COMMERCIAL Dohne breeder Will McClenaghan has had plenty of exposure to the sheep industry growing up in the New England region but an introduction to the Dohne breed more than 15 years ago has changed the way he operates.
The shift has led to a more versatile production from his 400-hectare property Balaclava, Armidale.
Mr McClenaghan started sourcing genetics from Dohne studs in the New England area as well as Western Australia to build his Dohne flock, which is run alongside is ultrafine Merino operation, Angel fleece, a joint venture with Tim Robertson.
"The addition of the Dohnes was good timing because we tested all our Merino ewes for wool characteristics and joined the broadest to the Dohne rams," said Mr McClenaghan.
"At the same time we used AI (artificial insemination) and embryo transfer in both breeding enterprises - to breed Dohnes with good frames and excellent wool characteristics and to achieve the best wool possible from the ultrafine Merinos."
When circumstances led Mr McClenaghan to downsize, his involvement with ultrafine Merinos, as it was a limited a market, which made him focus on the Dohnes.
Considering their ability to sustain weight and wool cut, I'm very happy.
"I decided to stick to running commercial Dohne ewes at Balaclava as I believed this enterprise would provide more room for versatility. They allowed me to produce both wool and as well as easily marketable lambs, and as a wool man at heart, being able to achieve the combination is great.
"The ultrafine sheep required more work, both with husbandry and particularly wool preparation."
As better grazers and more robust, fertile sheep, Dohnes withstood the region's particularly bad drought year in 2019.
Usually running up to 1000 ewes, Mr McClenaghan is currently managing 750 and is happy with their results.
"The ewes are sitting at 70 to 80kg liveweight and cut about 4kg of 18.5-micron wool that usually sells between 1000 to 1200 cents per kilogram," he said.
"We can turn off lambs around 50kg at prices up to $160, so considering their ability to sustain weight and wool cut, I'm very happy."