Our Ratapiko Dorpers stud is located east nor’ east of Mt Taranaki at the start of the eastern Taranaki hill country.We run 150 Ratapiko White Dorper ewes, 140 ewe hoggets and 10 rams.Also 50 black Dorper ewes.We also have 57 dairy heifers from our 460 cow dairy farm 3 miles away.Stocking rate is 14 stock units a hectare.The sheep are fed no supplements.With our bought- in White Dorper ewes struggling on our Ratapiko hills with an annual rainfall of 2000 mls. we decided on a large scale grading up programme. This year 2016 we have bought 100 Romney 5 yr.old ewes from Piquet Hills highly eczema resistant bloodline from our neighbor.We will grade them up to full Dorper and White dorper after screening our Dorpers for eczema resistance with the GGT and Ramtest. These are also very resistant to Johnes disease. We hope to also breed a much more resistant Dorper to Johnes as well.These Romneys are top sheep. They weaned 145 percent on very steep hills in one of the coldest, wettist springs for 40 years.
Our original flock was Perendale from the very steep Awakino hills. We used two well-bred Poll Dorset Rams from Rangitikei Stud. Then we used two Wiltshire rams from Ardco Stud. We bought our first White Ratapiko Dorper rams in 2005 from Premier Dorpers.
Our stud was registered in 2008. Bloodlines have come from Sunnyvale, Westoby, Dynamic and Downsouth studs for the White Dorpers. The Black Dorper sheep come from Gracelands and J R Studs. The J R ewes have all been footscored for footrot by Lincoln University.
With the New Zealand sheep industry moving to the hills we are breeding a hardy White Dorper, tested on hills, fully recorded on S.I.L, eye muscle scanned, tested WormFEC, Wormstar DNA test for resistance and constitution. Foot scored 1 to 10 backed up with Lincoln University footrot test score and cold tolerance tests. Our White Dorper flock has recently been tested for Dermatosparaxis. All tests were clear. All rams are tested annually for brucellosis and were all clear. We don’t lease our rams because of disease risk.in March 2014 we had an outbreak of Johnes disease brought in by a purchased ewe. We vaccinated the whole flock in April 2014 and vaccinate all replacement ewe lambs and any ram lambs kept through for breeding or for sale.
Our basic aim is to breed a sheep who will perform on hill country.We see Ratapiko Dorpers as not just a terminal sire breed but also as a maternal breed. Dorpers and white Dorpers are excellent milkers and mothers who can rear triplets as well as well as keep them together on hill country so they can be rotationally grazed on hill country.To perform on hill country they have to have good feet.We use a simple foot score system of 1-10, 10 being best .To get a score of 8 a sheep has to get to 2 years old without any foot trimming. To get a 9 they need to be 3 years old without foot trimming. We have found lambs foot scored at 8 months old mainly held that score when done 8 months later.Our lambs are eye muscle scanned at about 150 day stage by Melinda Wheeler, accredited scanner. The results go into SIL indexes.Our policy is to be open and honest. We believe sheep should be shown or sold in natural condition.Dorpers are supposed to be a shedding breed so why hide their ability to shed by shearing them.Also foot trimming should be banned.It just means more disappointed buyers who find their sheep have bad feet after a few months. I have attended and passed the junior Dorper judging course.I found it interesting but it confirmed my view the classing for bad overgrown feet is not tough enough for N.Z.conditions.Our policy is very simple. We only import semen from Australian Dorper and White Dorper studs who progeny test through Lambplan,who run their sheep under commercial conditions and who do not feed meal.We in turn progeny test and eye muscle scan on SIL under strictly commercial conditions. 14 stock units on steep hill country with 2000 ml a year rainfall.