Dorper Breed Inforamtion

These important characteristics are essential to do proper selection.  We don’t have to wonder how to achieve these as they are bred into the breed over the past 60 years.  It is therefore our obligation for future generations, not to breed these characteristics out or select them out.  So when you do your selection keep the following in mind:
Lamb (meat) production:  It is important to select for:
(1) Meat qualities
(2) High production rate (Fertility)
(3) Reproduction (Twins)
(4) Weight gain
(5) Carcass quality
It is claimed that the Dorper can lamb three times in two years.  If you want to follow the programme, the following is important to remember:

  1. The ewe background is important.  Fertility of an ewe is influenced by the conditions in the first 12 weeks of her life cycle.  (Prof. van Niekerk – University of Pretoria).
  2. Feeding and condition of ewes.
  3. Management, size of camps, percentage rams to ewes.
  4. Fertility, condition and libido of rams.
  5. The mating season should be controlled not to try and mate ewes during the lowest conception time.  The Dorper has got a long breeding season but also have a short low conception period, which varies from area to area.

Adaptability: This is measured by how the animal will flourish and be able to produce and reproduce under any condition and is determined by the following:
(1) Mortality rate
(2) Reproduction tempo
(3) Growth rate
The ewe should keep reasonable condition while raising her lamb to be ready for the next mating cycle.  However, be fair to your animals under drought and poor grazing conditions and a ewe that raises multiple lambs.  Let nature help you to select for this very important aspect.
Hardiness: The Dorper was originally bred to produce under arid conditions.  Now also farmed in ultra cold, snow and wet conditions. Under these conditions the animal must be able to survive and resist health hazards and diseases.  You can select for hardiness through observation and record keeping.

Veld utilization: The Dorper is outstanding in this aspect and being non-selective in its grazing habits, means that it will fully utilize virtually any type of grazing or roughage. This trait also makes the breed excellent when participating in any controlled grazing improvement program. It is an absolute fallacy that the Dorper “tramples” the pastures (veld).  It is strictly the farmers’ responsibility to control his stocking rate.
According to research by Prof. Tertius Brand of the Elsenburg Agric Research Centre, who received all research on diet selection etc. of Dorpers, there is a lack of information on the breed under more intensive conditions but it seems clear that Dorpers are less selective feeders than other breeds. They are bigger that most wool sheep, but they consume less herbage per metabolic size and can actually be used to improve veld conditions. Obviously, the farmers’ stocking rate must be correct.
1. Dorpers utilize shrubs and bushes to a greater extent, but take in less grass than Merino-types.
2. They walk less to select food or find a suitable spot to graze. The result is a shorter grazing time, fewer separate grazing periods, less trampling.
Animals can be compared by means of the so called relative trampling index, which uses body weight, sleeping length, spoor size and distance walked to determine the potential ability to disturb the soil surface.
In various tests done around the country it was proved that Dorpers take in lower quality materials, thus improving veld conditions. However, more research is needed under extensive conditions as well as on other behaviour aspects of this unique breed
Good mothering qualities: The Dorper ewe will nourish her lambs under difficult conditions.  When the ewes are left alone they will lamb easily, and will retain and look after their lambs. Give them enough space with good grazing, clean water, etc. and they will give you a good return on your investment. The Dorper does not easily lose their lambs even if they are handled soon after lambing. The mortality rate in the Dorper is low.

Easy care:        Dorpers are easy care animals.  With the correct covering on the animal you are ensured of good demand for breeding material as no shearing is required.  Dorpers and White Dorpers generate additional income from the sale of skins.
Dorper skins:
· Dorper skins are regarded among the best in the world.  It has no wrinkles and a smooth grain.  It is used in the manufacture of high quality leather clothes and gloves.
· These skins are a sought-after export product, and few Dorper skins are used locally in the leather industry.  Pickled Dorper skins are mostly sold for export at good prices.
· The grain of the skin takes up half of the total thickness of the skin.  Glands are not well developed in the grain, as the grain consists of a network of strong collagen fibres. This network of collagen fibres makes the leather exceptionally strong. Collagen is the material that forms the leather.
·        A sheep skin with a lot of hair closely resembles a goatskin. The fibers of a Dorperskin are delicate, but the skin structure is tighter and denser that that of goatskins or woolskins. The weave angle of Dorper skin fibres is flat – a feature that strengthens the leather further.
General appearance of the Dorper:      The appearance of the Dorper appeals to many people, and it is easy to care for something that pleases the eye.
By Rodney Rayner – Senior Inspector
All types of farming are becoming more and more complicated by the day and it becomes more and more difficult to make a success of any farming enterprise - although, as we all realise, a Dorper Farming enterprise is one of only a few which more or less assures one of a safe investment, there are still certain aspects which must be considered to make the guarantee of success even more secure.
Dorpers are presently the leaders in the meat industry. Since 1997 Dorpers have taken the prizes at the National carcass competition, which proves that we have achieved a top-quality carcass by using top breeding animals to improve Dorper flocks.
Please do not consider this an absolutely complete list – it contains really only the basic requirements and/or necessities and can be considerably lengthened and improved.


1. Preference for the Breed:
Do not attempt to farm with a Breed you do not like – this can only create disaster!!
If you should consider Stud Breeding then to like the breed is not enough – you must “Love” that breed.

2. Knowledge of Breed:
Before starting to farm with Dorpers gain as much knowledge as possible of the breed.    Meet and discuss Dorpers with established Dorper farmers and /or Inspectors of the Society. Attend Dorper days. Attend Dorper courses

3. Planning of Enterprise:
This is essential – do not just carry on aimlessly – work efficiently and with purpose!
(a) Dosing en Inoculating Program – consult experts to work it 
out for you
(b) Ensure sufficient grazing/feed available – i.e. carrying capacity of your unit – consult an expert – extension officers.
(c) Grazing program – rotate camps – consult experts.
(d) Facilities – ensure sufficient grazing camps available.
(e) Working facilities – kraal facilities – not necessarily expensive
But it must be efficient – it must be a pleasure to work with your animals and not a chore.

4. Purchasing of Breeding material:
Attempt to purchase breeding stock with a good background – especially in purchasing Rams for your stud and or flock as they
Constitute 50% of your stud or flock’s breeding potential. Purchase from established, recognised Breeders and do not hesitate to obtain advice from the Society Inspectors or other Dorper experts.

5. Selection:
With the selection of breeding animals, concentrate on selecting for the economic characteristics – forget the fancy points to begin with – they can come in time. (i.e Base your selection on re-production, mass gain and conformation.)

6. Record –keeping:
In this day and age where farming is becoming more scientific and economic profitability of more vital importance than ever, it has become even more essential to eliminate “passengers” from your flock – one just cannot afford to keep them.
To facilitate the process of identifying the unproductive or less productive animals, the recommended way is to keep record of your animals.
Basically all that is required is to know whether the ewe lambs regularly and whether she is able to rear her lamb properly up to weaning age.
However, for the more modern and more scientifically minded, this info would not really prove adequate and these breeders or farmers would be better served by joining the Departmental Performance testing scheme the information required for this includes the following:
Date of birth of lamb, type & sex, Dam’s No, Sire’s no, Weaning date and weaning mass. From this information an adjusted wean mass & index is calculated for each lamb plus a wealth of other detailed comparisons.

7. Mating:
Difficult to have precise dates as one has to adapt according to the season – but bear in mind that under normal climatic conditions the Dorper Ewe will rear a lamb every 8 months.  ( A large percentage of mature ewes will produce twins)
Very important: Before commencement of every mating period: -
(a) Make sure sufficient Rams are available – under extensive 
Conditions 3 – 4%
(b) Ensure Rams in good condition – must also not be over-fat
(c) Check all rams for fertility
(d) Ensure ewes are picking up condition – must also not be over-fat
(e) Check each ewe’s udder to ensure that she will be able to rear her lamb. 

8. Weaning of Lambs:
(a) Wean at +/- 90 – 100 days 
(b) Try to avoid too great “Weaning Shock” for the lambs – this can be minimised by weaning lambs onto good, spared veld or onto pastures or into a Feed Pen for a while.
(c) Ewes must also regain condition as quickly as possible before being mated again.


  1. Success:

Please do not think your Dorper Enterprise will make you wealthy over night – it is, like any other enterprise, a long-term investment.   On the other hand, with good management and sound planning the Dorpers will certainly get you there in quick time and prove to be a very good and solid investment.

  1. Food:

Because the Dorper was bred for hardiness and is well known for this trait, please do not assume it can survive on “stones” – to re-produce and to rear lambs at regular intervals, the Ewe needs “food” and the better the quality and quantity the better returns the farmer will have.   The hardiness trait really comes into effect because the Dorper is able to survive and rear lambs under extremely unfavourable conditions, where other breeds will battle to survive.

  1. Care:

Because the Dorper is known as being an “Easy Care: breed ( and this is fact when compared to other breeds) please do not think the animals do not require attention or care – they must also be Dosed, Dipped and inoculated.

  1. Passengers

In this day and age of economic difficulties in farming, it has become impossible to carry sheep in your enterprise that do not produce. Inferior lambs must be eliminated from your flock.   The only income from a Dorper ewe lies in the progeny she produces and if she cannot do that, she becomes a liability.

  1. Mating – age:

If rams and /or ewes are mated at too young an age, they suffer a setback from which they never really recover.
Rams should only be used once they have cut their 2 teeth – well cared for rams such as young potential Stud rams can be used younger (with care) but should only be used lightly.
Young ewes should only be mated for the first time when they are 12 months old.   This enables them to cut their teeth before lambing for the first time.

  1. Mating – procedure:

There are many methods or procedures for mating and the breeder has a wide choice, but there is one method that is not recommended – and that is 
To leave the Rams with the Ewes permanently year in and year out.   It is an absolute fallacy to think you will achieve a higher lambing percentage by using this method.    The reverse effect has been proved.   By leaving the Rams and the Ewes permanently together your lambing season also extends to virtually all year round and this makes your management and marketing impossible to organise in a proper and orderly manner.

  1. Mating – condition of sheep:

The condition of the ewes should preferable be that they are gaining condition when mating takes place – beware of over-fat Ewes as they will often not conceive.
Beware of using over-fat Rams – they often are extremely lazy and / or battle to serve the ewes.   This frequently occurs when breeders or farmers purchase over-fed and over-fat rams at sales and put them to the ewes immediately.   The results are often disastrous –either the Rams just lies at the water trough and does not even look for ewes to serve or he is incapable of serving.   A far better plan for the buyer would be to adapt the Ram to his new conditions and environment gradually and after he has lost some weight to then start mating him with the ewes.

  1. Grading:

Beware of letting your slaughter lambs get too heavy before marketing – the carcass will be downgraded which directly reduces the price per Kg.

  1. Selection:

Especially when starting out, be careful to select your replacement stock on the economic characteristics, which influence meat production – be lenient on faults such as colour, covering and slight conformation faults.