Except for lambing in cold weather all our sheep are wintered outside. Pasture lambing is done in spring in warmer weather and shelter is provided by wooded areas. All W. Dorper lambs are ear tagged at birth and we seldom find it necessary to pen ewes with their newborns.
The sheep are grazed on irrigated pastures and high desert rangeland containing sagebrush and juniper. It’s necessary to feed hay in winter because of snow cover and cold weather.
We do some winter lambing of mainly A.I. bred ewes. These lamb out in just a few days and are lambed either in a barn or nearby pasture.
We believe in maintaining the health of our sheep by raising them in a healthy outdoor environment and also by keeping a closed flock. Our ewe flock has been closed since 2004. We provide a good mineral mix and pay attention to selenium levels since we’re in a deficient area.
We give Covexin 8 vaccinations to lambs and to ewes before lambing. We treat lambs for parasites as necessary to maintain thriftiness and growth rates but usually don’t find it necessary to worm ewes while they’re nursing lambs. This helps avoid resistant worm populations in pastures. We do a lot of monitoring for parasites and believe most healthy adult sheep with a good immune system can develop resistance to internal parasites. This has greatly cut down our use of anthelmintics.
For predator control we use livestock guardian dogs. We’re in rugged country bordered by BLM land on three sides and without good flock guardians predators would quickly put us out of business. Our sheep are spread out so it takes nine dogs to prevent losses.
Working Border Collies are also important to our operation. These dogs are our work partners and we’re grateful for their skillful help and the companionship they provide.
We’ve been using laparoscopic A.I. for many years to utilize semen from top Australian W. Dorper flocks using LambPlan. This gives us genetic ties to a larger number White Dorper than would be possible using U.S. sires. Also most Australian flocks are larger and are raised in more extensive environments, similar to ours.
Besides our A.I. matings we use selected raised rams in single sire breeding groups. These are evaluated using LambPlan data collected on their offspring. Physical traits are evaluated based on the S. African breed standard with emphasis on structural soundness, breed type and desirable easy care traits.
Below is a video of one of two new A.I. sires we’ve added in 2016. Both these sires, Gossamer Down 110422 and Amarula Weebollabolla 140488, should be a good outcross on our present bloodlines.
ROMANOV / WHITE DORPER CROSSES
We have been interested in this cross based on the results of a study at MARC.
We have continued to breed these in a separate “easy care” flock. We didn’t have access to Romanov rams so have been crossing with selected slick W. Dorper rams with good growth and muscle EBVs.
Problems we encountered with the higher percentage of Romanov breeding were excessive wool in some individuals that would have required shearing. Also because of the more flighty disposition, we had problems tagging newborn lambs on pasture without disrupting the flock.
We lambed out this flock in a separate pasture that was easily observed and they have now completed lambing without any assistance. The pasture was only entered once and that was to tip over a cast ewe (too much wool?). It looks like a good lamb crop but we will know the exact percentage when they are weaned. Lambing can be major expense in labor and facilities, especially in barn lambing using lambing jugs.
Labor required and numbers of lambs weaned per ewe are two of the most important factors for profitable commercial sheep production.