Apparel Wool, Meat for a Feast

Dohne Handbook

Dohne Handbook

“The dohne is responsible for the improvement in the maternal characteristics of the Australian sheep flock”.

front cover rams English Dohne Handbook 2015_Page_02


Great Southern Lamb Supplier of the Year

The maternal traits of the Dohne shone in the coveted JBS Swift Annual Great Southern Lamb Supplier of the Year award held in Melbourne during May 2015.

South Australian producers Wayne and Sally Hawkins, who trade as Circle H Farms at Frances, won the prestigious title with their Dohne/White Suffolk Cross lambs; and the Koch family, Tallageira Pastoral Company, also from Frances, came fourth.

The Hawkins have been breeding Dohnes for over ten years. In 2014, they delivered over 8,000 lambs to JBS Swift.

The Koch’s Dohne flock commenced with a successful trial with Dohnes eight years ago, resulting in a large scale Dohne breeding program in 2009. The Koch’s lambs were sired by both Border Leicesters and Poll Dorsets.

JBS Swift, Australia’s largest meat processor, receives over 700,000 lambs annually from over 900 producers. The Great Southern Lamb Supplier of the Year is chosen from these.



Sheep versatility and profitability at its best

Australian Dohnes are a well balanced and versatile breed producing a stylish white apparel wool and a fast growing prime lamb.

Red meat requirements are increasing globally due to the improved living standards in areas such as Asia and the Middle East. Red meat producers are under pressure to vertically integrate their production systems to meet the demand, without radical change to current sheep production enterprises.

Genetically, the Australian Dohne is the only breed that possesses the ability to achieve this genetic improvement, enhancing fertility and early growth rates, which leads to rapid product turn off and better gross margins per hectare.

Modern objective breeding techniques coupled with stringent subjective classing to maintain breed standards have been the foundation of the Dohne’s success.

Testament to this success is the fact that up to 22.1% of the Australian national sheep flock consists of Dohne genetics (June 2014 Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) survey).

This handbook explains how the Dohne was developed, the Dohne advantages and the Dohne breeding system and philosophy.


1938 – 2014

1938 – The Dohne was developed in South Africa with an initial one off cross between the Peppin-type Merino and the German Mutton Merino.
Progeny were interbred and selected for traits including:

  • High fertility
  • Rapid lamb growth
  • Mothering abilities
  • Quality apparel Merino wool

1966 – The Dohne Merino Breed Society of South Africa was formed. The demand for dual-purpose breeds had been stimulated by both economic and environmental circumstances, with a greater emphasis on sheep meat production.

1967 – First Assessors appointed for the visual (subjective) appraisal to maintain standards, wool quality, physical and carcass traits.

1970 – Objective Measurement Commences. Compulsory recording of live weight at 100 days and 365 days, followed by fleece trait testing.

1998 – The Dohne breed was first introduced to Australia with the importation of frozen embryos into Western Australia. Further importations into the Eastern states in 1999 gave the breed critical mass to establish a formal Breed Society.

2014 – Body Weight changed from 365 days to between 210 & 300 days in line with commercial lamb turn-off. According to the MLA June 2014 survey, up to 22.1% of the Australian national flock contains Dohne genetics.


The Dohne is the best path to a self-replacing mules-free flock, with quality meat and wool production.

  • Self replacing polled flock
  • Early maturing prime lambs
  • Quality apparel Merino wool
  • High fertility
  • Plain bodied / open faced
  • Bare breech / mules free
  • High fecundity and exceptional mothering ability
  • High weaning percentages and survival rates
  • Adaptable to varied environments, including harsh conditions and pastures low in protein
  • Non seasonal breeders / up to 70% will rejoin with lambs at foot
  • Full pedigree and performance recording
  • Longevity

Mt Alma rams


  • Lean and high yielding carcasses
  • Even fat distribution
  • Lambs with gains of up to 450 grams per day make the Dohne popular with grass finishers and lot feeders
  • Market flexibility – trade or export weight carcasses


Wellington New South Wales 2013 hoof & hook competition winners, Dohne cross lambs. Carcasses judged on saleable meat yield and intramuscular fat.
Photo courtesy of The Land (Rural Press)


  • Dohne wool is AWEX accredited and categorised as Merino wool
  • The Dohne averages 5-6kgs of 18-21 micron quality apparel AAAM
  • Dohne wool has exceptional coefficient variation and comfort factor
  • Staple length 90-110mm with some Dohne producers shearing every 8 months

Culverson Wool 2007 (11)


Exceptional mothering abilities of the Dohne make them capable of rearing multiple progeny under all production systems, with maiden ewes lambing in the autumn achieving up to 120%.

  • Fecundity
  • Excellent milk production
  • Non seasonal breeders
  • Lambing ease
  • High libido



The variation in Australian climates from the mild wetter regions of the southeast to the hot and dry outback interior provides the perfect platform to display the adaptability and durability of the Dohne breed.

  •  The Dohne has the ability to convert inferior vegetation into sustainable products
  • The Dohne has the ability to perform well above the average of species under adverse conditions
  • The Dohne has been used extensively over Merino and Corriedales in New Zealand, Uruguay, Chile, Argentina, Peru, Falkland Islands and Russia



How the Dohne compliments other breeds…

table 1table 2

table 3table 4


The Dohne: Embracing modern up to date performance breeding strategies

  • ASBVs are a projection of how the traits of an animal’s progeny will perform
  • The ASBVs are derived from recording the full pedigree and performance of an animal
  • The national database allows Dohne sheep from large and small registered stud flocks to be directly compared

As a commercial breeder, how can I use a ram’s ASBVs to improve my flock’s performance?

  • Define your breeding objectives for each trait for your flock
  • Use the ASBVs to compliment the visual assessment of a sheep
  • Select rams with ASBVs that enhance your breeding objectives


ASBVs – Continual genetic improvement

With the use of ASBVs and subjective (visual) classing the Dohne has continued to improve.

Registered Dohne Breeders are continuing to strive for increased profitability on a commercial basis.

Since coming to Australia, Dohne rams have improved 30% (New South Wales DPI independent evaluation), refer to graph below.

Through compliance of all compulsory recordable traits, Registered Dohne Breeders will continue genetic improvement into the future.


ASBVs – What does it all mean?

Weaning Weight (WWT): heritability : moderate 20%

  • All lambs are weighed between 42 and 120 days of age (ideally 100 days)
  • This weight reflects the mothers’ milking ability and maternal characteristics
  • A higher WWT will highlight the early maturing lambs and give a commercial breeder the opportunity to reach target weights earlier

Faster Growth = Increase in Profit


Post Weaning Weight (PWT): heritability : moderate 30%

  • Lambs are weighed between 210 and 300 days of age to achieve commercial objectives of turning lambs off earlier, indicating a better feed conversion ratio
  • This weight is representative of the lamb’s ability to grow without their mothers’ influence
  • Lambs that reach target slaughter weights as quickly as possible are more profitable

Earlier Maturity = Greater Profitability


test ram



Dohne productivity versus other breeds

other breeds table


Full booklet in English – Click Here

Full booklet in Spanish – Click Here

Hard copies, contact the Australian Dohne Breeders Association Secretary – Contact Details

Practical Guide

Dohne Database