KOONIK Dohne Stud principals Fiona and Darren Cameron say an ever increasing appetite for genuine dual purpose sheep has led to the growing popularity of the Dohne breed.
With both wool and lamb prices at record levels, sheep that can contribute on either side of the ledger have become a precious commodity.
“We were hunting around for some alternatives to Merinos that worked in this area and found the Dohnes ticked all the boxes,” Mrs Cameron said.
“They are tough, durable, produce high quality meat and soft and white Merino wool.”
She said the stud, based at Nurcoung in the west Wimmera, had achieved near total clearance rates in recent years, highlighting the willingness of graziers to look at investing in a dual purpose flock.
“There is no doubt the Dohnes give you great flexibility, you can target whatever is important to you.”
Mrs Cameron also said the Dohne breed was very adaptable and tough.
“We have sold rams all over the place, from high rainfall regions to the semi-arid pastoral country in South Australia and the sheep inevitably do well.”
“In our district we get some big variations in climate and they’ve come through both droughts and flooding conditions with aplomb, we’ve had muggy, moist conditions over summer and there has been no fly strike, they are very sturdy animals.”
She said a key plus for many buyers of the rams was that they were adaptable to tougher conditions.
“They are non-selective grazers that can do well on lower quality pastures, which is important for many buyers, especially those in the drier areas.”
One of the big knocks on the Dohne breed historically has come from the wool industry, with some producers not rating either the cutting rates or the quality of the wool.
Mrs Cameron said with this in mind, wool matters had been a key part of the breeding process.
The Koonik flock is now producing fine to medium wool in the 18-21 micron range with the ewes cutting an average of five to six kilograms a head.
Measurements now show that the clean fleece weights from Koonik rams are now up to 40pc higher than the industry standard.
This has not come at the expense of the good meat and fertility traits the breed is known for.
Mrs Cameron said lambing percentages were generally in the 110-150pc range, while the prime lambs mature at a brisk pace, putting on an average of 450 grams a day in weight in good conditions.
“They are very efficient meat producers with lean, high yielding carcasses that are well regarded by the processors.”
Mr Cameron said the buyers were attracted to the breed for a variety of reasons.
“People are looking for access to the meat market and see Dohnes having an advantage over a first cross sheep because of their good quality wool.
“With the wool market following the lamb price up to these type of levels, having a dual purpose sheep is a no-brainer.”
“The sheep are easy care and do not require a lot of labour to maintain which is a boon for mixed farmers that also have other operations to manage,” he said.
Mrs Cameron said the Koonik team, which also runs a Merino stud, Mitre Rock Poll Merinos, would be heading to this year’s Wimmera Machinery Field Days at the start of March.
“The field days is obviously well known for machinery but it is also a good place to catch up on the latest in livestock as well,” she said.
“We head along and hope to catch up with a lot of clients and perhaps get some new ones on board, it is a great place to meet up with a lot of people.”