Apparel Wool, Meat for a Feast

The Robdorino Dohne Stud – Founded in 1958

By Cameron McMaster


The Dohne Merino had its origins at the Dohne Research Institute with the first mating being done in 1939. Mr Koot Kotzé initiated the programme but from 1942 he expanded the programme with the help of private breeders in the region, the earliest of whom were Gerald Featherstone (1942), Jack Blaine (1946) and Deemie Blaine (1947). These pioneers set rigid, but very effective standards according to which the new breed would be developed. Adaptability and productivity in the harsh sourveld conditions of the Stutterheim area was a fundamental principle, which ultimately resulted in the Dohne becoming one of the most efficient sheep breeds in the world.

The 1950s saw a number of other foundation studs formed under the supervision of Mr Kotzé and his protégé, Barnie Barnard, including the Roborino stud. Michael Robb moved from the Burgersdorp district to the farm Uxbridge in the Mgwali area of the Sutterheim district in 1946. In 1954 his father gave him 200 Merino ewes which, despite opposition, he mated to two rams of the early version of the breed from the Newey Brothers. From this tentative mating a “Stud” of Dohne-type sheep emerged in 1958. This year therefore marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of this stud.

In 1961 under the supervision of Barney Barnard, 40 of the best of these ewes were mated to a German Merino ram from Elsenburg thus initiating a new bloodline for the emerging Dohne Breed. Michael became intimately involved with the other founders of the breed in the Stutterheim area – the Featherstones, Blaines, George Warren, Paul Kruger, the Newey Brothers and others who, together with Koot and Barnie, formed a formidable team. We have to honour and thank these pioneers for their contribution to the birth of the Dohne Merino. (See the book “Birth of a Breed” published in 2016) When the Breed Society was formed on 16 May 1966, Michael became a foundation member.

Since then I have been in close contact with Michael, who became a firm friend and supporter during the time I was involved with the Dohne Merino Breed Society. He was renowned for his dedication, passion and very high ethical standards – an role model for all his fellow breeders. When the Eastern Dohne Central Nucleus (EDCN) was formed by a number of leading breeders in 1978, the Robdorino Stud became an enthusiastic and ardent participant, faithfully contributing outstanding ewes every year. By using top rams from the EDCN Michael’s stud went from strength to strength. In 1986 one of the best Merit sires was bred in the Robdorino family in the EDCN – EN86.237. This ram sired many outstanding progeny and became a semen donor at Ramsem.
In the year 2000, Michael wrote an article that was published in the Dohne Journal. Entitled “With Inspiration from the Past we will Prosper”. It paid tribute to the pioneers and urged us all to adhere to the fine example and the high standards they had set.

In 1981 Michael’s son, Allan John Robb, took over the stud and proceeded to take it to even greater heights. In 1997 the Robdorino Stud was moved to the farm Thornkloof near Kei Road. In 1999 the stud received an injection of outstanding blood when it acquired Dave Hart’s illustrious Amberdene stud which not only boosted numbers but added outstanding breeding material. Rams are offered annually at the Kei Road sale where it has topped the market on at least seven occasions.

Allan is also passionate about his sheep and is proud to build on the foundation his father set. The Stud has always had a legacy of breeding hardy sheep with elite wool. After 60 years of dedicated breeding the 2017 woolclip confirmed this with an average micron of 19.2 and a clean yield of 70.1%. I am proud to be asked to pay this tribute to Michael and Allan on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of this stud. I am honoured to have been associated with them and their wonderful sheep over all these years.
Allan has asked me to express his gratitude to his father Michael for his guidance and for the success of their enterprise over 60 years.

He wishes to express himself in these words:
There is a field in Heaven’s Plains
Where verdant pastures grow
Where Dohne Merino flocks
Luscious grasses mow
There is no Blue Fly, Foot Rot and Scab
Nor pests of any kind
So Michael John is smiling there at such a farmers find.

Merit Sire EN86.237 bred in the Robdorino family at the EDCN.

Average indices of 342 progeny up to (1999):

Body weight 104, Fleece weight 105, Fibre diameter 100

Surely if we can again harness the powerful forces that served us so well in the past – the power of co-operation, enthusiasm, determination and the application of sound scientific knowledge, together with a good measure of “vasbyt” (grit), then surely we will discover that the highway that will lead to a prosperous 21st Century, is the same one upon which we originally embarked.

Practical Guide
Dohne Database