The last blog I wrote I mentioned I was going to a sheep seminar in February. Attending educational sheep functions is a great way to meet people and to learn how someone else handles their sheep farm. Perhaps they have a method or way to deal with a problem that you are currently having.
One the first night, the organizer had chosen four sheep farmers to be a panel and answer questions. One person, Mr. MK was a professor who started raising Dorper sheep when he retired. He was the most experienced panelist. Mr. MK had 300 head of ewes and focused on raising rams for commercial sheep farmers. Two were cotton farmers who have changed over to raising commercial Dorpers for three years and had approximately 3,500 head of ewes. And the fourth was a person who was raising commercial Dorpers in a feedlot type situation with 300 head of ewes and had started in 2022, less than a year.
The three least experienced sheep farmers stated their number one problem with their sheep farm was finding good quality commercial ewes to purchase. They could find good rams, not exceptional rams, but ewes were very few and hard to find. The two panelists who ran 3,500 head of ewes, did not retain any ewes for replacements- their reasoning is the space to feed them was hard to find and keeping them away from the rams was difficult as they ran the ewes and rams together year around. The fourth panelist had the same problem in finding ewes to start their sheep farm.
Mr. MK made a statement when they brought their problem forward to the group. When Mr. MK started with Dorpers they had to go a long way to purchase ewes and rams, to South Africa. There were no commercial Dorpers in the United States as there were only a few people who had gone to South Africa or Australia to purchase registered fullblood Dorpers and start raising them for seed stock. In 1996 the first Dorper sheep was brought to the United States. Now, it is one of the most popular breeds of hair sheep for raising meat, and there are now commercial Dorpers. When they started, they had no choice but to keep ewe lambs to grow their flocks and replace ewes in the future.
They went further to state that keeping ewe lambs who are born a twin from a ewe who has good mothering quality only makes the job of the sheep farmer easier. As the sheep farmer knows the ewe will produce, probably twins, and have the milk to raise the lambs. Buying a ewe from someone else, you have no information on if that ewe was a twin, had a good mother or resistant to parasites.
At the end of 2022, I made the decision to have a closed flock. Meaning the only sheep I purchase are rams. I no longer purchase ewes to add to my flock, I raise them.
In April of 2022, I went to a Dorper sheep show and sale and purchased three junior ewes, they were about nine months old. Two weeks later, one of the junior ewes lambed a single. This Easter, the same ewe lambed another single. I had chosen to sale her this April at the Dorper Sheep show and sale, with her lamb along side. The other two ewes will be put in with a ram one more time. If they do not produce, I will take them to the sheep auction.
From my experience there are some sheep that are more resistant to internal parasites than others. I only keep those who do not need to be dewormed every other month. Some of my ewes have not been dewormed more than once a year. Every ewe gets dewormed once a year, regardless of their FAMCHA score. When I was purchasing ewes, I had some that I had to deworm every month due to parasites. This is time consuming and an expense.
My flock of ewes could use some improvement in meeting the Dorper Breed Standards. But each ewe produces one or two lambs every lambing, raises those lambs to a weaning weight of 55-60 pounds at eight weeks. I know what my ewes will do. I can purchase rams to improve the ewe lamb qualities of meeting the Dorper Breed Standards, but their mothering abilities I have recorded through three generations now and will continue to record.
A sheep farmer needs to look at their operation and find what will work best for them. Look on how they might change what they are doing to improve their lamb production or save them on time and money. If a sheep farmer is able to get the same production without spending so much time and energy they have saved money already.
I do get asked often if I have any young ewes for sale. My answer is no, I retain the good quality ewe lambs for my own flock. I am hoping in two years to be able to sale young ewes to others.