Apparel Wool, Meat for a Feast

Dohnes Making a Mark in Many Ways

Original article written by Nicola Wood, February 2019. Original photos courtesy of Brad Blackwood.

BRAD BLACKWOOD
NHILL, VICTORIA

“You get more lambs on the ground, they grow faster and the ewe is a hardier animal any lack in condition whilst lambing is recovered quickly so you can run a few more Dohnes to what you can Merinos.”

AFTER A DROP in the wool market during 2007, commercial breeder and shearer Brad Blackwood looked to change his strategy in sheep. Finding the Dohne to be capable of providing more than just quality wool, the breed made a mark on the productivity of the family operation with its dual-purpose traits.

Mr Blackwood said, “At the time the wool market wasn’t great but the lamb market was really going along so the idea of being able to cut good quality wool and still be able to sell prime lambs from that ewe really appealed to me. We’re also only on about 350mm of rainfall per year so Dohnes generally fit really well into our operation.”

‘Windy Hill’ in Nhill, Victoria is 3000 acres and has traditionally always run sheep as a mixed farming enterprise, also cropping wheat and barley for feed. “My father did it tough in the 80’s and leased some of the farm out. I did a farming apprenticeship when I left school and came back to take over the family farm again. I have now been farming for 15 to 20 years.”

Due to improving wool and meat prices, the property’s investment in sheep has increased, now running 1200 mature aged breeding Dohne ewes with approximately 350 Dohne ewe weaners kept a year. “A bloke in Nhill started up a Dohne stud and another I was shearing with at the time was also thinking about running them so I decided the same. I did a bit of research on them and really liked the idea of their dual-purpose attributes.”

Mr Blackwood first introduced two Dohne rams to his flock in 2007 for a 2008 lambing. Within two years he was joining everything to Dohne rams. “I’ve been second-cross Dohnes since about 2013 onwards, so they’ve been second-cross or better since then,” he said.

The biggest draw card in investing in the Dohne for Mr Blackwood was their dual-purpose nature in both wool and meat qualities. Whilst getting high quality wool he was also gaining from the breed’s fertility and carcass qualities. “You get more lambs on the ground, they grow faster and the ewe is a hardier animal any lack in condition whilst lambing is recovered quickly so you can run a few more Dohnes to what you can Merinos.”

The level of productivity that can be achieved with the Dohne saw Mr Blackwood benefit greatly from the meat side of things whilst also experiencing higher fertility rates. “I’m probably marking 20-30% more lambs a year with a Dohne compared to what I was doing. If you’re a self-replacing flock you’ve got the ability to still sell your wether lamb as a sucker and also join ewe lambs. You
haven’t got a weaner on the farm that’s not producing you a lamb, so they’re incredibly efficient that way as well,” he said.

Looking ahead for what’s to come for Mr Blackwood and Windy Hill, Dohnes will definitely continue to be included. “I like what they do for the operation I’m running. While the current wool and lamb prices are where they are, I can’t see any reason to change that. They’re just a good fit for what I do.”

Brad Blackwood (at the back), with his classer Bill Mildren.

Practical Guide
Dohne Database