I drove off in January to buy some ewes off of a farm. I didn’t know what I’d see or bring back, but I wanted some sheep. Why? I wanted the experience, the additional stream of income, and a hedge against economic woes to come. I brought something different back to Border Street.
So when I showed up and saw an average bunch of ewes, though much smaller than the sheep I’m accustomed to, I pretty much said, “Get on board, girls.” There was a little more to it, but starting the flock was more important to me than what each of them looked like. I loaded up 14 ewes and 1 ram and went back down the road.
I chose these dorper ewes because they’d be low-maintenance, and that they have been. How so?
- They give birth on their own, usually from 3-5 AM. We helped a couple just because we could.
- Only one ewe had any issue milking (for a couple days).
- The lambs stand and RUN within minutes of birth. As I await fall lambs on the pasture, this gives me a lot of confidence.
- The ewes consume half as much feed—corn, hay, pasture—as conventional breeds. Hello bottom line!
- The few ewes that raised their lambs on pasture this spring had no trouble milking.
- Oh, and they don’t need to be sheared! (Bottom line, again) Dorpers are a hairsheep and continually shed their fleece once they’ve passed 12 to 18 months of age.
These are most of the reasons I’m so pleased. Also, the lambs quickly begin feeding themselves, thus they are more efficient.
The ewe below was named Princess by her former owners, and that’s what she has been. She has a good behavioral disposition, structural soundness, and the udder of a Holstein cow. She’s my second-most productive ewe, and really the picture of what I want my flock to be—a wine barrel on legs. She hasn’t necessarily eaten more than the rest of the bunch, out on pasture since mid-April, but she’s kept this condition.
You’ll notice that she still has a little wool on her back, which I would like to see shed. However, I didn’t have to spend the time or money to get Princess or the rest in shape for summer. The ewes have continued to shed all summer, as have the lambs, which has been a welcome surprise.
Excepting just a couple problems, I’m thoroughly pleased with the new ewes on the farm.