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Dohne Maternal Traits Proving Worth

“I love the Dohne as they’re tough. We’re pushing our sheep much harder in that we’re shearing twice a year and looking to get 1.3 to 1.4 lambs out of her. They love fibre (roughage) and they’re good doers.”

Original article written by Nicola Wood, February 2019. Original photo courtesy of John Nadin.

JUDE ROSS
BALMORAL, VICTORIA

COMMERCIAL sheep breeder Jude Ross looks to put her many years of experience into building their Dohne numbers through successful breeding lines, resulting in strong and selfsufficient maternal ewes.

“My husband and I are both based off family farms, but together we sort of started from scratch. Originally, I had some White Suffolk crossbred ewes that I was mucking around with, but I found it very hard to keep the feed and fences up with them,” Ms Ross said. Now with acreage in Horsham and Balmoral, Victoria, Ms Ross looks to make her Dohnes a priority.

Ms Ross was first introduced to Dohnes during the drought year in 2004. “I bought them cheap at Wycheproof and they had lambs at foot and it blossomed from there. We sort of took a punt on these Dohnes. I’d been working for a stock feed company who were also running some Dohne ewes, so that was where my interest was first sparked.”

‘Rockbank’ in Balmoral, Victoria, is approximately 1,500 acres now, after purchasing another 500 acres in February 2019. “The Dohnes are a good fit into our operation. Originally being based around Horsham as mixed farmers, the Dohnes fitted in well with the slightly lower rainfall and the more stubbled pastures. In the last 3 years buying a property down at Balmoral presented a few
new challenges, such as running on a lot higher rainfall, but they’re still doing very well.”

Ms Ross runs approximately 1000 Dohne ewes along with 600 crossbred ewes. There are also 600 replacement ewes run alongside the 1600 breeder ewes. Half of these crossbred ewes are White Suffolk and half of them are Dohne/White Suffolk cross. “Of the 1000 I generally join about 600 of them back to a Dohne ram and the balance get joined to a White Suffolk ram. In terms of ram selection, I really focus on making sure they’ve got good breeding values. We want them to be strongly positive for high fat and muscle and have high maternal weaning weights.”

Experiencing the maternal and fertility advantages that come with the Dohne, Ms Ross said, “As a general rule we will pregnancy scan at least 140-150% across the board. Crossbred ewes generally join very well and are good mothers but the Dohnes I’ve found are fantastic. I find them to be terrific mums, you can be checking them out in the paddock, get within two feet of them and they won’t leave a lamb.”

Ms Ross continued to say that the Dohne is ideal in complementing the White Suffolk, producing a quick growing early maturing lamb, suited to her environment, that has a skin much more valuable than the skin of a composite bred lamb. “The Dohne ewe is not seasonal in her joining times so you also have a lot more flexibility in when you choose to join,” she said.

In terms of the future for Ms Ross’ breeding program, it’s a case of building numbers for the additional 500 acres and aiming to breed a good ewe who can stand up to the wet. “We’re looking forward to building a resilient maternal ewe with exceptional wool quality who can show these composites down here how it’s done!”

Compared to other sheep breeds, the Dohne are proving superior for Ms Ross. “They’re cutting wool and raising lambs – there are a lot of composite breeders whose lambing percentages don’t justify running a composite ewe. They’ve either got to push them harder or do something different because they’re not competing with a dual purpose ewe like the Dohne if they have low lambing percentages. This way, we’re covering all bases and maintaining diversity, and with different income streams, spreading our risk.”

With help from the Dohne breed, Ms Ross’ goal is to breed a sheep that is self-sufficient with reliable traits, and sees it being achievable with the progress she is already making. “I love the Dohne as they’re tough. We’re pushing our sheep much harder in that we’re shearing twice a year and looking to get 1.3 to 1.4 lambs out of her. They love fibre (roughage) and they’re good doers.”

“I just want to breed a sheep that can to a point look after itself and believe I can achieve that with the Dohne.”

Dohne Maiden Ewes.