PLENTY of people might associate being a sheep farmer as hard work, but for Jenny and Paul Wilcox it's a breeze.
The couple run "Gwendoline", Springdale, and they say their focus on ease of care with their relatively small, but profitable Dorper sheep flock fits perfectly with their self-sufficient farming lifestyle.
Through their family they had previously had some exposure to Merinos, but when it came to stocking their own farm the adaptability and ease of care of the Dorpers caught their eye.
On their 160 hectares they run a 300 head ewe flock.
"We don't have to shear, we don't have to crutch, or treat lice," Mrs Wilcox said.
"All we have to do with the Dorpers is drench, vaccinate, mark the lambs and check their feet occasionally."
Mrs Wilcox said they had a consistent contract with an abattoir which sold into the Middle East.
This allows them to drop their lambs at any time of the year and they presently have a lambing rate of about 110 per cent.
"Lambs are ready to go to market at four to five months weighing about 40 kilograms which is maximum weight for Dorpers," she said.
"Basically we can drop (the lambs) on a Thursday night and (the meat) is in Saudi Arabia by Sunday.
"If we had more our buyer would take them and if we could produce more we would."
Mrs Wilcox said currently 95 per cent of their lambs at slaughter were scoring a 2 fat score and producing a carcase yield of 65 per cent.
"Whatever the market price is, that is what we return," she said.
"We have got one transport fee and that is the registration on our own truck."
She said because they didn't sell through the saleyard system or an agent they didn't pay commission.
With no set joining the Wilcoxes run their rams with their ewes for 12 months of the year.
Even if the ewes still have a lamb on them Mrs Wilcox said the rams would come back in and join again when the lamb szs three months old.
Moving to Spingdale, near Temora, for a tree change, the couple agree it was a lifestyle perfectly suited to them and the Dorper breed fits their plans entirely.
Mr Wilcox has a rare form of cancer and is currently going through treatment.
"This is where the Dorpers have really come into their own,"Mrs Wilcox said.
"I am trying to look after both the farm and Paul.
"We can pull them in every six weeks, check their feet, mark any lambs that have dropped and do any vaccinating or drenching that needs to be done."
The Wilcoxes practise all-natural mating with no artificial breeding used.
"Because we are continually breeding I don't want to stress them more than that," Mrs Wilcox said.
The couple believe they have the quality rather than the quantity and say all of the "girls" complement each other perfectly.
Suited perfectly to native Australia
AN ANNUAL rainfall of less than 600 millimetres annually paired with a low maintenance Dorper sheep are the perfect combination at Jenny and Paul Wilcox’s property, “Gwendoline”, at Springdale, near Temora.
“The Dorper is suited to drier, arid conditions,” Mr Wilcox said.
“They are suited perfectly to the Springdale climate and do well off our 160 hectares of native pastures.
“Anything that will go up into the bush, which is completely native up there, (in their undulating country) survive and actually thrive and give me value for money is a good thing.” With the Dorper able to handle poorer conditions their 300-plus head of livestock are all run on native pastures.
“To finish them we put them on the 25ha of native bush – on the
wattles and grevilleas,” Mrs Wilcox said.
“Because these are high in protein it strips the fat and bulks the meat up – and it doesn’t cost us anything to finish them.”
Mrs Wilcox said they were a hardy, low maintenance breed that fitted their native pastures and climate perfectly.