The origin and development of the Australian Dormer
The origin of the Australian Dormer from a cross between Dorset Horn rams with German Merino ewes (presently known as the SA Meat Merino) was a direct consequence of a course of large-scale slaughter lamb experiments taken place at the Elsenburg Research Station of the Department of Agriculture since 1927 over a period of more than ten years.
The DORMER name is an abbreviation of the linked words Dorset-Merino. The primary objective to establish the Dormer was to produce a meat breed which could adapt to conditions in the winter rainfall area of South Africa (cold and wet) and from which compatilble rams could be produced for the purpose of cross-breeding.
Rams of a large variety have been used in the Elsenburg experiments. Amongst these were the Dorset Horn, Border Leicester, Ryeland, Romney Marsh, South Downs, Suffolk Down, Texel, Corriedale, German Merino and the Blackhead Persian. Merino ewes were initially used as dams.
In an effort to breed a bigger ewe with a better meat conformation (than the Merino) without changing the Merino’s wool characteristics, the German Merino ram was used on Merino ewes. Lambs from these crossbred ewes, mated with Dorset Horn rams, showed a greater average daily gain than any of the other cross bred lambs.
A finding in favour of the Dorset Horn and the SA Meat Merino was that, of the imported breeds, they were the only two to produce a satisfactory lambing percentage in autumn. An abnormally high mortality rate occurred under mature Dorset Horn sheep as a consequence of low resistance to infection with the lung parasite muellerius cappilaris. In contrast, the SA Meat Merino, producing under the same conditions experienced no abnormal deaths.
A number of the rams were put out on loan for the cooperative slaughter lamb experiments. The rams were mainly crossed with Merino ewes. During the years 1937 and 1938 more than 6000 lamb carcasses were shipped to the Smithfield market as experimental consignments. From these large scale cooperative experiments, it was confirmed that the Dorset Horn rams were the best producers of slaughter lambs.
One of the major requisites in the creation of a new breed from a cross is to start off with very good breeding material. It was consequently decided not to utilise the Elsenburg Dorset Horns which were already showing the symptoms of serious lung trouble, but to import good stud rams from Australia.
Aside from the Elsenburg flock, Dormers were also bred by private farmers. Through participation in the cooperative experiments, farmers and private concerns took part in the breed’s development since 1937. Since about 1947 they upgraded their flocks with Dormer rams bought at the Elsenburg sales.
Although the Dormer originated as a result of a need for the production of slaughter lambs in the Western and Southern Cape regions having been identified, the Dormer is today distributed throughout South Africa. The Dormer is well known for its high fertility, excellent mothering abilities, long breeding season and easy lambing. As a result of abovementioned characteristics, the Dormer is one of the most efficient meat sheep breeds in South Africa.
Text from Dormer Sheep Breeders Society of South Africa website
Many sheep farmers in South Africa have come to the conclusion that the answer for the slaughter lamb producer is a Dormer ram. The question is however – Why Dormer?
The Dormer is well known for its high fertility, excellent mothering abilities, long breeding season and easy lambing. As a result of above mentioned characteristics, the Dormer is one of the most efficient meat sheep breeds in South Africa.
Dormer lambs over the years held their own at every show and slaughter lamb competition. During the last 10 years Dormer lambs have obtained several champion single lamb carcasses as well as champion groups at various shows throughout South Africa. We are pleased to introduce the Australian Dormer to Australia.
‘I used to run a 3500 pure Dohne merino flock and I crossed some of them with the Dormer. Since 2010 I have been putting Dormer rams over them all and started to breed towards a pure Dormer flock so I have 1st, 2nd, and 3rd cross ewes. Since doing that I have experienced a 30% increase in fertility. 95% of our lambs are marketed at 4 months of age. (Using the 8 month system half of my ewes lamb every 4 months). Our average weaning weight is 25-30kg at 75 days and 40-45kg at 4 months (20-22kg on hook).
Dormers were bred as a terminal sire breed in South Africa but we do not utilize breeds as good as Australia and NZ. In South Africa people wrongly only want a self-retaining flock. We have tried Dorper and found they grow slowly in optimum conditions and are more suited for extreme drought environment.’
Johan Swart, Kinko Dormers