For my birthday in November last year, Richard procured two little black lambs, ‘Dolly’ a ewe and ‘Stormy’ a wether. Dolly and Stormy settled in beautifully with the chooks in the orchard, however Delphine (the cat) wasn’t quite as enamoured of the new big lumpy things on her patch, and skirted around the edges of the (mini) paddock, staring at them from just out of reach on the other side of the gate.
Our sheep came from a small mixed flock in Catherine Street, a Dorper, Corriedale, Border Leicester cross. Dorpers are a self-shedding breed, however Dorper cross must be 7/8 Dorper before the fleece will be self-shedding.
As we’re only a few hundred metres from their original paddock, the sheep could hear their mothers calling, but a few armfuls of lucerne distracted them sufficiently and they settled in well (especially once they’d discovered the grain for the chooks – we now have to quarantine them until the chooks have had their fill). With a smorgasbord of greenery on offer, Dolly has a more adventurous palate than Stormy, with a fondness for apple leaves, grape leaves and cherry plums, carefully sucking on the fruit and then spitting out the pips.
Dorpers were developed in South Africa in the 1930s from a cross between Blackhead Persian ewes and Dorset Horn rams to fill the need for a fast growing hardy meat sheep that would perform well even in arid environments. The first embryos were imported into Australia in 1996, and the breed is now well established in Australia, and exhibited at the annual Longford Show. The name Dorper was a contraction of Dorset x Persian.
Corriedales are an older breed of sheep, developed concurrently in Australia and New Zealand in 1874 from a cross bred progeny of pure Merino and Lincoln sheep. The breed was developed to meet a demand for a dual purpose animal with good meat characteristics and commercial wool production.
The third breed in our gorgeous mongrel (or should I say mixed breed) sheep is the Border Leicester, whose origins can be directly traced back to the Dishley Leicester, made famous by the renowned British livestock breeder Robert Bakewell (1726-1795). By the 1850s, northern breeders began calling their sheep Border Leicesters, the name being taken from the border country between England and Scotland. The first Border Leicester stud was established in Australia in 1881 at Aitkenside, Geelong, Victoria, and by the early 1900s, the breed had become established as the ideal sire for the production of first cross ewes.