As the Australian Government responds to calls for greater restrictions, or in the worst case a total ban on the live export trade, Dorper producers should prepare their businesses to cope with possible outcomes that may result.
The good news for Dorper breeders is that they are in a strong position to transition into a new phase of lamb marketing and are breeding the perfect sheep to adapt to this possible change.
It is likely that we will see an increase in demand for lighter carcase weights, more in the 15 to 18 kilogram range, as processors look to fill gaps in the market with chilled boxed product for export.
Dorpers are known for their rapid early growth and producers should find it easy to hit this market straight off the mother. This may mean producers need to look at increasing ewe flock size to compensate for the reduction in lamb value; however, stocking rates will stay the same due to quicker turnover of lamb.
Other markets may arise as a result of any restriction to the live export trade. Export destinations such as Malaysia and the Middle East are already looking to use Dorpers in breeding programs to produce their own slaughter sheep. The demand from these markets for Australian Dorper breeding animals is likely to increase if the availability of Australian live export sheep for slaughter is reduced.
Dorper producers know they have the ability to produce a high quality, sought-after finished lamb product. Growers who don’t already finish their lambs for the local market may look at how they are going to finish them. For mixed grain and sheep farmers the live export trade is commonly used when conditions get tough and finishing lambs in the paddock is difficult.
It is likely these producers will need to look at setting up a small on-farm feedlot to maximise the value of their lamb and enable their business to get through the tough times. Pastoralists may need to look at setting up alliances with lotfeeders or finishing properties to cope with a possible change.
Strongly in the Dorper’s favour is that they are well known for being excellent feed converters and are strongly sought after in the feedlot industry for this reason. They prefer more roughage in their diet when intensively fed and have a reputation for not knowing when enough is enough, so should be carefully monitored and slowly introduced to a feedlot.
The DSSA is working hard on the Prime Dorper Lamb project and producers should rest, assured that they are growing the best possible lamb to deal with whatever changes lay ahead of the sheep market.