Dorper/Katahdin sheep

Discussion in 'Sheep' started by shepmom, Sep 10, 2003.

  1. shepmom

    shepmom Well-Known Member

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    reposting, what I remember.... (yesterday's post disappeared) :)

    There's a place about 2 hours away that have fullblood Dorpers and Dorper/Katahdin mix that we plan on visiting in the near future.
    From what I've read, they appear to be hardy, relatively easy care hair sheep.
    We want a small flock, though, I'm not sure how many we should get as first timers into shepherding.

    Our purposes: pasture grazing(mowing), pleasure, fertilizer for the garden and meat for the home freezer. Secondarily, income on lamb sale. (deliver for a fee to a place licensed to butcher)

    Total pasture land available: 5-6 acres, plan on initially fencing 1+ acres to begin with and building a shelter in that section.

    Questions:
    1. What type of fence is recommended? All barb wire, wire fence with barb, no barbwire? 4 ft tall adequate?
    Recommendations appreciated.

    2. Do Dorper or Dorper/Katahdin ewes deliver lambs without difficulties....overall....majority of the time? :)

    3. What age should a beginner start with....weaned lambs or older?

    4. I've read some background on rams (ie. behavior, needing buddies)
    Would it be best as beginners to start with just 2-3 ewes as lambs and a whether or 2, not sure if any are available (no response to an email I sent to the sheep farm)? Get a ram later?
    Any advice appreciated. I've been reading as much as I can and have Ron Parker's book, _The Sheep Book_. Wanted to purchase the Storey Guide, but it was unavailable that day.
     
  2. Ross

    Ross Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    Your biggest limit is your pasture. I'm not sure what NC is like climate wise but it reads as though you're thinking about 3 to 5 animals which should be fine even on unimproved pasture. Around here wethers for finishing are too pricey to bother with, but if money at the start isn't your biggest worry then buy one or two for the freezer. I like the look of Dropers but can't tell you much about any hair sheep. I will say that some breeders will tout their disease resistance and some magical lack of vacination requirement. It's under a dollar to vacinate so why risk the investment by not doing it??? Every breed (wool or hair) everywhere will have some breeders with an almost idiotic degree of hype, so use common sence. A lot of lambing problems can be traced to feeding methods so there's more to lambing ease than just breed anyhow. Find me a breeder that will say his breed has problems with any trait and I'd be surprised! If you can find 2 or 3 yr old ewes with one or two lambings I'd choose those over ewe lambs. You're into picking healthy stock which might look a little daunting at first but really if you can check teeth, body score and udders you're 90% there. Do you have any experienced help? You could hire a vet too, it is some added cost but it could save you alot in the future. Besides starting a good vet client relation is better done sooner than later. Every vet call is (or should be), educational in it's self. If you can hire a ram I would. His job on so few is so quickly done he's not worth the trouble of owning year round. He'd be the one to eat all year, get cast in a little gully and die just before you need him!
    We use some barbed wire fences.... or did they do not work well. Woven wire works the best the regular 9 guage cattle stuff is fine, about 4 feet high should work OK. Sheep go under more than over. We tried some of the cheap light guage stuff, it's just not worth the savings. Log rail works well too, topped with barbed wire. Ask someone else about electric, we're totally hopeless with it here. Poor sheep training maybe, but the high maitenance keeps me building the good old page wire jobs.
    Ron Parkers book is this winter's project. It looks promising. No one book is perfect, Paula Simmons book (Raising Sheep the Modern Way) is a good beginners book, but short on some aspects of sheep rearing. Not very modern either. If you can get a copy of the Western Canadian Sheep Raisers Manual, you'll cover more ground. Laura Lawsons books are meant for experienced shepherds/esses but come close to veterinarian grade material. Forget the Merk Manual unless you like sifting through medical terminology. There are some useful sections and it's handy to have if the vet wants to check something on farm. Same goes for a Compendium of Veterinary Medicine, handy but a lot of money to spend on a small flock.
     

  3. Sue

    Sue Well-Known Member

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    Also reposting as my reply disappeared too!

    We have had very good luck raising the Dorpers and Katahdins. They are good mothers and quite prolific! :D We too had concerns that perhaps there would be lambing troubles but actually there have been less than when we raised straight Katahdins. The Dorper adds so much in the way of fast weight gains on the lambs and the Katahdins keep the coats slick and shedding well. Be sure to purchase good shedding animals when starting out.

    We have only woven wire as we fear possible predators coming under the barb wire. Neighbor dogs can play havoc on any herd! Most predators will go under a fence as opposed to over so be sure to block all holes and check them often. We also run Pyrenees and an Anatolian guard dog with our flock for added security.

    As for age, older, experienced ewes know what it is all about when it comes to babies. Occasionally you will get a first time ewe lamb that is a little confused and needs some assistance. Your experience level counts here. Be sure to check udders for scar tissue when purchasing older ewes.

    Sheep are flocking animals and like the company of others. Always buy in groups of at least two. We have good luck keeping our ram with a wether in the off season. Your pasture condition and weather will dictate how many head your land can handle. I guess starting small and growing if you need to would be a good place to start.
     
  4. doodles

    doodles Well-Known Member

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    I too had planned to cross a full Dorper ram with our Romanov. The Dorper is a fat tail breed and the Romanovs is rat tailed. My concern is tail docking. I am perfectly capable of docking and casstration but fear that the fat tail would present a opportunity for blow flies due to my living in the south. I am in North GA. I don't have time to pamper and spray every day. Has anyone crossed Dorpers that might be able to tell me what the tails are like. I'm pretty spoiled not having to dock :p
     
  5. Sue

    Sue Well-Known Member

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    We have a few 3/4 Dorper/1/4 Romanov ewes that we purchased that do not come with docked tails and they do just fine here in southern Missouri. I have not had any trouble with them at all. I did dock some tails on Dorper/Romanovs and they got along fine also. Most of our sheep are either Dorper or Dorper/Katahdin cross and I band lamb tails at 3 to 5 days old. The base is fat but I band below that so as to just take off the thinner part. They turn out well and look good!
     
  6. shepmom

    shepmom Well-Known Member

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    Thank you for the responses. I had forgot to ask about the tails. Now I know, Dorper/Katahdin lambs need tails docked, too. :)

    Ross wrote:
    "Your biggest limit is your pasture. I'm not sure what NC is like climate wise but it reads as though you're thinking about 3 to 5 animals which should be fine even on unimproved pasture."

    NC summer climate is hot and Humid. (June-August/September) Winters are considered mild, the coldest months are January through March. I've read that shepherds do not breed or lamb during our summers because lambs gain slowly and have increased susceptibility to worms before resistance builds. We have a variety of grasses growing and weeds. I have no idea what all the stuff is growing. <g>
    We (dh and I) have discussed adding rye grass for winter grazing in sections of the property and providing grass hay.

    Money is a factor, no money tree nearby. <g> We need to spend wisely that's why I'm researching indepth before we commit the $ outlay.
    From what I've read these sheep are getting tetanus, and clostridium vaccinations and regular wormings. Not sure what that costs. Ron Parker's book is pretty indepth on preparing ewes for breeding and observing them throughout and lambing. ( potential complications during birthing )

    We know now that wire fence would probably be the wiser choice in fencing for this area. I know there are foxes about and roaming dogs from time to time. Generally, not a problem. Our German Shepherd keeps most wildlife away. (we have 16 Welsh Harlequin ducklings still alive and well since June)

    Sue wrote:
    "As for age, older, experienced ewes know what it is all about when it comes to babies. Occasionally you will get a first time ewe lamb that is a little confused and needs some assistance. Your experience level counts here. Be sure to check udders for scar tissue when purchasing older ewes. "
    I understand why an older, experienced ewe would be a wiser choice, would we regret getting 2 ewe lambs this year or early spring 2004 and waiting to breed till fall 2004? Shucks another angle I need to check on is whether our vet would be available if needed.
    We discussed last night looking into hiring a ram as being the route to go. I know once we get a chance to visit the farm (and I've located another about an hour plus away) and ask some additional questions and get their perspectives we may opt to get whethers and skip breeding altogether as a goal. ;-)
    Thanks again for the great information.
     
  7. Sue

    Sue Well-Known Member

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    No, I do not think you would regret getting ewe lambs unless you did get into some trouble ~ which is fairly rare. You might consider yearlings that have been through one lambing. If you don't breed right away, be sure not to overfeed or let them get too fat as that will complicate things if/when you do decide to breed. You will find that if you get only two wethers, they will probably become part of the family and will be hard to put into the freezer!! ;)