50 years later: How the Dohne industry has changed

DOHNE MERINO, SHEEP FARMING  |  SEPTEMBER 21, 2022

Suidplaas Dohnes has been in the Dohne Merino industry for 50 years!

But a lot can change over half a century – not least on the Suidplaas farm. So as we celebrate our 50th birthday year, we look back at how things were done in 1972, versus today, and how the industry has evolved. 

 

How the Dohnes have changed

According to Wynand du Toit, owner of Suidplaas Dohnes, the Dohne actually looks considerably different today, compared to 50 years ago. 

He explains, “Back then there was a much bigger focus on wool, so the sheep had many skin folds and wrinkles. This meant high levels of wool production, but it also made the sheep more susceptible to fleece rot.  

Meat production started playing an increasingly important role in Dohne farming in later years, so sheep were bred to preserve different characteristics. Interestingly, the sheep with wrinkles are also typically less fertile than those with smooth skin, so as breeders started focusing more on fertility, the smooth skin became more desirable. Today, we try to keep the skin as smooth as possible.”

The difference in the average weaning percentage

The average weaning percentage refers to the proportion of lambs weaned compared with the number of ewes mated. Over 50 years, this has changed considerably.  

Wynand says, “Back in 1972, when Suidplaas started, the average weaning percentage on the farm was 101%. Today this has increased to around 145%. This rise is a common trend in the Dohne breed, thanks to the development of new technology and vaccinations. As a result, we can apply much stricter selection criteria. We believe this rise will continue over the next 50 years.”

(Enjoy this Suidplaas photo from 1981 when it was most unusual to see quadruplets.)

 

50 years in the wool and meat markets

Have a look at how the wool and meat markets in South Africa have changed over the last 50 years – and how these changes impacted Dohne Merino farming.

The average price of greasy wool (unwashed wool, as baled on the farm):

????: R1,56/kg

????: R117/kg (75 times more!)

The average price of lamb carcasses:

????: R0,72/kg

????: R105/kg (145 times more!)

Wynand explains how these market changes impacted the breed: “Just look at how much the price of meat increased – the increase rate is almost double that of wool! This is exactly where the Dohne Merino comes in. Back in the day, people wore a lot more wool and there were a lot more Merinos. But, seeing the incredible rise in the price of meat versus wool, we see exactly why the Dohne became so popular. Farmers started focusing on a dual-purpose breed that offers both meat and wool, and the Dohne was bred to have smoother skin, offer more meat, and be more fertile.”

An interesting
inflation comparison

Inflation affects every sector, not least agriculture. But when you compare price increases over time for different products, it can tell an important story. 

Consider the trusty farm bakkie: 

– Back in 1972, one could buy a brand new Toyota Hilux bakkie for R2 360. At the time, a Dohne ram would have cost you R750. 

– In 1987, the Hilux was worth R12 000. A Dohne ram would set you back R14 000. 

– In 2022, the basic Hilux model sold for around R450 000 – that’s 190 times more in 50 years! The top selling Dohne ram at our auction sold for R80 000 – 105 times more than 5 decades ago. 

It’s a worthwhile way to recognise the value of a Dohne ram at current prices!  

Wynand du Toit

  082 550 1242
  028 425 1625
  wynand@suidplaasdohnes.co.za
  Posbus 4, Protem, 7281
  @SuidplaasDohnes
  @SuidplaasDohnes
  @SuidplaasDohnes

Wynand du Toit

  082 550 1242
  028 425 1625
  wynand@suidplaasdohnes.co.za
  Posbus 4, Protem, 7281
  @SuidplaasDohnes
  @SuidplaasDohnes
  @SuidplaasDohnes