Dorset Down

Dorset Down sheep

Key Characteristics

The Dorset Down is a solid, thickset sheep able to cope with most conditions although not suited to the uplands. In common with other Down breeds the Dorset Down can easily be trained to follow the bucket and is a relatively calm breed of sheep. The Dorset Down usually achieves lambing percentages of around 150% and is known for being able to take the ram in most months of the year. Lambs are medium sized and there are few lambing problems. 

History

  • The Dorset Down was developed in the early 1800s by crossing local, Wiltshire, Berkshire and Hampshire ewes with Southdown rams.
  • In time a breed was developed that was well suited to the local area and became popular as a terminal sire.
  • A breed society was formed in 1904 and the breed was in demand throughout the first half of the 20th century.
  • In common with the other Down breeds the introduction of foreign breeds such as the Texel and the immense popularity of the Suffolk meant that the number of Dorset Downs dwindled.
  • Other Down breeds have found their niche and numbers are building back up but the Dorset Down remains rare.

Appearance

  • A stocky, powerfully built sheep similar in look to a Hampshire Down.
  • Ewes weigh around 70kg and rams, 110kg.
  • Animals have dark brown, wool-free head and legs and both sexes are polled.

Uses

Cross Breeding

The Dorset Down is a good choice as a terminal sire for fast growing, grass fed lambs. The rams are virile and one ram managed to cover 20 ewes in a 24 hour period. Trials have shown that the crossbred lambs sired by the Dorset Down are fast growing and comparable to a Suffolk x lamb in terms of grading. The breed can be used on primitive breeds such as the Soay or Manx Loaghtan without the much smaller ewe breed suffering many lambing problems.

Meat

The purebred Dorset Down lamb can reach an 18kg carcass weight within 12 weeks. There are no problems with achieving good grades and with careful management the breed is capable of achieving E or U grades at the right fat classes.

Wool

Staple length- 5-8cm. Fleece weight- 2.25-3kg. Quality- 56s-58s.

Did you know?

Dorset Down rams will work at any time of the year, and because of their exceptionally high pheromone count also make very good teasers.

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