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January 2002

Damara Handling and Markets

1. Handling Facilities

Fences

Unlike goats and most other sheep breeds, Damaras are very easy to contain. The standard of fence you need is usually related to keeping dogs out rather than keeping Damaras in. We recommend hinge joint for boundary fences and electric dividing fences. Two electric wires are plenty - top one for adult sheep, bottom one for lambs.

There are two main types of hinge joint - "dog proof" and "sheep proof" - dog proof has vertical wires every 15cm and sheep proof every 30cm. They come in varying heights.

Dog proof is more expensive and has a disadvantage - some sheep may get caught in them - not a big problem unless they are starving in their paddock and there is nice grass through the fence - they stick their heads through and may get stuck on their horns. So use it for night yards and use 30cm wire elsewhere.

Yards

For yards, rails are far better than mesh for panels and gates. Sheep can get legs through mesh and may break a leg. Rails need to be close together near the ground and further apart higher up. Sheeted yard panels or fences are best in forcing yards and races.

We can suggest yard designs if you need it. You may need a holding yard, forcing yard, race, drafting facilities and loading ramp. We have found a goat handler good for drenching or injecting all the flock. Or you can drench in a race.

2. Horns and Feet

Damara rams grow substantial horns. Some are wide, like Texas longhorns, others curl closer to the head. We have never found rams aggressive toward humans, but they can catch you with a sharp tip as they run past. But horns are also useful handles to catch and hold rams. We are told the Muslim market does not want horns cut, but for locals we intend cutting horn back so rams will fit down normal sheep races easily (leaving enough for a handle). When horns are small and soft, secateurs will cut them easily. Older ram horns need strong dehorners.

Some sheep of all breeds will get overgrown hooves if they live on soft soil and don't do enough walking. The hooves of some may need trimming back. We use good garden secateurs or special foot trimmers. Our Damaras seldom need this.

3. Other Sheep Breeds

Our Dorper cross ewes have all lambed to a Damara ram and revealed the first good thing we can say about our Dorpers- they are very prolific - our ewes averaged 140% lambing. We cannot think of much else good - they are wandering fence crawlers, they get wool (pure Dorpers don't), don't flock well, and are not good mothers. But their lambs (50% Damaras) are magnificent, so we believe the Damper (Damara : Dorper cross) will be a very popular sheep - all the easy care qualities of the Damara plus the "normal" sheep look of the Dorpers. These lambs seem to grow quickly. Just keep the Damara content high!

We gave up on our East Friesian fence crawlers and sold them on the spur of the moment one day.

From our experience the ONLY disadvantage of Damaras is that they do not look like the traditional fat lamb. So we must sell them as a different product - once people taste a roast leg of Damara they will forget the boring fatty lamb they are used to.

Damaras for Sale

Our flock now stands at about 300 sheep - about half pure bred. With newly weaned lambs and new lambs coming now, we have plenty of young rams but there are still a few mature pure bred rams left. They are generally the better quality rams as many people have been buying the cheapest rams available.

We are having a drought crisis with declining feed and water so if you want any sort of ram you will find us keen to reduce numbers. Now is a good time to negotiate a good deal. And for those people who started with crossbred rams, now is the time to upgrade to a purebred Damara. Your upgrading process will be very slow (or absent) if you stay with a cross-bred ram.

Damara ewes are still scarce and expensive, but we can usually find a couple of crossbreed ewes for people who buy rams.

Dorper Cross Ewes for Sale

We are weaning our Dorper lambs today so we have both Dorper cross ewes and Damper ram lambs for sale. The breeding of each is -

Breed %Dorper X EwesDamper Ram Lambs
Damara-50%
Dorper50%25%
Border Leister25%12.5%
Merino25%12.5%
Age2 years3 months

Ring if you are interested in these sheep. They will go quickly. They are good sheep if you have good fences and don't mind a bit of wool. And they are probably pregnant to a good Damara ram.

We are interested to hear of other people's experience with other cross breeds.

Damara Sheep (like Brahman cattle) improve most features of every other meat sheep they are crossed with but it is useful if the second breed adds something, and does not detract too much.

Sheep for Eating or Lawn Mowing

Now is the time to try some Damara cross sheep for eating. We have F2 ram lambs in prime condition ready to eat. We intend to fill our freezer soon. For locals, we know butchers who will dress them for you.

Specially Quiet Damaras for Sale

We have a couple of rams raised on bottles, which are ideal for people who want to start with very quiet friendly sheep:

Name"Wim""Little Joe""Zeb"
ClassF3Pure DamaraPure Damara
Damara %88%100%100%
Merino %12%--
ColourBlack & WhitePale BrownLight Brown
Age5 months1 week (on bottle)5 months

These very quiet sheep will go quickly, so call if you are interested. They will be sold (and then only reluctantly) only to buyers approved by Mother-of-All-Things, who raised them.

The Sheep Market

The sheep market is buoyant. Fat lamb prices are good ($40 - $70 per head) and the wool market has kicked up. Australia's sheep flock is at its lowest point for half a century. And there is a swing back to decent food after a generation of unhealthy fatties raised on muesli, pasta, battery chicken, fat free oils, and reconstituted fruit juice.

Perceptive people are now looking for healthy natural food - grassfed red meat, free range eggs, real butter, fresh fruit and vegies, tea and red wine. The best food is the least processed food AS LONG AS IT IS RAISED ON GRASS IN WELL MINERALISED SOIL, NOT FORCE FED IN FACTORY FARMS ON UNNATURAL OR PROCESSED FOOD.

The Damara export market is also strong. John Hall has developed a market in Mexico and the first shipments have gone. There are unfilled orders for Damara and Damara cross sheep for the Middle East. Export prices for F1 Damara rams have risen from $45 to $65 to $75. Genelink reports that once they reach the middle east, they are valued at over $300 per head.

Prices for purebred Damara Rams has eased a bit and sales now seem to be in the range $500 -$800. Top class stud rams sell for about $2,000. Prices for ewes has gone up and sales are in the range $500 - $700. (All prices plus Gouge and Screw Tax).

Locally, we have sold sheep to three abattoirs at prices equal to "normal sheep". The local market just needs to sample the product. Below is the verbatim comment from someone who bought an F2 ram from us and had it butchered-

"Just to let you know that we had the Damara lamb roast on Tuesday night, done in the Webber as planned. It was just excellent. Very tender and delicious. It was so tender I under-cooked it a bit, not that that mattered at all. It could almost have been eaten raw." Chris.

Gatton Sheep and Goat Auction

An auction of goats and sheep will be held at Gatton at 11am on Saturday 2nd February. We will have Damaras and Damara cross sheep on display and for sale. No reserve price, so you may get a bargain.

Australian Damara Producers' Society

The AGM was held at Broken Hill on 15 September 2001. The following committee was elected/co-opted:

  • W.A. John Hall
  • S.A. Charlie Crozier
  • Vic. Phil McConachy
  • N.S.W. Greg Scott (President)
  • Qld. Viv Forbes
  • Co-Opted Committee: Bill Filmer (Immediate Past President, Vice President)
  • Denis Russell (Genelink)
  • Jane Phillips (Secretary/ Treasurer)
  • Nic Boully (Domestic Markets)

A Sad Ending

We recently lost our loyal sheep guard, the Llama "Major". Major has been with us for 2 years, and was no trouble at all. We never saw him actually defending the sheep, but he certainly looked like he would, and the sheep trusted him and looked to him for leadership.

Major was a long-wool llama, and was getting shaggy, so in the heat wave, we decided to shear him. Got a good shearer, and all went well. Right at the last tidy up, the shearer must have tickled major's flank - he lashed out a kick, hit the post, and broke his leg. A really bad compound fracture, and we had to put him down. Black armbands all round. The Damara flock looked lost without Big Brother checking out their paddock for them.

And a Nice Beginning.

Most mornings, Mother-of-All-Things takes the sheep to their paddock. But if left alone the Damara mob and Major take themselves off. We just have to go over later and shut the gate (or they come home for the night too early).

One morning they stopped half way up the hill and just sat down for about an hour. We were just going to chase them out when Major got up and led them off. Lo and behold, left behind was a mother and new baby. They had all waited on the hill for her to have her baby. After about 2 hours of bonding with her new babe she followed the mob.

Viv & Judy Forbes.

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