed, not just ‘do they shed’,” she said.

“And don’t ever scrimp on a ram because you can do a lot of damage in one season.”

The story Dorper switch a success first appeared on Stock Journal.

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