Get it done with a Dohne
DOHNE MERINO, FARMING | Nov 25, 2020
With both the Australian and South African sheep industries better placed than ever before, there isn’t a better time for sheep producers to be in Dohnes.
(This article was first published by the Australian Dohne Breeders Association (ADBA), and has been adapted for a South African context. Our thanks to ADBA President, John Nadin, for the permission to use this article).
Some producers who haven’t converted to the breed may be asking why they should? There are several answers as to why it can be ‘done with a Dohne’.
Through environmental and commodity factors, sheep numbers have consistently been declining in both South Africa and Australia. In the latter, numbers have been decimated to the lowest level since the early 1900s. In South Africa, drought (and therefore also lower conception rates), as well as other factors have also impacted – with the national herd number consistently declining over the past decade.
The industry is calling on producers through programmes to increase breeding flock to more sustainable levels – especially in Australia (although the same can be said locally too).
This can be ‘done with a Dohne’ due to the breed’s superior fertility traits. This means it is not uncommon for the breed to record lambing percentages of up to 150% and producers to wean 0.5 more lambs per ewe than other wool breeds.
On the other side of the coin, sheep meat, wool and breeding ewe prices, although fluctuating, have remained strong and producers with a breed of sheep that covers all these bases can take advantage of the strength of these markets with the one breed. This can all be ‘done with a Dohne’.
The highly fertile Dohne is a true dual-purpose sheep.
Selective breeding over seven decades has resulted in an animal which is not only very fertile, but also has ease of lambing, good mothering ability to produce lambs with high growth rates and excellent muscling, which are suited to the domestic and the export lamb markets.
The quality of its meat is unsurpassed and carcasses have proven to be top quality when judged against many other breeds in competitions. Purebred Dohne ewes can produce four to six kilograms of high quality, 18 to 22 micron wool (this is similar to the tradition of the great Australian wool clip).
Dohne ewes also command a premium in the saleyards as purebred and crossbred Dohne ewes can be run as a self-replacing meat-wool enterprise, eliminating the need to buy in replacement or traditional first cross ewes as with other prime lamb breeds.
The first Dohnes bred in South Africa in the late 1930s were bred out of a need to produce a dual-purpose sheep that helped producers cope with the rigours of a harsh environment and changing market demands, something that both South African and Australian producers have experienced in the last few years.
While the breed may have been developed in South Africa, today Dohnes are surviving and thriving in a range of environments from pastoral areas with a 150mm annual rainfall through to the southern areas of Australia and even New Zealand where producers receive up to 1000mm of rain or more.
Along with being versatile in terms of the environments in which they are run, the breed is also very versatile in terms of the other breeds of sheep it can be crossed with to achieve superior results due to the hybrid vigour of the cross. Producers have reported excellent outcomes using the breed over a variety of sheep from small frame, fine wool Merino ewes through to Afrino and Afrikaner sheep.
When using over traditional Merinos, Dohne producers report achieving:
• Better lambing percentages;
• Higher weaning rates;
• Less body wrinkle; and
• Better milk production.
Producers using them over other ewes are seeing a drop in micron, an increase in lambing percentage and a decrease in mature ewe weight, leading to higher stocking rates.
The value of an extra kilogram or two of wool is easily surpassed by the benefits of higher lamb production and other labour-saving efficiencies of running Dohnes.
Producers who have already recognised these benefits of the Dohne breed and made the change were able to capitalize on these strong markets over the last 12 months and have set themselves up to do the same in the future.
NEXT Suidplaas Auction:
27 JANUARY 2021
Our next on-property ram & ewe sale takes place on:
Wednesday 27 January at 12:00.
Here’s what’s on offer:
100 A+AA rams
30 AA young ewes
200 young ewes