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The Dorset Breed

Named after the county of Dorset in England, the Dorset is one of the oldest and purest breeds in the British Isles. It was in the end of the 18th century when the breed became famous for accelerated lambing. It is said that centuries ago, Merino sheep were brought from Spain into southwest England and were crossed with a Welsh meat sheep, which produced the desirable all-purpose sheep with medium-soft wool and muscled carcasses of the Dorset. The breed became popular in the United States and Canada in the 1840s and Australia and New Zealand in the early 1900s. It was back in 1860s, when a gene mutation developed the Polled Dorset, which became the dominant type of Dorset sheep in the states by the 1950s. In the 1970s, the Dorset breed drastically changed again in the states, and two subgroups of Dorsets have emerged, the Show Dorset (created by using Columbiana blood to get the size that you see in show flocks) and the Production Dorset (which retained the true breed type traits of breeding, prolificacy, mothering abilities, milking capacity, and heavy muscling). Today, the Production Dorsets are easy-keeping sheep that produce lambs for all seasons and markets, making them one of the most versatile and popular breeds. It is one of the few dual purpose breeds. The ewes are excellent mothers, and the rams make great terminal sires.

Our Flock

We are a small scale sheep producer, raising purebred production Dorsets. We have two lambing groups, one in April and the other in October. We are working on developing our maternal, a-seasonal characteristics with a goal of easy care 210% lambing proficiency. Only fall lambs from multiples are used as replacement ewes.

Our flock is grass fed, managed by intensive grazing with high tensile woven wire serving as perimeter and solar powered electric fencing to subdivide for rotation. The pasture is being improved by lime and manure application and frost seeding. Careful soil testing avoids any over application of nitrogen, protecting water quality. For parasite management, the flock is rotated every two to three days. We purchase hay for winter forage which is funded through our agtourism events. A portable 500 gallon water tank on a wagon is the system used for watering. 

Ewes are maintained 2.5-3 lbs of good hay per day when not on pasture. Ewes receive a supplementary grain mix during the last months of pregnancy, throughout lactation, and during flushing (pre-breeding) as needed. The amount of grain mix fed depends on forage quality, ewe condition, and number of lambs that are being raised. Ewes are scanned to determine the number of lambs. Lambs, at two weeks, have access to supplemental grain mixture in a creep feeding area. Claiming pens (lambing jugs) in our barn are used for a few days after birth to insure sufficient bonding before using grouping pens. Due to our coyote and black vulture problems in the CVNP, we do not practice pasture lambing.

The flock is consistent in heavy muscling, early maturity, easy keeping, low maintenance, feed efficient, and natural out of season lambing. National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP) genetic and performance tracking is one of tools we use for reliable genetic evaluation to lift our productivity.

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We are importing semen for artificial insemination (AI) from this handsome ram from the Blackdown Flock on Great Garlandhayes Farm in Devon. He is scoring number 3 in the UK Signet. We have chosen this flock as it also has excellent maternal/a-seasonal characteristics.

Our Genetics

The Spicy Lamb Farm is enrolled in LambPlan via the National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP) where we keep records on Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) in order to quantify the genetic value of our ram and ewe lambs. We routinely collect other collect data using a stock recorder with electronic identification ear tags to record breeding, births, weights, treatments, movements, etc. This helps manage the productivity and health of our flock. We are constantly working on improving our genetics and have even followed our breed around the world to Australia, New Zealand, and England.