Why Dorper sheep is the darling of ranchers

Mzee Paul Paul ole Nagisikie at his farm looking after his dorper sheep. [Standard]

Greetings daktari. First, congratulations on your educative articles in the pullout.

Second, I am developing a 50-acre farm in Laikipia just past Rumuruti. Farmers in this part of Kenya prefer Dorper sheep. The sheep deplete pastures because there are many. I am paddocking the farm into 3 paddocks of 15 acres each. I am torn between bringing in a dorper sheep breeder or engage in fattening lambs for slaughter. Kindly advise which of the two can yield high returns. [Jepi Janet]

Thanks, Jepi for the compliment and question.

Darling of ranchers

Dorper sheep is a darling of ranchers in semi-arid lands for many reasons. This breed whose origin is v South Africa never disappoints. It seems the cross-breeding between an African Persian Breed and Dorsian British breed yielded a hybrid resistance to diseases and with a good feed conversion.

History has it that it was bred for more arid lands in South Africa. But today, it is spread in almost all ecological zones. Actually, they perform well under a wide variety of climatic conditions and grazing systems.

Dorper sheep has a very good feed conversion efficiency and are not selective grazers hence will flourish even on relatively poor-quality feeds. Some farmers in what is called veld management systems put Dorper at the tail end of feeding hierarchy for consumption of feeds not utilised or rejected by other livestock. This saves feed wastage. They are fast growers and will attain 40 kgs in just four months; making it very economical to produce. Research has put its daily weight gain at around 90 grammes. Add good nutrition into your plan and this can be increased and market weight attained even faster.

Dorper are good at reproduction too, and have a lambing interval of eight months. This means under good care, you will be getting three lambs from your sheep every two years or two lambs annually. This is made possible by that fact that Dorper breed has a long breeding season that is not seasonally limited and the high fertility of ewes (female sheep). You just have to ensure there is always a ram within the herd to sniff for those on heat.

Great for mutton production

The above characteristics make Dorper an ideal breed for mutton production. Add to that good muscling and low-fat scores of Dorper mutton and you are talking about a niche in the export markets. There are butcheries that specialise in Dorper meat and they will tell you the harvest is rich.

The sheep requires very minimal labour in the field, as all it does is to graze. It has less wool and therefore no need to shear (mulesing and crutching) to control fly strike or ease mating.

The down size is that the sheep graze to low pastures almost to root level, contributing to desertification. But if you have vast land like 50 acres, you have no reason to worry.

The hardness of the breed is attributed to its tough skin which also makes it a valued product world over. This trait also makes it resistant to parasites and diseases.

[The writer was the Vet of the Year Award winner and works in the Division of Communication and Vet Advisory Services within the Directorate of Veterinary Services]

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