The Dorset sheep is one of the oldest sheep breeds, renowned for its hardiness and breeding ability. While it is kept primarily for meat, the Dorset produces a respectable amount of milk and makes decent-quality fleece.
The Dorset sheep is believed to be a result of crossing two native southwestern England sheep breeds. There are two variants; polled and horned.
Dorset sheep are white with open faces and large bodies. Rams weigh between 220-300 pounds, while ewes weigh between 100-150 pounds.
In this article, we will walk you through the advantages and disadvantages of owning or raising this sheep breed.
Dorset Sheep Pros
Readily Available to Buy/Raise
The Dorset can be found worldwide and can survive in various conditions.
This breed adapts extremely well to both feedlot and grass-based situations. The most popular white-faced sheep breed in North America is Polled Dorsets.
The primary reason many people breed and raise Dorset sheep is for meat production. This breed’s meat is one of the most sought-after among the various sheep breeds. They offer delicious mutton that gives a robust, strong flavor.
Dorsets are not only known for meat but also for wool. The fleece from this animal is dense, light in color, and free of dark fibers.
Averaging a five to ten-pound clip with a two to four-inch staple, Dorset’s wool measures 27-35 microns. This sheep breed can produce up to nine pounds of medium-grade wool in one year.
They Lamb All Year Round
Where other breeds tend to be seasonal in breeding, only mating during fall and giving birth in spring, Dorset’s breed all year round.
They produce multiple sets of lambs yearly, making them the perfect sheep breed to keep for commercial purposes.
When managed properly, ewes can produce up to four lamb crops in just 24 months.
With a lifespan of 11-13 years, the Dorset can give birth to a lamb until they are 10-11 years old.
Sheep are not generally known for producing milk. However, some breeds, like the Dorset, produce a generous amount.
Although their milk is not common on the market due to a lack of facilities to process it, you can extract a good quantity of milk for home use.
Easy to Breed and Raise
Dorset sheep are one of the easiest sheep breeds to breed and raise. All these animals need is a shelter that will protect them from predators and extreme weather conditions.
According to experts, these animals are best raised in barns with several stalls. Multiple stalls in the barn will enable you to separate them as needed. For instance, you might want to separate the pregnant or sick sheep from the rest of the flock.
Feeding isn’t an issue because they love grazing. Make sure you have enough pasture for them. The ideal pasture size depends on environmental factors like soil quality and climate, as well as the number of sheep you want to keep.
Dorset Sheep Cons
Here are some of the drawbacks of owning or raising this sheep breed.
They Need Proper Protection
Dorsets are one of the few sheep breeds that like exploring. They are notorious escape artists and can wander away without adequate measures. Hence, you need to install a fence for your sheep.
The fence will not only prevent them from getting away but also protect them from predators. You also want to ensure the fence is of good quality. Experts recommend the height of the fence should be at least five feet.
Susceptible to Certain Health Conditions
While these animals are adaptable to various conditions and living situations, they have some health drawbacks. The major drawback of the Dorset is its susceptibility to diseases like tetanus, black disease, scabies, etc.
Fortunately, you can prevent most of these diseases and other potential health issues with regular vet exams.
You also need to shear them at least once a year to prevent their wool from overgrowing and preventing them from eating and moving. Avoid shearing them in the cold season.