You have sheep? I have begun to lose count how many times this question has been posed to Doug and I over the course of the last year. Doug grew up with sheep. Doug’s flock stemmed from a 4-H project and grew to over 100 ewes at its height. While Doug enjoyed tending to his flock, the market for wool and meat at the time did not outweigh the price of corn to feed the sheep. And so, Doug and his father sold their flock many years ago.
But, now our ranch is once again home to a flock. This time, we are raising Dorpers – a sheep known for its hardiness and carcass quality. Dorpers are a South African breed developed from crossing the Dorset Horn and the Blackhead Persian sheep. Because of their origin, the Dorper has a natural tolerance to heat and insects. Dorpers shed their wool, and so there is no need to shear and collect the wool. The Dorper has a black head and a white body, but there is also a White Dorper that is completely white.
We’ve had our Dorpers for a couple years now. Doug considers our flock to be a pleasant distraction from cattle; the sheep allow him to think of something else to mix up his days but also allows us to diversify our ranch.
We have a registered flock with the American Dorper Sheep Breeders’ Society and sell ewes, the females, and rams, the males, to other sheep producers across North Dakota and from other states. But, we also sell our sheep to families for meat. We consider caring for our sheep to be a privilege; we care for them to the best of our ability and give them respect as animals. But, as an animal, our sheep have a purpose to both be a productive animal for others’ flocks and a nourishing source of protein for others’ tables.
If you have never tried lamb before, I suggest you give it a try. Yes, the meat is different from beef, pork and chicken. But, all meat has its own flavor, so why not see what lamb tastes like? Here’s a helpful website for recipes and preparation tips: https://www.americanlamb.com. Who knows, maybe lamb will grace your family’s table for Christmas this year.