FAQs: Choosing and Breeding
Choosing your sheep
Initially choose sheep to suit your lifestyle.
Would you like a hard to control, glamorous, high maintenance Ferrari? Perhaps one of the horned skittish breeds which think hedges and fences are to be jumped over or pushed through and have an inbred distrust of humanity. An experienced shepherd can cope with these but a newcomer… Well good luck to you!
Dorset Downs are amiable, friendly and easily handled. I have described them as such over the years and never been found to be incorrect. Like a dog they will come to name and like a dog bad manners, like eating out of the bucket you are carrying, should be discouraged. A dog isn’t needed to work the breed, as they will follow a bucket. They are a laid-back breed, too lazy to roam, love a cuddle and a fuss being made of them, so make ideal pets.
Decide what you want the sheep for
Decide what you want the sheep for, lawnmowers in rough bits of the garden, pony pals (useful if you don’t have room for a second pony), wool, or even your freezer.
I don’t recommend orphan lambs; a bag of milk is not cheap and they are time consuming. They have not had a good start to life, including being in a market/lorry for most of the day.
Buying from my pedigree stock you can see the sheep at home and see the welfare of the sheep as a whole flock and see how they react to strangers, along with my attitude to the sheep. The sheep are my friends, not just money on legs to me and I always recommend you let the sheep choose you.
You can easily spot a happy healthy sheep!
In 1984 a ram of Dorset Down breed sired 43% of Britain’s ewe population and was one of the main Terminal Sires. Continental breeds became popular & Dorset Downs slipped down the ranking. However shepherds of many breeds have realised the advantages of traditional breeds.
Dorset down rams are virile and can be used on 40 to 50 ewes: one ram covered 20 ewes in a 24 hour period. Their high pheromone level means they also make good Teaser Rams. Their small head & narrow shoulders leads to easier lambing and can be used on any breed. Hill farmers are using Dorset Down rams to improve carcase style and fatten well off grass, thus reducing costly feed bills.
- I have a ram which was still fertile at 10 years
- The ewes are good milky mothers & have a long breeding lifespan.
- The Dorset Down ewe will take the ram most months of the year so will fit into most lambing schedules
- They will happily lamb outdoors or inside a barn. We are in a flooding area so lamb indoors
- Lambing percentage is 150 – 175%
- The pure bred Dorset Down lamb can reach an 18-19kg in around 12 weeks