Yes, it’s an ugly name. I didn’t like it at first. But the sheep are so friendly, I was won over by them very quickly.
The “Dor” comes from the name “Dorset” and the “Per” comes from the name “Persian.” In South Africa in 1946, sheep breeders completed a breeding project wherein Dorset Horned Rams from England were crossed with Blackhead Persian Ewes from Arabia. The result was “heavily muscled lambs” with excellent meat flavor that could be bred year round with high fertility (high likelihood of producing twins). Dorpers don’t have much wool–they aren’t bred for fiber. What little wool they have is naturally shed for the most part. They are usually shorn for show, however. Here’s a photo of a couple of nicely groomed Dorpers at the Yamhill County Fair (belonging to David and Roberta of Charlton Farm).
Most Dorpers have black heads, but there are unusual occasions when they will show up with a white or off-white (called “red”) head. We don’t have any of those yet. Our only odd one is the quarter Katahdin, seen here. Her lambs will surprise us, I’m sure! (I hope we get to keep one!)
I really can’t believe that we have gotten eleven sheep in the past week, let alone buying two animals that are about three times my size! But we happened to meet a couple through my work that are going out of the sheep business, and besides selling us lots of harnesses, leads, water troughs, buckets and lambing pens, they talked us into taking a steal of a deal on their two guard llamas, Dabby and Darby.
Last night we headed down to Dallas to “RVB Ranch” where our friends Bruce and Sherie snapped some leads on their llamas and walked them right up into our horse trailer. “These two work as a team,” Sherie says, and they are really good at herding up the sheep in times of crisis, as well as scaring off any coyotes that come along. So we are very grateful for their generous offer–they practically gave the sweeties to us.
And…. (drumroll….) Here they are!
So far they’ve been laying in the sun and snacking on our apple tree. They seem pretty happy to be here!
We met the Charlton family at the Yamhill County fair about a month ago now. They live on Rex Hill in Newberg, and they are a multi-generational sheep-loving family who just happen to have the same, rather rare, kind of sheep that we have. When we met them we didn’t have any sheep of course, and didn’t know where our sheep would come from–they were the first breeders we met in person who even might have some for sale.
When we caught up with them last week, David told us that he couldn’t get Violet, his grand-daughter, who goes to school with our boys, to decide which ewe to part with (she works with all of the sheep in 4-H and so they are her best friends) but they did agree that they could part with one of their two rams. That was good news–we needed a good ram.
The Charlton Farm Hen House
This last Saturday we went up to their beautiful farm to meet the rams. Our boys, Mason and Bailey, were most enamored with the giant Yorkie, Woodie, but they were also amused to find that one of the rams for sale was named Mason! It was between Mason and Wild Man, and Wild Man had a gigantic head! We really liked the looks of Mason, and David wanted to keep Wild Man, so it was easy for us all to come to a decision.
We went back on Tuesday of this week and picked Mason up. My daughter and I searched for the resident peacock while Jimmy got the registration papers. “They say a ram is 50% of your flock” is a phrase we’ve heard a lot these days, so we were sure to get the registration documents. Here’s Jimmy with Dave and Roberta, looking them over….
My girl with Trixie the dog, and a gaggle of geese behind her.
And here’s Mason #2, looking very much at home, just minutes after we released him into our pasture (none of our collars were big enough for his enormous neck!)….
Oh my goodness, have we met the most amazing people on this adventure, even just a month into it. We have sheep breeding friends all over Oregon suddenly, and they all have loads of advice. We have been told by many that we should get a guard animal, and some have said that they are useless, some say that we should get this or that kind of feed, a fence this high or that high, that we should treat for worms many different ways, and so on and so on.
We finally did decide that we would buy two llamas who have proven to be excellent guards for our new friends Bruce and Sherie in Dallas and their sheep that they have just sold. The hardest decision for me has been when to put Tink in with the “rough girls” from Yelm. I’ve heard that when new sheep are introduced to a herd, they can get abused, and Tink is our youngest, smallest and meekest ewe. We decided that we will wait a few more days until the llamas arrive, in hopes that they will be protective cowboys in this rodeo that is taking place outside our windows!
I hope you will pray for me and my decisions as we try to make wise choices and keep our flock safe. I’m pretty attached to them already–especially Clover and Tink, who let me pet them and who talk to me all the time whenever I’m anywhere outside. Here they are, Tink looking over at the other sheep, longingly…
On Sunday, Jimmy and I headed up to Yelm to get the flock that we’d already put a deposit on–eight girls that had been saved out of a flock of 100 or so Dorpers at Two Feathers Ranch, a “serious ranching operation.” Roy and his wife have been selling most of their sheep over the past year as she and Roy are both having health problems, and these were the ones that they were least willing to part with. Roy wanted us to buy his only remaining ram too, but we wanted a ram that was unrelated to the girls.
Here’s Roy’s Ranch, as seen from the first of many gates!
Looks pretty bucolic, I know, but Roy is an old fashioned rancher that doesn’t spend unnecessary time with his sheep, so our new girls are pretty skittish. He rounded them up into a small pen next to a barn, and then into a chute, by whistling and waving his arms. They seemed terrified of him!
Here they are before he put them through the chute. They were probably expecting to be given shots or to get shorn….
Roy thought we were absolutely nuts when we said we were going to put collars on the sheep, but we don’t have an expensive chute system or a shearing cage. We need to wrangle ours by hand! We also hope that the kids end up working with them in 4H, so it’s good to get them collar trained for that too.
On Friday, Jimmy and the boys and I piled into the truck, hauling a huge horse trailer to go to find our first two sheep in Tillamook, at Sumerlin Dorper Farm. The shepherdess, Christine has a wonderful blog that we’ve been following, and it happened that she had a ewe and a ewe lamb for sale!
Christine, Willie and Larry live right near the Tillamook County Fairgrounds on a beautiful park like farm.
Their sheep live mostly in a daylight barn and are very tame. Here is Willie and Jimmy taking Tink out of the only home she’s known, as Larry and Bailey watch.
All of Christine’s sheep are lovingly named and are cuddled and spoken to as much as their little Yorkie pup, Daisy.
Clover is a polite year old ewe who had no trouble with Jimmy putting a harness on her. Tinkerbell is only four months old and much more bashful. They stayed close together all through the trip and in our barn as they arrived. Here they are in our barn!
Clover, shown here as a lamb on the right, has grown up fast in the past year and she will be our first mama ewe. Follow her story here as we begin our shepherding journey….