The Dorper breed was developed in South Africa in the 1930s with the cross breeding of the Blackhead Persian ewes with a Dorset Horn ram. The breed was introduced into Australia in 1996 and is now a widely used breed of sheep in the Australian prime lamb industry for both domestic and export quality sheep meat.
Currently approximately 14% of the Australian sheep flock has some content of Dorper genetics and this percentage is increasing annually as more producers concentrate their businesses on the long term solid increase in gross margins experienced by sheep meat.
Independent consultancy research consistently shows the Dorper to be unsurpassed in low cost of production across a range of climatic conditions – and especially in the more arid parts of Australia. Dorpers were bred to produce a high quality carcass under a wide range of conditions, thus have the reputation of rapid weight gain, excellent carcass conformation and good fat distribution.
Australian History of Dorpers
The breed was introduced into Australia in 1996 and today the dorper is one of the fastest growing sheep breeds in Australia. With rising production costs and labour shortages in the Australian rural industry together with the harsh climate in Australia, the Dorper with its low maintenance costs, has a valuable role in the Australian sheep industry.
Why choose Dorpers?
The Dorper are an economical breed because of their excellent feed utilisation and conversion. They do not need shearing, crutching and mulesing, and they are very disease resistant.
Pure-bred Dorper rams reach a liveweight of 90 to 120 kg and ewes 50 to 80kg. The Dorper carcass has good meat and fat distribution.
The Dorper is one of the most fertile of all sheep breeds, with lambing intervals of only 8 months. Lambing percentages in excess of 150% (2.25 lambs per annum) are possible and well over 100% is readily achievable in most areas.
Good mothering qualities
The Dorper ewe is a very good mother and protective of her young. Multiple births are common. Lambs are extremely mobile at birth and survival rates are high. The Dorper ewe produces a large quantity of milk, aiding lamb survival and early growth.
Good grazing habits
Dorpers can adapt to most grazing conditions. Lambs will start to graze in the first few days after birth. The Dorper can be advantageously incorporated into under-utilized pastures of lesser quality, thus converting a poor asset into profit.
Continuous breeding season
The Dorper is polyoestrus (can breed continually, with no defined season). Their breeding intervals can be as short as 8 months or 3 times in 2 years.
Dorper lambs have an inherent growth potential and ability to graze from an early age. They grow rapidly and can attain a high weaning weight. Dorpers respond well to high protein feed sources and balanced nutrition, giving growers the potential to increase weights rapidly in response to market demand.
Given their polyoestrus characteristics, short breeding intervals and fast growing potential, the flock size of the Dorpers lamb increases more quickly than most other sheep breeds. Below is a comparison of flock growth comparing Dorpers and Merino lambs from Year 0 to Year 3, with a beginning flock size of 5,000 head. The lambing rates assumed are 120% for dorpers and 100% for merinos and the lambing intervals assumed are 8 months for Dorpers and 12 months for Merinos. For both breeds, a reduction rate for flock size is also assumed to account for culling and natural deaths.