Wynand’s tips to see genetic progress in your Dohne herd
DOHNE MERINO, GENETICS | Mar 14, 2022
How do we farm at Suidplaas Dohnes to ensure genetics for profit – as set out in our mantra?
Owner Wynand du Toit offers a couple of tips of characteristics he focuses on, to ensure his herd can continue to grow and improve.
Dohne farmers consider three Dohne characteristics in order to bring about genetic progress in their herds.
1. Growth: How quickly does the sheep grow? Farmers measure growth at 100 days and then again at 365 days when the sheep is weighed and its growth potential is determined.
2. Wool: How much wool does the sheep produce?
3. Fibre diameter: How fine is the fibre?
Together these characteristics determine the general merit of the sheep.
But at Suidplaas Dohnes, Wynand highlights the importance of a fourth factor: fertility.
“I joke that when I choose a ram for genetic progress, it must show three characteristics: fertility, fertility and fertility. If you don’t have enough lambs on the ground to start off with, how can you have sufficient numbers to measure in order to choose those Dohnes with the top characteristics?” he says.
Wynand therefore works to achieve a 150% lambing percentage (this refers to the number of lambs born per 100 ewes mated in the herd). He says, “If my lambing percentage was only 100%, then I would be forced to return 50% of those lambs to my herd. However, if the lambing percentage is 150%, I have an extra 50%. That means I can make 25% of those lambs available at my Suidplaas Dohne auctions, and I then still have another 25% on top of that to add to my herd.”
This allows Wynand to select only the best quality Dohnes to improve the herd.
How do we determine the fertility potential?
Wynand and the team will look at the ram’s mother, to see how fertile she was, how many lambs she produced, and especially, how many twins and triplets she produced. These statistics are shown in the Suidplaas Auction Catalogue – under the Dam’s details (Matings – Lambs: which refers to the number of times she’s mated versus the number of lambs she’s produced).
The body weight is also an important factor for Wynand, given that it contributes around 60% to 70% of the income made from the sheep. He works to ensure his rams have 3kgs or more than the country’s average BLUP breeding values, and they must fall within the top 10% of the body weight of Dohnes in South Africa.
The team looks for sheep where the wool grows quickly in a short time frame – ideally by 65mm within the first six months. Wynand says, “You can have a sheep with wool that is short, but it weighs quite a lot because the wool is dense. But that’s not what we want at Suidplaas Dohnes. We work to ensure good wool length, and wool that is not densely packed but rather loose and therefore of good quality. You will never see Suidplaas Dohnes use a ram with positive fibre diameter. In fact, all our rams used in the stud must be in the top 10% for negative fibre diameter in South Africa.”
Wynand will only buy rams that are in the top 10% for body mass and in the top 10-40% with regards to fibre diameter.
When we see a ram’s quality, we do our best to bring those genes into our herd. In fact, Wynand says, “I recently saw the lambs of a ram I sold for R120 000 at the national auction in Bloemfontein last year. They are of an excellent quality. And that’s why I’m now buying semen from the new owner, to continue those excellent genes in my herd.”
He says, “There are loads of elements to consider – and it’s all about ensuring there’s balance between these characteristics in order to enjoy genetic progress. And then you need to be patient – we’ve after all been at this for 50 years.”