1 Jun 2018

McPhee's Dorpers

From Country Life, 9:30 pm on 1 June 2018
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Photo: RNZ/Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

Canterbury vet Jim McPhee's been flat tack the past few weeks doing AI on sheep, goats and cattle around the South Island.

Jim also breeds white Dorper sheep and runs a stud of terminal sires on his small farm near Darfield.

"They're a shorter-legged breed, they're nuggety, they weigh heavy and they're good yielders."

With strong wool prices in the doldrums, the breed is drawing interest from farmers because they shed their wool naturally and they are a good meat animal.

"The only ones you'll see shorn are the ones that go to the show, otherwise we have a practice of not shearing anything."

The wool clings to fences and is blown around paddocks in the wind.

Eventually, it goes into the ground. The main beneficiaries of the fleece are birds who weave it into their nests.

Dorper ewes

Dorper ewes Photo: Flickr user Agrilife Today / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Dorper sheep was developed in the 1930s by the Department of Agriculture of South Africa when they did a crossing with a Dorset Horn Ram and Blackhead Persian ewes.

They were introduced into New Zealand in 2002 and it has taken a while for breeders like Jim to successfully breed out their dry land genetics.

"We have had issues with feet and stuff but we've been quite ruthless in culling for feet. Feet and constitution are the key to ensure they cope with New Zealand conditions," he says.