Growing animals for ethical sources of meat is one of our self-sufficiency goals. We have already started eating through our surplus Light Sussex roosters, but until our girls start laying and we can produce more little chickies, our home-grown meat supply is limited.
We have been wanting to get sheep but this would require a fairly large investment in some internal fencing, so the decision was made that our small-scale sheep farming goals would have to wait until we have a house.
But then our neighbours gave us a fairly irresistible proposal – we could keep sheep on their property if we were to do all the maintenance and day-to-day care. The benefit for them is that their grass stays mown and they have a nice sheepy view from the lovely house they are building.
They have generously offered to do some fox-proof internal fencing on their property for safe lambing, and we have worked out a water source and a breed/breeder we are looking to use.
I had already done some research and decided on a breed of sheep that I felt would really suit our small-holder/mixed-farming/self-sufficiency needs. Dorper Sheep are a hardy breed that originate in South Africa from Dorset and Persian breeds. They have a number of characteristics that make them ideal for our situation:
- they shed their fleece, so they don’t need shearing or crutching and they are not prone to fly strike
- they are non-descriminate grazers, so they will eat things like blackberry as well as pasture grass
- they are very fertile and have a continuous breeding season, meaning we can facilitate lambing at a time that suits us
- multiple births are common, with lambing rates of 150% not being uncommon
- they are good mothers, producing a large quantity of milk and being very protective of their lambs
So with that in mind the search was on for a local Dorper breeder. Last time I went out to the Bathurst Farmers Market, I had seen a sign for a Dorper breeder on the highway. This led me to Tony Galea of Glanmire Dorpers.
On the phone he was really helpful and seemed to understand some of the constraints of keeping sheep for small farms (such as not wanting to buy rams every year to keep breeding lines pure).
He offered to work out a package for us whereby we would have a few lambing seasons before needing a new ram to prevent interbreeding. So at this point we’re looking at 1 ram and 7 ewes who are already pregnant to another ram. This will mean that the first season’s lambs are not related to our ram and can start breeding when they are ready.
When we went out and visited the farm last week, the sheep were lambing so there were lots of little lambs frolicking around. This also means that it will be approximately 6 weeks before we can get our sheep as they need a bit of time with the other ram so make sure they come to us already pregnant.
I am really thankful for our neighbours and how keen they are to see this happen. Their generosity in fencing and keeping them on their property is a huge blessing. We would not have been able to do this without them. I am looking forward to many years of Providence Hill lamb, and being able to gently care for our animals in a way that is so different to the mainstream meat industry.
More Dorper Information