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Western Victoria; Dohnes shine

Wayne & Hugh Caldow, “Langlea” property is 15kms east of Edenhope.
Edenhope is about 35kms of the South Australian border in the far west of Victoria.

We have been in Dohnes now for about 10 years; a self-replacing Dohne enterprise consisting of 4500 joined ewes.

What we’ve seen in comparison with our ex self replacing Merino enterprise is a 15 to 20 percent lift in lambing percentages, a lot higher lift in actual scanning rates, less dry ewes and a breath of fresh air in running the Dohne ewe weaners through their first 12 months of life. They’re just so easy. Their constitution is so good and so is their growth rates compared to the self-replacing traditional Merinos. Our maiden ewes are always well grown with good body weights and join up well.

The management of Dohnes is so much better, easier and cheaper than Merinos. Less supplementary feed has to go down their throat.

l could see a rising fertility and maternal instinct when I was reading about the breed and also the carcass characteristics.

I had to look at the Dohne through Dohne eyes not Merino eyes. A lot of people, when they first saw the Dohnes, looked at him through Merino eyes and saw them cutting less wool. After two or three crosses we could see a kilo of less wool. However, a thousand ewes cutting a kilo less of wool at $8 a head you’ve lost $8,000 but if they have 15 to 20 percent more lambs at a store price of $80 to $100 you could be anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000 better off per thousand ewes.

Dohnes were the first in Australia to bring in compulsory ASBV’s and now the Merinos are jumping on board. We’ve been looking at measurements now for 15 years ever since we went into the Dohnes and are now seeing really big genetic gains from buying rams in the top 20%. We can see a big lift in the growth rates of our lambs, finer micron and a lot more even line when we come to class our young ewes.

The biggest thing in the future will be measurement. Gone are the times were you could float through farming and just get by. Now it is such a profit driver industry; kilograms of meat per hectare and kilograms of wool per hectare.

Wayne & Hugh Caldow as well as running a self replacing Dohne flock also run a cross breeding flock as part of their commercial operation.

The selection pressure they put on the Dohnes enables the Caldow’s to class out around 35 percent each year. The classed out ewes are joined to Border Leicester rams to make a more elite 1st cross ewe rather than the traditional Merino/ Border Leicester which this has given them some selling advantages.

In their December sale the ewe lambs really stand out and a repeat buyer has been buying them for the last three years. They can see a good lift in lambing percentage and milking ability versus the Merino and also the Dohne’s more maternal side. Dohne ewes will fight off foxes and they will look after their lambs better. The mothering instincts are also a lot stronger with the Dohne versus the Merino and buyers are really happy.

Wayne Caldow 3