From Desert to Snow
1. Damaras are Moving, from Desert to
From our little operation here in the wilds at
Rosevale, we have now exported Damaras from Darwin to Charters
Towers, and from to Mitchell to Casino. Naturally most go
locally, but they do travel well. Over in Western Australia, John
Hall is exporting to Mexico and boatloads are still going to the
Middle East from WA and SA. Damaras are thriving in diverse
environments from the deserts of South Africa (and Rosevale) to
the snows of British Colombia.
Transport vehicles that turn up to collect sheep
have to be seen to be believed. They range from huge classy horse
floats to bird cages on wheels - one buyer even drove off with a
large F2 ram inside a sedan car (with two kids too). What we like
to see turn up is a ute or truck with a good sheep proof crate
with a sliding door. Such a vehicle can back up to our loading
ramp, and all is easy. But we have a moveable ramp and have not
yet encountered a transporter we cannot load onto.
People ask about carriers. Dick Smith, based in
Dubbo, carries sheep all over Australia. (Phone 02 6882 2463).
Naturally if only a few sheep are involved, it is best to wait
until Dick can combine with other loads to your district. We
would be pleased to hear of other livestock transporters people
can recommend. We have a Ute which will carry up to about 10
sheep, and a truck which will fit up to about 20, but not a lot
of spare time. (But sufficient monetary incentive can produce
2. Fences in the Mind
Damaras usually cause no trouble with fences,
but some other sheep breeds are a pain - they learn to become
fence runners - as long as they can get a nose under the bottom
wire, they dash under into a new paddock - a real annoyance for
people like us who use cell grazing.
The most effective fence for any animal, is one
that is built in their mind, early in life. The best time to
build such a fence is in weaner lambs. Their first experience
with electric fences must be so memorable and so unpleasant that
they never rub noses with a fence again. Our weaner lambs spend
the first week of separation in a secure yard. Then they go into
a small paddock with a good three-wire electric fence. We try to
ensure the fence is good with high power, so that the experience
on a tender nose is very unpleasant. But . . . if a lamb learns
to be a fence runner from its mother, it is hard to break the
habit (that's why Ghenghis Khan killed all kids of defeated
enemies who stood higher that a wagon wheel - by then they had
set ideas). Our wanderer lambs are also for sale! Good sheep for
those with good fences.
3. Damaras are Profitable
The following figures were compiled by Greg
& Loraine Ayson - Bidura Station, Balranald and reported by
Denis Russell in the Genelink Livestock Newsletter, Feb
The Station is in the low rainfall area with
grazing of shrubs bush and grasses. Figures are taken from actual
returns. Note number of rams used for each enterprise and
percentage of lambs raised to sale.
|4000 Merino Ewes
||4000 Merino Ewes joined to
|Wool 6.5Kg @ $4
||Wool 6.5Kg @ $3.75
|80% of lambs 3200
||100% of lambs 4000
|Sale of 1600 W lambs @ $35
||2000 F1 Wether lambs @ $60
|Sale of 1600 E Weaners @ $40
||2000 F1 Ewes @ $55
|Shearing @ $4.20
||Shearing @ $4.20
|80 Rams @ $400
||26 Rams @ $1000
4. Pedigrees and Sheep Identification
We have experienced trouble with even reputable
breeders who do not supply adequate certificates of breeding for
sheep they supply. In future we will not buy from anyone unless
they produce acceptable documentation of the sheep offered.
Hand in hand with this requirement is a means of
identifying sheep. A growing problem is going to be people who
supply high grade cross breed sheep as pure Damaras. We have
already had calls from people who have "Damara" sheep but have no
idea what breeding they are. Thus we now religiously earmark
every cross-bred sheep - ewes in the left ear, rams in the right
year. We use earmarking pliers that cut a triangular piece out of
the ear of the sheep. F1's (50%) get one notch on top of the ear.
F2's (75%) get a notch out of the tip of the ear. F3's (87.5%)
get a notch out of the bottom of the ear. F4's (94%) get two
notches out of the top of the ear. Thereafter they can be called
"Full Blood" and get two ear notches one on top, one at the tip.
No cross-bred sheep should ever be referred to as "Pure Bred",
which is reserved for 100% Damara. We strongly recommend that all
Damara breeders use this system to identify cross-bred sheep.
Our sheep now have a tag in each ear with a
number and the Stud name "Sherana". Breeding as far back as we
know is recorded on computer together with a detailed physical
description of the animal. Because of the great variation in
colour combinations of Damaras, we can usually identify a sheep
from this alone even if they had lost both ear tags. Some day we
may get to tattoos under the tail, but have not done that yet.
Ear tags are best put on when lambs are small, and still sticking
close to their mother - that makes matching lambs and mother
5. One Handed Sheep Management.
Mother of All Things (Judy) tripped over a black
feed bowl while yarding sheep in the dark and has a badly
dislocated elbow. So she is learning about life with one arm. She
can ride the 4 wheeler, but can't open a honey jar. She can open
ring-pull tins, but can't do up her bra. She can draft sheep, but
can't catch them. But feeding three lambs with bottles at once is
definitely beyond her. (They cannot be taught the socialist
rationing solution - stand quietly in a queue). Soooo, one lamb
has got to go.
We gave up on our East Friesian fence crawlers
and sold them on the spur of the moment one day.
6. Who Wants "Little Jake"?
Jake is bottle baby (his mother had him in a
crowded yard and they got separated before they got bonded, so
Mother of All Things has raised him). He was born 26th March and
is strong, healthy and lovable. He is a pure Damara ram, with
very good breeding. We think he will grow to be a top class ram.
He is red-brown with white markings. MOAT insists he must go to a
good home so all offers should be accompanied by references from
your spouse, child or pet dog.
7. Watchman "Waldo".
Thanks for all the condolence messages on our
loss of "Major" the guard llama. We have a replacement recruit,
Private Waldo. Waldo is quite different - he does not need
shearing and is very tall and slim - he floats across the ground
like a white swan ballerina. The sheep like and trust him, but
Waldo has not really bonded to them yet.
8. Sheep for Sale, Sheep on Show.
We still have four top quality adult Damara rams
left from our original lambing. These are our top rams, which we
have used for breeding. But they are for sale. We also have just
weaned a good flock of new rams, and the previous weaning are
about ready to work now, and are selling well. All older F2
butcher's rams have been sold or eaten, but a new crop of weaners
is available now. Great grass eaters, and lovely roasted.
We keep selling ewes in a weak moment, but are
slowly building up numbers. The Dorper ewes and Little Jo were
sold immediately the last newsletter hit the street. We have a
few of their Damara/Dorper daughters, who learnt to be wanderers
from their fence crawling mothers, so they will be sold to people
with hinge joint fences. Give us a call.
Damara sheep will be on show at the Valley
Field, Walloon on 25 May 2002, at the Sheep and Wool Pavilion at
the Brisbane Exhibition, and maybe soon at The Australian Wool
Shed at Ferny Hills in Brisbane.
The cook has discovered a great recipe for
Damara chops. Take them frozen from the freezer, smash them apart
on the concrete floor, put in a casserole dish in slow-moderate
oven at 4pm, and then go yard the sheep for the night. By dinner
time, they are cooked and beautiful. This seems to retain the
moisture so that the whole chop is mouth watering. Better than
10. Feedback Please.
Please share with us and our readers any useful
Damara stories - cross breeds, markets, handling, problems etc.
Drop us a line.
Viv & Judy Forbes.