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Small Ruminant Research 36 (2000) 119±135

Productive performance of Dorper sheep

S.W.P. Cloetea, M.A. Snymanb,*, M.J. Herselmanb
Elsenburg Agricultural Development Centre, Private Bag X1, Elsenburg 7607, South Africa
Groo¯ontein Agricultural Development Institute, Private Bag X529, Middelburg 5900, South Africa


The Dorper is a hardy South African composite breed, derived from a cross between the Black-headed Persian and the
Dorset Horn. Dorpers are regarded as early-maturing, and ewes lambed at an age of 1 year in one study. Age at ®rst lambing
was higher in other literature sources cited. The fertility of Dorper ewes was approximately 0.90 ewes that lambed per ewe
mated, with a litter size ranging from 1.45 to 1.60. The gestation length of Dorper ewes was approximately 147 days, while
they were reported to start cycling as soon as 52 days after parturition. The pre-weaning survival of Dorper lambs was cited at
approximately 0.90. Overall reproduction rate of Dorpers ranged from 0.99 to 1.40 lambs weaned per ewe mated, while it
exceeded 1.40 lambs weaned per ewe mated per annum under accelerated mating conditions. Dorper lambs gained from 0.24
to 0.28 kg per day under vastly different environmental conditions. When weaned early at 2±3 months of age, post-weaning
gains in excess of 0.18±0.20 kg per day were recorded. At slaughter, Dorper lambs had dressing percentages of approximately
50%. Two divergent genotypes in the breed (with a hairy or a woolly ¯eece cover) were evaluated under natural pasture
conditions. No conclusive advantage in favour of either genotype could be demonstrated as far as productive traits were
concerned. It was concluded that the breed adapts well to a wide variety of environmental conditions. In view of the scarcity of
estimates of genetic parameters for the breed, the maintenance and expansion of datasets suitable for this purpose should
receive high priority. # 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Dorper sheep; Reproduction; Growth; Carcass traits; Genotypes

1. Introduction Horn (Campbell, 1989). The original crossings and

early history of the breed are documented well
The need for a sheep breed suitable for the produc- (Nel, 1993). The hardiness and adaptability of the
tion of slaughter lambs under the adverse conditions of Dorper led to a rapid increase in popularity (Marais
the arid, extensive regions of South Africa resulted in and Schoeman, 1990). Although exact Dorper
the formation of the Dorper breed in the early 1940s. numbers are not known, the non-wool sheep numbers
The founders of the new composite breed sought to in South Africa increased markedly from approxi-
combine the hardiness of the Black-headed Persian mately 4.5 million in the late 1960s to approximately
with the mutton production capability of the Dorset 7.0 million in the early 1990s (Abstract of Agricultural
Statistics, 1997). It is more than likely that an
Corresponding author. Tel.: ‡27-49-842 1113;
expansion in Dorper numbers greatly contributed to
fax: ‡27-49-842 4352. this increase, which was largely at the expense
E-mail address: (M.A. Snyman) of woolled sheep numbers (Fig. 1). The breed has

0921-4488/00/$ ± see front matter # 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
PII: S 0 9 2 1 - 4 4 8 8 ( 9 9 ) 0 0 1 5 6 - X
120 S.W.P. Cloete et al. / Small Ruminant Research 36 (2000) 119±135

Fig. 1. Changes in the numbers of wool and non-wool sheep in the South African National sheep ¯ock over time.

grown to be the second largest in South Africa, and the the estimates of parameters that were found in the
breeding stock have also been exported to other literature.
countries (Terblanche, 1979). Today Dorpers are
found throughout southern and central Africa, in the 2. Reproduction
desert areas of North Africa and the Middle East as
well as on other continents, namely Northern America 2.1. General
and Australia.
The Dorper is able to withstand dehydration and In a comprehensive survey involving data of 130
quickly replenish body weight losses when water Dorper farmers in the drier Karoo region of South
becomes available (Degen and Kam, 1992). This Africa and a total of 115 314 breeding ewes that were
capacity of Dorper sheep enables it to adapt to drier maintained under different managerial regimes, lambs
regions where the availability of water proves to be a born per ewe mated were estimated at 1.038 (Ack-
limitation. The breed also adapts to temperate regions, ermann, 1993). District means ranged from 0.924 in
and has been extensively used in accelerated mating Prieska to 1.123 in Calvinia. It was estimated that only
systems (Basson et al., 1969; Manyuchi et al., 1991; 36.1% of the respondents achieved lambing ®gures of
Schoeman and Burger, 1992). Dorper and Dorper 1.11 lambs born per ewe mated or higher. Given that
cross sheep were present on all the above average the production of lamb is the sole source of income in
sheep farms included in the survey of Stafford and a non-wool breed like the Dorper, it is evident that
Hansson (1991) in Zambia. reproduction needs to be maximized for maximum
Despite its popularity, scienti®c reports on Dorper economic returns. Little information is available for
sheep are scattered over a number of scienti®c and changes in the relative reproductive performance of
semi-scienti®c journals across the globe. Some of the South African national ¯ock over time, but given
these literature sources are not readily available for the increasing economic pressures on sheep farmers, it
all scientists. Moreover, estimates of the genetic para- is evident that reproduction should receive the neces-
meters in the Dorper sheep breed are scarce. This sary attention.
review attempts to present the bulk of information on This review focuses on various aspects of Dorper
the production of Dorpers, while it will also include reproduction, such as sexual maturity, oestrus, gesta-
S.W.P. Cloete et al. / Small Ruminant Research 36 (2000) 119±135 121

tion and post-partum anoestrus. The de®nitions used live weight of 45.9 kg (Basson et al., 1970). The
for the most commonly used reproductive parameters majority of ewe lambs that were born in winter (24/
will be presented at this stage, for ease of comprehen- 25ˆ0.96 of those available) conceived at an average
sion. age of 252 days and a live weight of 44.7 kg.
Dorper ewes lambed for the ®rst time at an average
 Ewe fertilityˆEwes that lambed per lambing
age of 346 days, compared to 363 days in Romanovs
(Greeff et al., 1988). Under an accelerated lambing
 Litter sizeˆLambs born per ewe that lambed
system, Schoeman and Burger (1992) found that
 Lamb survivalˆLambs weaned per lamb born
Dorper ewes lambed for the ®rst time at an average
 Overall reproduction rateˆLambs weaned per ewe
age of 19.6 months. The ewe fertility of 208 Dorper
mated (lambs weaned per ewe per annum, where
ewes mated to fertile rams at an age of 7 months was
applicable under accelerated lambing systems)
0.58 (Snyman, 1998; unpublished), with a litter size of
Overall reproduction rate is a function of the com- 1.16. Lamb survival averaged 0.79 and overall repro-
ponent traits, namely ewe fertility, litter size and lamb duction 0.53 in these ewes.
survival. As far as rams are concerned, it was demonstrated
that epididimal sperm concentrations of Dorper lambs
2.2. Sexual maturity rose markedly after an age of 140 days (Skinner,
1971). Mean sperm counts (109) were 0.1 at an
The Dorper is regarded as an early-maturing breed. age of 112 days, 0.2 at 140 days, 16.6 at 168 days,
In early work, Joubert (1962) reported that Dorset 27.9 at 196 days and 40.6 at 365 days. From this it is
HornPersian ewes attained puberty at 399.7 days, clear that Dorper ram lambs are capable of fertilizing
with a range between 195 and 872 days. Later work ewes from quite an early age.
reported substantially younger ages at ®rst oestrus.
Dorper maiden ewes exhibited their ®rst oestrus at an 2.3. Ewe fertility
age of 213 days and a live weight of 39 kg, while
Romanoff ewes were 228 days of age with a live Literature ®gures for ewe fertility are remarkably
weight of 28 kg at their ®rst oestrus (Greeff et al., consistent, being approximately 0.90 ewes lambed per
1988). Corresponding ®gures for Dorpers from the lambing opportunity in the majority of sources cited
study by Schoeman et al. (1993b) were an age of 8.14 (Table 1). Somewhat lower ®gures of respectively,
months and a live weight of 50.8 kg. Under an 8- 0.80 and 0.75, were reported in the studies of Pretorius
monthly breeding cycle, Dorper ewes born in the and Viljoen (1968) and Schoeman et al. (1993b). The
autumn were reported to conceive for the ®rst time majority of ®gures is, however, consistent with bar-
at their ®rst mating at an average age of 328 days and a renness percentages of approximately 6±7% reported

Table 1
Estimates of ewe fertility (ewes that lambed per ewe mated) in Dorper sheep, as reviewed in the literature (in a chronological order)

Estimate Diet Management Reference

0.83±0.91 Natural pasture Flushing treatments Coetzee (1964)

0.80 Natural pasture Flushing and super-ovulation Pretorius and Viljoen (1968)
0.91 Complete diet Accelerated lambing (8 months) Basson et al. (1969)
0.89 Natural pasture Accelerated lambing (8 months) Buitendag (1985)
0.97 Complete diet Accelerated lambing (8 months) Elias et al. (1985)
0.89 Natural pasture Annual lambing Cloete and De Villiers (1987)
0.81 Not given Annual lambing Eltawil and Narendran (1990)
0.90 Natural pasture Accelerated lambing (8 months) Manyuchi et al. (1991)
0.85 Irrigated pasture Accelerated lambing (8 months) Schoeman and Burger (1992)
0.92 Natural pasture Survey information Ackermann (1993)
0.75 Complete diet Accelerated lambing Schoeman et al. (1993b, 1995)
0.82 Natural Pasture Accelerated lambing (10 months) Van Niekerk (1998)
122 S.W.P. Cloete et al. / Small Ruminant Research 36 (2000) 119±135

for New Zealand Romney sheep (Dalton and Rae, breeds. Pretorius and Viljoen (1968) reported mean
1978). Ewe fertility of Dorpers compares favourably cycle lengths of 17.4 days for maiden Dorper ewes and
to ®gures quoted for Australian Merinos (Knight et al., 17.6 days for mature ewes. Corresponding values
1975; Plant, 1984; Jordan et al., 1989), as well as recorded by Elias et al. (1985) were 16.6 and 17.6
South African Merinos and Dohne Merinos (Fourie days, respectively. The mean oestrus cycle length of
and Cloete, 1993). Dorper ewes was reported at 17.8 days in a group of
Dorper ewes where a commercial semen diluent was
2.4. Qestrus cycle placed in each uterine horn by laparoscopy, while
control group ewes had a mean cycle length of 18.4
Dorset HornBlack-headed Persian ewes were days (Taljaard et al., 1991).
reported to have an oestrus cycle of 16.9 days (Joubert, The average duration of oestrus was 33.3 h for
1962). These ewes showed reduced seasonality com- Dorset HornBlack-headed Persian cross ewes and
pared to Merino ewes, which went into anoestrus for 1 25.2 h for Merino ewes (Joubert, 1962). Depending on
month of the year (October), with very limited sexual the interval between oestrus recordings (every 4, 8 or
activity in 3 more months. The mean annual number of 12 h), the duration of oestrus ranged from 28.0 to
oestrus cycles per ewe was 8.1 for Merinos and 16.6 35.1 h in Dorper ewes (Joubert and Louw, 1964). The
for the Dorset HornBlack-headed Persian cross. corresponding range in Dohne Merino ewes was 20.5±
Both Dorper and Dohne Merino ewes were found to 26.6 h. More oestrus periods commenced during
have a 17.3-day cycle in subsequent work (Joubert and nighttime than during daytime. In later work, the
Louw, 1964). Average cycle length of Dorper ewes average duration of oestrus was recorded at 36 h for
was similarly 17.3 days in the study of Boshoff et al. mature Dorper ewes and at 28 h for primiparous ewes
(1975). This study suggested that the Dorper was (Elias et al., 1985).
intermediate with regard to its seasonal expression
of oestrus activity. The Merino and Karakul were 2.5. Litter size
found to be more seasonal, while the Black-headed
Persian and the Namaqua Afrikaner were more a- Larger differences were observed between litera-
seasonal. The peak level of activity of Dorper ewes ture sources as far as litter size is concerned (Table 2).
was, however, found to be higher than in the other A number of sources quoted litter size ®gures of below

Table 2
Estimates of ewe litter size (lambs born per ewe that lambed) in Dorper sheep, as reviewed in the literature (in a chronological order)

Estimate Diet Management Reference

1.00±1.09 Natural pasture Flushing treatments Coetzee (1964)

1.39 Natural pasture Control: flushing and super-ovulation Pretorius and Viljoen (1968)
1.73 Complete diet Accelerated lambing (8 months) Basson et al. (1969)
1.49 Natural pasture Accelerated lambing (8 months) Buitendag (1985)
1.40 Complete diet Accelerated lambing (8 months) Elias et al. (1985)
1.59 Natural pasture Annual lambing Cloete and De Villiers (1987)
1.14 Not given Maiden ewes: accelerated lambing Greeff et al. (1988)
1.58 Not given Mature ewes: accelerated lambing Greeff et al. (1988)
1.48 Not given Annual lambing Eltawil and Narendran (1990)
1.50 Not given Annual lambing Greeff et al. (1990)
1.56 Natural pasture Accelerated lambing (Carnarvon) Badenhorst et al. (1991)
1.36 Natural pasture Accelerated lambing (Tarka) Badenhorst et al. (1991)
1.29 Natural pasture Accelerated lambing (8 months) Manyuchi et al. (1991)
1.41 Irrigated pasture Accelerated lambing (8 months) Schoeman and Burger (1992)
1.17 Natural pasture Survey information Ackermann (1993)
1.08 Complete diet Accelerated lambing Schoeman et al. (1993b, 1995)
1.43 Natural pasture Control: super-ovulation Erasmus et al. (1994)
1.24 Complete diet Accelerated lambing (10 months) Van Niekerk (1998)
S.W.P. Cloete et al. / Small Ruminant Research 36 (2000) 119±135 123

1.2, but the vast majority range from 1.45 to 1.60. ewes. In ewes subjected to natural service, a propor-
These ®gures compare favourably to ®gures reviewed tion of 0.475 of the potential embryos was recovered.
for New Zealand Romney ewes (Dalton and Rae, Natural service after the application of prostaglandin
1978), as well as Australian Merinos (Knight et al., F2a to the cervix of ewes resulted in a 0.668 recovery
1975; Jordan et al., 1989) and South African woolled rate. Surgical insemination by laparoscopy resulted in
breeds (Fourie and Cloete, 1993). In a study where a proportion of 0.933 of the potential embryos being
Dorpers were maintained together with Merinos and recovered.
Dohne Merinos, respective litter size ®gures of 1.73,
1.39 and 1.41 were obtained (Basson et al., 1969). 2.8. Gestation length
Litter size of Dorper ewes was affected by ewe age,
multiple birth rate increasing to an age of 4±6 years, The literature ®gures for the gestation length of
followed by a tendency towards a decline (Cloete and Dorper sheep are remarkably constant. Average ®g-
De Villiers, 1987; Schoeman and Burger, 1992). Ewes ures found in the literature included 146.5 days (Jou-
born as multiples had a higher litter size than single bert, 1962), 147.9 days (range 144±153 days; Joubert
contemporaries (Cloete and De Villiers, 1987; Schoe- and Louw, 1964) and 146.5 days (range 142±150 days;
man and Burger, 1992). The repeatability (estimated Van Niekerk and Mulder, 1965). Gestation length of
as the simple correlation between paired records) of Dorpers was consistently shorter than that of woolled
litter size in Dorper ewes was computed at 0.32 breeds when maintained together. Joubert and Louw
(Schoeman and Burger, 1992). (1964) reported a mean gestation length of 150.5 days
(range 148±154 days) for Dohne Merinos, while Van
2.6. Ovulation rate and embryo loss Niekerk and Mulder (1965) found a gestation length of
151.6 days (range 148±157 days) for Dohne Merinos
Dorper ewes had an ovulation rate of 1.50 and and 149.0 (range 145±154 days) for Merinos. In the
embryo losses of 0.66 in the study of Greeff et al. study of Elias et al. (1985), the length of gestation of
(1990). Corresponding ®gures for Romanov ewes Dorpers ranged from 146.2 to 147.7 days, depending
were 3.33 and 1.15. More research on this topic on ewe age, litter size and lamb sex. When maintained
appears to be warranted. in an accelerated lambing system, the slightly shorter
gestation length of Dorpers may facilitate earlier re-
2.7. Response of litter size and ovulation rate to breeding.
hormonal treatment As far as the time of commencement of parturition
was concerned, it was demonstrated that 60% of
Litter size responded to exogenous pregnant mare Dorper ewes started to lamb in the interval from
serum (PMS) in Dorpers. The administration of 500 or 06:00 to 18:00, while 40% of parturitions commenced
750 IU PMS elevated litter size from 1.39 to approxi- between 18:00 and 06:00 (Joubert and Louw, 1964).
mately 1.70 in the study of Pretorius and Viljoen
(1968), while 250 IU PMS did not produce any effect. 2.9. Post-partum anoestrus
Erasmus et al. (1994) similarly found that litter size
increased from 1.43 in control Dorper ewes to 1.60 in Cross-bred Dorset HornBlack-headed Persian
ewes receiving 250 IU PMS and 1.88 in ewes receiv- ewes were recorded to start cycling 51 days after
ing 500 IU PMS. Dorper ewes that were super-ovu- parturition on average, with a range of 2±149 days
lated with follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) had (Joubert, 1962). Post-partum anoestrus of Dorper ewes
18.2 corpora lutea compared to 6.7 corpora lutea in depended strongly on the lambing season, being
ewes super-ovulated with 1250 IU PMS (Van Zyl approximately 123 days for ewes lambing in winter
et al., 1987). Unovulated follicles amounted to, and spring, 89 days for ewes lambing in summer and
respectively, 3.0 and 4.1, on respective treatments. 62 days for ewes lambing in autumn (Joubert, 1972).
Only data of ewes that were super-ovulated with FSH Widely different feeding levels (0.10 kg digestible
were thus considered further, owing to the small protein and 14.6 MJ digestible energy vs. 0.05 kg
number of fertilized ova recovered from PMS treated digestible protein and 6.1 MJ digestible energy) dur-
124 S.W.P. Cloete et al. / Small Ruminant Research 36 (2000) 119±135

Table 3
Estimates of lamb survival (lambs weaned per lamb born) in Dorper sheep, as reviewed in the literature (in a chronological order)

Estimate Diet Management Reference

0.85 Natural pasture Control: flushing and super-ovulation Pretorius and Viljoen (1968)
0.88 Complete diet Accelerated lambing (8 months) Basson et al. (1969)
0.84 Complete diet Accelerated lambing Elias et al. (1985)
0.91 Natural pasture Annual lambing Cloete and De Villiers (1987)
0.78 Not given Multiples: accelerated lambing Greeff et al. (1988)
0.90 Natural pasture Accelerated lambing (8 months) Manyuchi et al. (1991)
0.94 Irrigated pasture Accelerated lambing (8 months) Schoeman and Burger (1992)
0.95 Natural pasture Survey information Ackermann (1993)
0.88 Natural pasture Accelerated lambing (10 months) Van Niekerk (1998)

ing lactation did not markedly affect these ®gures. compare favourably with overall levels of lamb mor-
Vosloo et al. (1969) previously indicated that feeding tality expected in sheep-producing systems, as
level (high, medium or low) failed to reduce post- reviewed in the literature (Dalton and Rae, 1978;
partum anoestrus in small groups of six Dorper ewes. Alexander, 1984; Plant, 1984; Jordan et al., 1989;
The treatments were chosen to result in respective live Haughey, 1991). Moreover, lamb survival was found
weights of 106, 92 and 70% at the weaning of their to be largely independent of known sources of varia-
lambs, relative to a live weight of 100% at the com- tion, including litter size (Cloete and De Villiers,
mencement of feeding. The post-partum interval to the 1987). The survival of lambs in the latter study was
®rst recorded ovulation was, however, reduced to 86 0.92 for singles, as compared to 0.90 for multiples.
days in ewes on the high treatment compared to 119 Corresponding ®gures from the study of Schoeman
and 124 days on the medium and low treatments. The and Burger (1992) were, respectively, 0.96 and 0.93.
inter-lambing interval of Dorper ewes ranged from 6.2
to 7.7 months (Elias et al., 1985). 2.11. Overall reproduction rate

2.10. Lamb survival Literature sources suggest that Dorper ewes are
capable of weaning 0.99±1.40 lambs per ewe mated
Overall levels of lamb survival in Dorper sheep are (Table 4). This level of performance can be maintained
comparatively high, with the majority of literature under harsh environmental conditions, on poor quality
®gures being approximately 0.90 (Table 3). Given a natural pastures. The breed also adapts very well to
litter size of 1.45±1.60 for Dorper ewes, these ®gures more intensive systems, achieving high overall repro-

Table 4
Overall reproduction rate (lambs weaned per ewe mated) in Dorper sheep, as reviewed in the literature (in a chronological order)

Estimate Diet Management Reference

1.48a Complete diet Accelerated lambing (8 months) Basson et al. (1969)

1.40 Natural pasture Accelerated lambing (8 months) Buitendag (1985)
1.13 Complete diet Accelerated lambing (8 months) Elias et al. (1985)
1.30 Natural pasture Annual lambing Cloete and De Villiers (1987)
1.52a Natural pasture Accelerated lambing (Carnarvon) Badenhorst et al. (1991)
1.54a Natural pasture Accelerated lambing (Tarka) Badenhorst et al. (1991)
0.99 Natural pasture Accelerated lambing (8 months) Manyuchi et al. (1991)
1.70* Different systems Survey information Stafford and Hansson (1991)
0.99 Natural pasture Survey information Ackermann (1993)
0.89 Natural pasture Accelerated lambing (10 months) Van Niekerk (1998)
Refers to the number of lambs weaned per ewe available per annum. The other estimates are based on the number of lambs weaned per
ewe mated.
S.W.P. Cloete et al. / Small Ruminant Research 36 (2000) 119±135 125

duction ®gures (1.48 lambs weaned per ewe per served an average of 19.7 times, with a range from
annum) under accelerated lambing systems (Table 4). 12 to 30 (Schoeman et al., 1987). The mean number of
It is of interest to note that accelerated mating under serves per ram per hour increased from 0.82 in
natural pasture conditions failed to improve reproduc- inexperienced rams to 1.6 and 2.9 serves per ram
tion conclusively above annual mating in experiments per hour in subsequent tests. The repeatability of
(Olivier et al., 1990; Coetzer et al., 1995). In the the number of serves ranged from 0.10 to 0.69
survey of Ackermann (1993), reproduction was, between tests. Serving capacity within tests was not
accordingly, not signi®cantly related to mating regime conclusively correlated to either live weight, testis
(continuous, annual or accelerated). measurements or plasma testosterone concentrations,
The repeatability of the number of lambs weaned although signi®cant (p<0.05) correlations were ob-
per ewe mated in Dorper ewes was estimated at 0.07 served in some instances.
(SEˆ0.03) by the intra-class correlation method
(Cloete and De Villiers, 1987). Selection in the current 3. Live weight and growth
¯ock should focus on the culling of ewes that failed to
rear a lamb, since ewes failing to rear a lamb at 2±3 3.1. General
years of age reared 0.150.02 fewer lambs in sub-
sequent years than contemporaries that reared least The performance recording schemes for South
one lamb. African mutton sheep emphasized weaning weight
at ca. 100 days and early growth as selection objec-
2.12. Longevity tives. Corrected 100-day live weight of Dorper ram
and ewe lambs participating in performance testing
Literature sources on the longevity of Dorper sheep (derived from data given by Campbell, 1989) showed
are scarce. Dorper ewes remained in the breeding ¯ock a steady improvement over years (Fig. 2). This incline
for an average of 4.7 seasons in Zimbabwe, while was probably mostly associated with an improved
Mutton Merino ewes had 5.6 productive seasons environment, and not necessarily genetic gains. Direct
(Manyuchi et al., 1991). The longer ¯ock life of the genetic responses to the selection for lamb weaning
Mutton Merino ewes in this study contributed to a weight of Dorpers on natural pastures were compara-
higher overall lamb yield, despite inferior perfor- tively slow in the only long-term selection experiment
mance per ewe mated. This is obviously a topic where that could be found in the literature (Neser et al.,
more information is required. 1995), amounting to 0.087 kg per year. An even
smaller gain was observed as far as maternal breeding
2.13. Male reproductive traits values were concerned (0.016 kg per year). A regime
of selection where ewe lambs were selected on wean-
Testicular weight and the diameter of the semini- ing weight under pasture conditions and the 20 best
ferous tubules of Dorper ram lambs markedly ram lambs on weaning weight and post-weaning
increased with age (Skinner, 1971). At an age of feedlot performance was found to be far less effective
365 days, testis weight averaged 303.8 g, epididymus for the genetic improvement of weaning weight than
weight averaged 54.1 g, and the diameter of the direct selection (Neser et al., 1995). Direct genetic
seminiferous tubules averaged 209.4 mm. The curvi- gains amounted to 0.030 kg per year, with no change
linear increase in testis size over time differed from a in maternal breeding values.
similar trend in Dohne Merinos (Schoeman and Com- This review will focus on lamb performance prior to
brink, 1987). This difference between breeds was weaning as well as post-weaning performance and
ascribed to maturity-type. Testis measurements (scro- mature live weight.
tal circumference, testis diameter and volume) were
highly repeatable (>0.63) in Dorper rams (Schoeman 3.2. Pre-weaning lamb performance
and Combrink, 1987).
When observed over a continuous 24 h period, 14 Data used for the compilation of this report were
young Dorper rams joined to 50 oestrous ewes obtained from a wide variety of sources, representing
126 S.W.P. Cloete et al. / Small Ruminant Research 36 (2000) 119±135

Fig. 2. Averaged adjusted 100-days live weight of ram and ewe Dorper lambs participating in performance testing in South Africa. Means
were interpolated for years in which no data were available.

widely different production systems in many cases. lambs is concerned (Table 5). It is therefore appro-
It is therefore not surprising that a large variation priate to rather concentrate on pre-weaning daily
was observed as far as weaning weight of Dorper gain of lambs. The vast majority of ®gures from the

Table 5
Estimates of lamb weaning weight and pre-weaning growth rate (average daily gain) in Dorper sheep, as reviewed in the literature (in a
chronological order)

Pre-weaning daily gain (kg per day) Weaning weight (kg)a Comment Reference

0.23±0.25 ± Docking trial on natural pasture Campbell and Bosman (1964)

0.23 24.7 (75) Complete diets Basson et al. (1970)
0.24±0.33 ± Natural pasture Pretorius (1970)
0.29 22.6 (77) Supplemented natural pasture Buitendag (1985)
0.27 41.3 (138) Natural pasture Cloete and De Villiers (1987)
± 22.1 (84) Not given Eltawil and Narendran (1990)
0.25 ± Natural pasture; Tarka Badenhorst et al. (1991)
0.21 ± Natural pasture; Carnarvon Badenhorst et al. (1991)
± 16.1 Natural pasture Inyangala et al. (1991)
± 16.4 Natural pasture Manyuchi et al. (1991)
± 28.0 (90) Various; survey information Stafford and Hansson (1991)
± 19.4 Natural pasture Inyangala et al. (1992)
0.26 18.2 (53) Cultivated pasture Schoeman and Burger (1992)
± 26.7 (100) Complete diets Schoeman et al. (1993b)
0.23±0.24 ± Super-ovulation trial on natural pasture Erasmus et al. (1994)
212 27.7 (117) Ewes on natural pasture; Namibia Van Niekerk (1998)
222 28.5 (117) Wethers on natural pasture; Namibia Van Niekerk (1998)
Weaning age is given in parentheses where available
S.W.P. Cloete et al. / Small Ruminant Research 36 (2000) 119±135 127

literature ranged from 0.24 to 0.28 kg per day. Given 3.3. Post-weaning performance
that the data were recorded under very extensive
conditions in some cases, this rate of gain can be When Dorper ewes are mated annually, it is usually
regarded as satisfactory. It also underlines the ability attempted to market lambs directly from the ewes.
of the Dorper breed to thrive under sub-optimal con- Under accelerated lambing systems, where early re-
ditions. breeding is a pre-requisite, it is necessary to subject
Dam age affected lamb pre-weaning gain in Dor- lambs to early weaning. Dorper lambs weaned at 2±3
pers, the general pattern being an incline to a dam age months subsequently grew at a rate of 0.230 kg per
of 4±6 years, followed by a decline (Cloete and De day, compared to growth rates of, respectively, 0.220
Villiers, 1987; Manyuchi et al., 1991; Schoeman and and 0.170 kg per day in Dohne Merino and Merino
Burger, 1992). Ram or wether lambs were heavier and/ lambs (Basson et al., 1970). Dorper lambs that were
or faster growing than ewes (Campbell, 1963; Cloete weaned at an average age of 52.8 days and an average
and De Villiers, 1987; Inyangala et al., 1991; Man- live weight of 18.2 kg, had a survival of 0.96 from
yuchi et al., 1991; Schoeman and Burger, 1992). Twin weaning to 100 days of age (Schoeman and Burger,
lambs were lighter and slower-gaining than singles 1992). Post-weaning growth in these lambs was
(Campbell, 1963; Cloete and De Villiers, 1987; Inyan- 0.206 kg per day to 100 days of age. Dorper lambs
gala et al., 1991; Manyuchi et al., 1991; Schoeman and that were weaned at 100 days gained 0.180 kg per day
Burger, 1992). The growth rate of multiples reared as from, approximately, 100±200 days, and 0.160 kg per
singles corresponded with that of singles in the study day from, approximately, 200±360 days of age
by Cloete and De Villiers (1987). Large differences (Schoeman et al., 1993a). Dorper lambs were reported
were, on the other hand, discernible in the study of to grow at 0.180 kg per day from birth to slaughter,
Manyuchi et al. (1991). Singles gained 0.255 kg per compared to 0.148 kg per day for Karakuls and
day, compared to 0.202 kg per day in twins reared as 0.150 kg per day for Damaras (Von Seydlitz, 1996).
singles and 0.148 kg per day in lambs born and reared During of®cial post-weaning growth tests on nat-
as twins. ural pasture, Dorper rams grew at 0.160 kg per day
Estimates of heritability for pre-weaning perfor- (Campbell, 1989). Comparable ®gures for other inter-
mance of Dorper lambs are scarce. The heritability nationally known breeds were: Suffolk ± 0.176 kg per
of weaning weight was initially estimated at 0.25 by day; Hampshire ± 0.144 kg per day; Ile de France ±
parent-offspring regression (Campbell, 1974). The 0.158 kg per day; Corriedale ± 0.164 kg per day.
corresponding paternal half-sib heritability estimate Average live weights of South African Dorpers at 6
in a combined dataset of Dorper and Red Maasai months were 54.6 kg for rams and 47.8 kg for ewes
lambs was 0.18 (Inyangala et al., 1990). Later analyses (Campbell, 1989). Corresponding weights at approxi-
allowed the partitioning of genetic effects into direct mately 11 months were, respectively, 80.0 and
additive and maternal components (Neser et al., 1995). 65.2 kg. These ®gures were substantially higher than
Direct additive effects amounted to between 0.11 and those of Inyangala et al. (1991, 1992) for Dorper sheep
0.30 for the three lines included in the analysis of the in Kenya, being respectively, 21.1 and 24.5 kg at 6
latter authors, when expressed as a proportion of the months, as well as 33.7 and 36.5 kg at 12 months.
overall phenotypic variance. Maternal effects corre- The ef®ciency of fat and protein deposition in
spondingly accounted for between 0.07 and 0.20 of the growing Dorper sheep (Marais et al., 1991a), as well
overall phenotypic variance. as compensatory growth (Marais et al., 1991b) were
Accurate estimates of genetic and environ- also studied. The sources cited can be consulted for
mental correlations for growth traits in Dorpers are further information in this regard.
scarce in the literature. Early work reported pheno-
typic relationships, usable for the prediction of wean- 3.4. Mature ewe body weight
ing weight in the current generation (Campbell,
1963, 1972; Campbell and Erasmus, 1967). These In most instances, ewe mature body weight was
literature sources can be consulted for further infor- recorded at mating. Dorper ewes reached a mature
mation. body weight of 72.3 kg when mated annually under
128 S.W.P. Cloete et al. / Small Ruminant Research 36 (2000) 119±135

natural pasture conditions (Cloete and De Villiers, in a small number of Dorpers ewes (Campbell, 1963).
1987). Ewes maintained under accelerated lambing This aspect warrants further attention.
systems were reported to be somewhat lighter; 57.7 kg
in the study of Greeff et al. (1988) and 61.3 kg in the
study of Schoeman and Burger (1992). Pre-partum 5. Milk traits
body weight of Dorper ewes in Egypt was 76.9 kg
(Eltawil and Narendran, 1990). In the study of Man- In early work, Bonsma (1944a) reported an average
yuchi et al. (1991), Dorper ewes weighed 51.6 kg after milk production of 1.22 kg per day over 77 days for 43
the birth of their lambs and 50.5 kg when their lambs lactations of Dorset HornBlack-headed Persian
were weaned. Ewes maintained on the Tarka experi- ewes. The corresponding milk yields of purebred
mental farm and mated two times per year weighed Black-headed Persian and Merino ewes were, respec-
69.8 kg at joining (Snyman, 1998 ± unpublished). The tively, 0.40 and 0.75 kg per day. Further work related
corresponding live weight recorded at the Carnarvon milk yield ®gures to early lamb growth (Bonsma,
experimental farm was 62.9 kg. 1944b). By regarding pre-weaning lamb growth
Reproduction was affected by pre-joining live (Table 5) as an indication of milk production, it can
weight of ewes in the study of Cloete and De Villiers be deducted that present-day Dorper ewes are able to
(1987), where annual lambing was practised. This provide adequate nourishment for their progeny. The
relationship was stronger in young ewes (2 and 3 butterfat content of milk produced by Dorper ewes
years of age) than in older ewes. No relationship declined with 0.051% per day of lactation from 10 to
between pre-joining live weight and litter size was 40 days post-partum (Schoeman et al., 1993b). After
found when Dorper sheep were subjected to an accel- 10 days in lactation, ewes produced milk with a
erated mating regime (Schoeman and Burger, 1992). butterfat content of 7.1%. The corresponding ®gure
The repeatability of pre-joining live weight in Dorper after 40 days was 5.5%. On average, Dorper milk
ewes was estimated at 0.45 (Cloete and De Villiers, contained 5.6% protein and 4.6% lactose (Le Roux,
1987). 1969). Milk obtained from DorperBlack-headed
Persian ewes was slightly higher in protein and
lactose, 5.9 and 4.9%, respectively. Milk protein
4. Wool production responded to supplementation with cottonseed meal
in Dorper ewes, being 5.4% on the control diet and
The Dorper is regarded as a non-wool breed, and 5.9% on the cottonseed meal diet.
commercial wool production does not form part of the
selection strategies employed in the breed. The nature
of the ¯eece cover is, however, regarded by some as 6. The production of lamb
important, as will be indicated later. Dorper ewes
were, nevertheless, reported to produce 0.66 kg of Lamb production is de®ned as total weight of
greasy wool over an 8-month period, with a clean lamb weaned, which can be computed as overall
yield of 64.3% (Basson et al., 1969). These ®gures reproduction multiplied by lamb-weaning weight
gave a clean wool production of 0.42 kg per ewe. The (Snyman et al., 1998). Dorper ewes are capable of a
relative wool production of Merino ewes under the good overall reproduction rate (Table 4), while Dorper
same conditions amounted to 5.3 kg greasy wool, lambs grow well under divergent conditions (Table 5).
58.5% clean yield and 3.1 kg clean wool. Correspond- It is thus clear that the breed should be able to maintain
ing ®gures for Dohne Merino ewes were 4.1 kg, 52.4% lamb production at acceptable levels. When run
and 2.1 kg, respectively. Dorper ewes that were mated together with woolled sheep breeds, Dorper ewes
two times a year, produced 0.41 kg of greasy wool per had a distinct advantage in terms of lamb production.
year at the Tarka experimental farm (Snyman, 1998 ± Under accelerated mating conditions, Dorper ewes
unpublished). weaned 39.7 kg of lamb per ewe per year, compared
The phenotypic relationship of maternal ¯eece to 25.5 in Dohne Merinos and 21.2 in Merinos (Basson
weight with progeny growth was negative (rˆÿ0.29) et al., 1969). When data recorded on two localities
S.W.P. Cloete et al. / Small Ruminant Research 36 (2000) 119±135 129

(Carnarvon and Tarka) were combined, Dorper ewes and 22 kg. Dorper lambs tend to put on more localised
weaned 48.0 (SEˆ1.4) kg of lamb per ewe on a yearly fat at an earlier age and therefore at lower live weights
basis, compared to 43.21.4 in Afrinos and 22.31.5 than later maturing breeds. This is especially true
in Merinos (Snyman, 1998 ± unpublished). In a Saudi under intensive or favourable environmental condi-
Arabian study, Dorper ewes also compared favourably tions, where Dorper lambs are slaughtered at lower
with indigenous fat-tailed hair breeds (Eltawil and live weights (32±35 kg) to avoid the carcasses being
Narendran, 1990). Lamb production averaged 19.5 kg classi®ed as too fat. The later-maturing breeds have
in Nadji ewes, 19.7 kg in Awassi ewes, 16.9 kg in the advantage of producing carcasses with optimal fat
Harri ewes and 20.4 kg in Dorper ewes. When related thickness and distribution at a heavier live weight.
to post-partum ewe weights, the smaller Harri ewes When slaughtered at a ®xed age, Dorper lambs
were regarded as being the most ef®cient of the four reached slaughter weight earlier than woolled breeds.
breeds, with only minor differences between the other Dorper lambs reached a slaughter weight of 33.6 kg at
genotypes. an age of 131 days, compared to 137 days for Dohne
Merinos and 176 days for Merinos (Basson et al.,
1970). Snyman (1998 ± unpublished), accordingly
7. Slaughter traits found that Dorper lambs reached a slaughter weight
of approximately 41 kg at 169 days of age, compared
7.1. Slaughter weight and age to 191 days in Afrinos and 339 days in Merinos. It is
important to remember that marketing age is depen-
Dorper sheep are regarded as early-maturing and dent upon a combination of live weight and body
therefore they tend to put on fat at an early age. What condition (fat depth and distribution). Differences in
is most obvious from Table 6, is the fact that slaughter slaughter age reported by different authors in Table 6
weight was around 30±33 kg in earlier studies (Basson can be ascribed to different environments and lambing
et al., 1970; Pretorius, 1970; Terblanche et al., 1973). systems. For example, results of Snyman et al. (1996)
In later studies, lambs were slaughtered nearer to and Snyman (1998 ± unpublished) were based on data
40 kg live weight (Brand, 1992; Snyman et al., from surplus ewe and culled ram lambs raised under
1996; Snyman, 1998 ± unpublished). This trend could extensive conditions. Where Dorper, Afrino and Mer-
be ascribed to selection within the breed for increased ino lambs were compared (Snyman, 1998 ± unpub-
growth performance and against fat localization, lished), lambs born at two locations and in two seasons
resulting in a tendency towards a `drier' type (Nel, were included. Lamb data analysed by Brand (1992)
1993; Campbell, 1995). and Van Niekerk and Steenkamp (1995) were, respec-
In South Africa, price premiums were paid for the tively, collected under natural pasture and feedlot
highest grade lamb carcasses weighing between 18 conditions.

Table 6
Slaughter traits, dressing percentage and grading of Dorper lamb carcasses

Slaughter Dressing Percentage (%) Highest grade (%) Reference

Weight (kg) Age (days)

33.6 131 51.7 82.0 Basson et al. (1970)

31.0 92±125 50.1±52.6 56±79 Pretorius (1970)
32.0 136±238 47.0±50.2 ± Terblanche et al. (1973)
± ± ± 44±46 Boshoff (1986)
45.0 150 48.9±51.6 ± Brand (1992)
± ± 49.9±52.1 ± Strydom et al. (1995)
25±40 ± 40.7±51.1 ± Van Niekerk and Steenkamp (1995)
42.0 294 48.5 ± Snyman et al. (1996)
40.0 245 50.5 ± Snyman (1998 ± unpublished)
41.0 169 48.8 35.8 Snyman (1998 ± unpublished)
130 S.W.P. Cloete et al. / Small Ruminant Research 36 (2000) 119±135

Table 7
Measurements recorded on Dorper lamb carcasses

Carcass length (cm) Hind leg measurementsa (cm) Fat depth measurementsa (mm) Reference

Circum-ference Length V1 V3 V5

± ± ± ± 3.3±5.6 ± Brand (1992)

90±103 ± 32±37 3.5±12.8 ± 1.0±5.8 Van Niekerk and Steenkamp (1995)
105 69 35 7.4 5.6 1.1 Snyman et al. (1996)
107 71 37 6.8 5.9 1.4 Snyman (1998 ± unpublished)
103 70 34 5.7 4.2 3.0 Snyman (1998 ± unpublished)
De®nitions: V1±Fat depth between the 3rd and 4th scaral vertebrae, 25 mm from the midline; V3±Fat depth between the 3rd and 4th
lumbal vertebrae, 25 mm from the midline; V5±Fat depth between the 9rd and 10th rib, 25 mm from the midline.

The advantage of Dorper lambs being marketed at could most probably account for differences obtained
an earlier age is that more ewes can be kept per hectare between these two studies. Earlier work (Basson et al.,
than ewes belonging to breeds with a similar lambing 1970; Pretorius, 1970) recorded much higher percen-
performance but a later marketing age of lambs (Sny- tages of lambs being awarded the highest grade. This
man, 1998 ± unpublished). could most probably be ascribed to the different
classi®cation systems being in place.
7.2. Dressing percentage and carcass traits
7.3. Properties of lamb produced from Dorpers
Dressing percentages of Dorper lambs reported in
the literature (Table 6) are relatively constant at Studies in which various carcass quality traits, such
approximately 50% for a wide range of conditions. as muscle:bone:fat ratios among cuts, as well as traits
According to Van Niekerk and Steenkamp (1995), such as ageing ability, palatability, tenderness, aroma,
dressing percentage increased with slaughter age of etc. of Dorper lamb were evaluated, are available in
lambs from approximately 40% when slaughtered at the literature (Webb et al., 1991; Casey, 1992; Webb
25 kg live weight to approximately 50% when slaugh- and Casey, 1992; Webb et al., 1994a,b; Strydom et al.,
tered at a live weight of 40 kg. Dorper lambs generally 1995; Von Seydlitz, 1996), and will not be elaborated
had higher dressing percentages than woolled breeds upon further.
in all available comparative studies (Basson et al.,
1970; Pretorius, 1970; Brand, 1992). 8. Skins
Carcass measurements reported since 1992 are
summarised in Table 7. These can unfortunately not Dorper skins, known as glover skins, are highly
be compared to earlier measurements (Pretorius, regarded and sought after for processing into clothing
1970; Terblanche et al., 1973) due to different meth- leather (Terblanche, 1979). The leather quality of
ods of assessment. The V3±fat depth measurement these skins is, however, poorly documented. Results
(see Table 7 for de®nition) was used from 1981/1982 of a study in which skins of 10 South African sheep
till 1994 to classify carcasses into various classes. breeds were evaluated for leather properties, indicated
Super was the top grade (V3ˆ 4±7 mm), followed by that Dorper skins were superior to woolled sheep
Grade 1 (too lean) and Grade 2 (too fat). Classi®cation skins, while they compared favourably with skins of
of Dorper lamb carcasses (44±46% being awarded the the different indigenous hair sheep breeds (Snyman
highest grade) slaughtered during 1983±1985 at the and Jackson-Moss, 1998).
major SA abbatoirs (Boshoff, 1986; Table 6) compares
well with results obtained on the Carnarvon experi- 9. Genotypes within the Dorper breed
mental station, where 36% of the carcasses achieved
the highest grade (Snyman, 1998 ± unpublished; Table Animals within the Dorper breed are classi®ed into
6). Seasonal variation in environmental conditions different types, mainly according to their ¯eece cover
S.W.P. Cloete et al. / Small Ruminant Research 36 (2000) 119±135 131

Table 8
Mean (SE, where applicable) live weight and reproductive performance recorded for hair and wool Dorper ewes under extensive conditions

Trait Line

Hair Wool
Pre-mating live weight (kg) 55.3 (0.8) 53.8 (0.8)
Ewe fertility (ewes lambed per ewe mated) 0.85 0.82
Litter size (lambs born per ewe lambed) 1.54 1.54
Lamb survival (lambs weaned per lamb born) 0.91 0.91
Reproduction rate (lambs weaned per ewe mated) 1.20 1.16
Weight of lamb weaned per ewe mated (kg) 33.0 (0.9) 31.5 (0.9)

(Campbell, 1989). These types are a hair-type and a at the Carnarvon experimental station. All ewes
wool-type, with an intermediate (hair±wool)-type were hand-mated once a year during autumn and
between them. Several perceptions as to the produc- complete pedigree and performance records were
tive and reproductive potential of these types exist kept. Young ewes were mated for the ®rst time at 7
among breeders and farmers, with very limited scien- months of age. There were no signi®cant differences
ti®c evidence to verify it. Studies comparing these between hair- and wool-type ewes with regard to any
types have therefore been done recently, in order to of the reproduction parameters (Table 8). It is further
substantiate these perceptions (Van Niekerk and interesting to note that these ®gures correspond very
Steenkamp, 1995; Snyman, 1998 ± unpublished). In well with other literature estimates summarised in
the former study, growth and carcass traits were Tables 1±4.
evaluated under intensive conditions. The ef®ciency
of production of hair- and wool-type Dorpers were 9.2. Growth and conformation traits of hair- and
evaluated under extensive conditions in the study of wool-type Dorper lambs
Snyman (1998 ± unpublished).
The growth performance till weaning of hair- and
9.1. Reproductive performance of hair- and wool- wool-type Dorper lambs born and raised under exten-
type Dorper ewes sive conditions (Snyman, 1998 ± unpublished) is
compared in Table 9. It is obvious that (as was the
Snyman (1998 ± unpublished) maintained 110 hair- case with reproduction) there were no differences
and 110 wool-type ewes under extensive conditions between types with regard to live weight and growth

Table 9
Mean (SE) growth performance and ¯eece cover of hair and wool type Dorper lambs under extensive conditions

Trait Ram lambs Ewe lambs

Hair line Wool line Hair line Wool line

Live weight (kg) at:

42 days 16.3 (0.1) 16.2 (0.1) 15.2 (0.1) 15.2 (0.1)
100 days 31.3 (0.2) 31.1 (0.2) 28.6 (0.2) 28.8 (0.2)
Fleece covera at:
Birthb 9.3 (0.4) 23.1 (0.4) 9.4 (0.4) 22.1 (0.4)
Weaningb 8.9 (0.4) 23.3 (0.4) 8.5 (0.4) 21.9 (0.4)
Condition score at weaning 27.0 (0.3) 27.0 (0.3) 29.0 (0.3) 29.0 (0.3)
Growth rate (kg per day) 0.265 (0.002) 0.263 (0.002) 0.242 (0.002) 0.242 (0.002)
Fleece cover and condition score were assessed on a linear scale ranging from 1 to 50.
Signi®cant differences between hair lambs and wool lambs within the same sex (p<0.0001).
132 S.W.P. Cloete et al. / Small Ruminant Research 36 (2000) 119±135

Table 10
Carcass measurements of wool and hair type Dorper lambs slaughtered at approximately 40 kg live weight

Trait Snyman (1998 ± unpublished) Van Niekerk and Steenkamp (1995)

Hair lambs Wool lambs Hair lambs Wool lambs

Number of observations 156 106 12 12

Carcass weight (kg) 19.2a (0.1) 19.7 (0.2) 20.2 19.3
Dressing percentage (%) 49.9a (0.4) 51.2 (0.4) 51.1 48.7
Slaughter age (days) 242 (5) 251 (6) ± ±
Carcass length (cm) 105.8a (0.4) 107.2 (0.5) 102.3 101.5
Hind leg length (cm) 36.3a (0.2) 40.0 (0.3) 35.7 37.3
Fat depth (mm)b:
V1 6.6 (0.4) 7.0 (0.4) 12.8 8.4
V3 5.8 (0.3) 6.0 (0.4) 5.7 5.5
V5 1.4 (0.1) 1.4 (0.1) ± ±
Signi®cant (p<0.01) differences between hair and wool lambs (Snyman, 1998 ± unpublished).
De®nitions: V1±Fat depth between the 3rd and 4th sacral vertebrae, 25 mm from the midline; V3±Fat depth between the 3rd and 4th
lumbal vertebrae, 25 mm from the midline; V5±Fat depth between the 9rd and 10th rib, 25 mm from the midline.

traits. The ®gures also accorded very well with the fat measurements, no signi®cant differences were
literature estimates in Table 5. observed between groups in either study. As grading
is based primarily on V3 fat measurements, it is clear
that no substantial differences occurred between types
9.3. Carcass and skin traits of hair- and wool-type (Table 10).
Dorper lambs The skins from hair Dorpers were slightly better
than skins from wool Dorpers as far as some leather
Data from two studies comparing carcass traits of quality parameters were concerned (Snyman and Jack-
hair and wool Dorper lambs are available. In the ®rst son-Moss, 1998).
study, hair-, wool- and hair±wool-type lambs were
kept under intensive feedlot conditions from weaning
and slaughtered at either 25, 30, 35 or 40 kg live 10. Conclusions
weight (Van Niekerk and Steenkamp, 1995). In the
other study, surplus hair- and wool-type lambs born This review has shown that the Dorper is an adap-
and raised under extensive conditions (Snyman, 1998 table sheep breed, capable of maintaining acceptable
± unpublished) were slaughtered at approximately levels of production under a wide variety of condi-
40 kg live weight. Full carcass measurements, as tions. There is clearly a lack of information on some
described by Bruwer (1984), were taken in both trials. aspects of Dorper production, including studies on
For the purpose of this review, only results from lambs ovulation rate, embryo survival as well as skin and pelt
slaughtered at 40 kg live weight were included as far production. Moreover, the lack of genetic and envir-
as the study of Van Niekerk and Steenkamp (1995) onmental parameters for Dorper sheep under different
was concerned. production systems is alarming. It is thus impossible to
The dressing percentage of wool lambs was higher formulate a breeding plan based on scienti®c data at
than that of hair lambs in the study of Snyman (1998 ± present. The judicious recording of production in
unpublished). The opposite trend, albeit non-signi®- experimental and commercial Dorper ¯ocks should
cant, was observed in the study of Van Niekerk and thus receive high priority. Data obtained in this man-
Steenkamp (1995). Carcass length and the length of ner should be subjected to rigorous statistical evalua-
the hind leg were longer in wool than hair lambs in tion, to assist in the formulation of well-de®ned
the former study, which accorded with the study of selection objectives in a scienti®c breeding plan for
Van Niekerk and Steenkamp (1995). With regard to the Dorper breed.
S.W.P. Cloete et al. / Small Ruminant Research 36 (2000) 119±135 133

Acknowledgements Campbell, Q.P., 1989. Make money with mutton sheep. Cedar
printing and silkscreening, P.O. Box 2881, North End 6056,
South Africa.
We wish to acknowledge the assistance of collea- Campbell, Q.P., 1995. Factors in¯uencing the functional ef®ciency
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