Apparel Wool, Meat for a Feast

Hands on education – the practical advantage

ROBERT DUNN Tocal College Paterson, NSW

 

TOCAL COLLEGE offers a range of agricultural courses designed to provide students with a diverse range of skills through first-hand experience.

As part of the subjects offered, Tocal students have been involved in the running of the self-replacing Dohne flock. From this, we have witnessed the advantages of high fertility, fast growth rates and exceptional wool quality that are considered standard to the Dohne breed.

Tocal students graduate as agriculturalists having experience in help running the college farms and completed commercial work placement, which prepares them to move forward into their working lives.

Traditionally, Tocal has run a 200 head first crossbred ewe flock joined to Dorset rams and additional 100 Merino wether wool cutters.

These enterprises were highly productive, but had low to medium educational value for students.

Replacement ewes were replaced 200 at a time and all progeny sold or slaughtered in the on-farm butchery  training. As part of the Tocal sheep training program, students visited top performing sheep enterprises around the north of NSW covering fine, superfine and soft rolling skins enterprises.

Exposure was also given to wool testing companies, meat enterprises and sheep meat processors/abattoirs. On our tours, we visited a number of Dohne enterprises and we were impressed with the dual-purpose performance of the breed.

Wishing to continually improve our education experiences for our students, we explored starting a self-replacing sheep flock. With production goals of achieving high fertility, high meat and wool production.

The Performance of the Dohne.
The 100 Dohne ewes were than run side by side with the remaining 100 crossbred ewes under the same conditions to evaluate their performance (Table below).
The performance of both crossbred and Dohne ewes were evaluated at Tocal college. Over this period, the wool produced from the Dohne ewes met the high standard required from a Merino enterprise seen within Australia.

The pregnancy rate was also recorded for both breeds. The results demonstrate the fertility of the Dohne breed was comparable to the crossbred system.

However, the benefits of the self-replacing nature of the Dohne breed gave it the economic advantage. The pregnancy rate of the dohne and the crossbred enterprise at Tocal college.

The surplus Dohne and crossbred ewes were sold into the same markets for similar comparison.

Dohne wether lambs and crossbred lambs were sold for the same price over the hooks at a local meat works at 22kg carcass weight. Cast for age ewes were also sold to the local saleyards and received the same returns.

Overall, being able to retain the ewe lambs from the Dohne enterprise saves Tocal college $20,000 – $25,000 every 5 or 6 years through the production of replacement ewes.

In 2015, we sold store ewes for $84 and wether lambs 2 months after weaning for $75. Due to extreme weather conditions in 2014, there was a shortfall in the feed availability during May to August, which resulted in a lower, lambing percentage.

However, in our opinion the Dohne breed still showed its prolific adaptability to a diverse variety of climate conditions.

One of the greatest challenges to running sheep at Tocal college is the high rainfall. Tocal receives an average of 950 mm of rain each year.

The certificate IV sheep electives are very popular due to the hands on experiences and responsibilities the students leave with a sense of pride and accomplishment that come with working with the Tocal’s Dohne flock.

Tocal College, students with Dohne Ewes.

Practical Guide
Dohne Database