Introducing Ratapiko Dorpers

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 graze 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 strictly commercial conditions.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 was completed in 2015.

We hope to also breed a much more resistant Dorper to facial eczema by using the GGT bloodtest to identify Dorper and White Dorper rams and ewes that have low GGT scores after being exposed to facial eczema spores after the peak spore level when they are protected by zinc capsules.We hope to test our best ram lambs with the lowest GGT scores.This year, 2020, we intend to test at .2 level on the Ramtest system with Agresearch.

We have also been testing our lambs for eight years for worm resistance on FEC with Techion group.Our aim is to breed a highly resistant White Dorper and Dorper maternal sheep that have been validated independently on SIL, FEC, and Ramtest programmes.We have now been on SIL for 8 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.

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 with WormFEC, . Foot scored 1 to 10 backed up with Lincoln University footrot test score and cold tolerance tests.

Our White Dorper flock has been completely closed to outside stock since late 2012. Our full White Dorper flock was fully tested for Dermatosparaxis in July 2013. All tests were clear. All rams are tested annually for brucellosis and are all clear. We don’t lease our rams because of disease risk.

Our basic aim is to breed a sheep which 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 keep them together on hill country so they can be rotationally grazed on hill country.

The average weight of our White Dorper ewes at mating is 60kgs liveweight.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 the 150 day stage by Chris Spark, accredited scanner.He also scans for skin thickness. 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,and run their sheep under tough commercial conditions and  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.