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Dorpers a good move

AMARULA DORPERS: Justin and Lorroi Kirkby at the Darling Downs Dorper field day.
AMARULA DORPERS: Justin and Lorroi Kirkby at the Darling Downs Dorper field day. Toni Somes

LORROI and Justin Kirkby's move into the Dorper industry started the way of all good adventures, during a backpacking trek through Africa more than a decade ago.

Today the young couple's Amarula Dorper and White Dorper stud at Moree is regaled as one of the best in the country.

The Bush Tele caught up with the two progressive young sheep breeders - she is a qualified veterinarian and he is am embryologist - during a Dorper information field day at Inglewood recently.

Good naturedly they shared the highs and lows of an agricultural venture, which started in 2000 when they returned to Australia, convinced Dorpers had a place in our meat, sheep industry.

"We were impressed by the breed so we bought seven stud ewes for $3000 each and of course one died within a month," Mr Kirkby explained.

But their luck and their Amarula stud has changed dramatically since.

Earlier this month one of their rams won the Supreme White Dorper Exhibit title at the prestigious 2012 National Dorper show and sale in Dubbo.

The young sire, Amarula White 110207, also claimed the junior and grand champion broad ribbon before taking out the overall title from more than 450 entries.

The Kirkbys' then went onto top the national auction with the $16,000 sale of their ram, Amarula White 110194.

The high priced ram boasts a serious show record having won the grand champion titles at the 2012 Sydney Royal and this year's Bendigo Sheep and Wool Show.

So with their credentials firmly established the couple explained to an avid Inglewood audience the benefits of the Dorper breed.

"Our main advice to producers getting into the Dorpers industry, is buy the best genetics you can afford," Mr Kirkby said.

At home on their Gravesend property, outside Moree, the couple run 500 stud Dorpers and a commercial Dorper flock of 1000 ewes, as well as 10 stud White Dorper ewes.

Mr Kirkby said they were committed to breeding highly productive sheep, which were high yielding with a moderate frame and exceptional fertility rates.

"We believe the hardiness and adaptability of the Dorper, as well as their low maintenance makes them the most viable self replacing meat sheep in the world," he said.

Yet they have made a conscious decision not to breed an "excessive" size animal.

"We are not looking for a big sheep: they are not grazing trees," Mr Kirkby said.

"We don't want a big sheep that takes a lot of feed to keep at that weight."

Ideally he said rams should tip the scales at between 80-100kg, while mature ewes could weigh between 60-70kg.

"Dorper lambs are born very tiny and they hit the ground and grow fast," Mr Kirkby said.

"Commercially we are breeding for 20kg carcasses.

"And we work on a live weight rule that four month old lambs weigh 40kg; five months 50kg and so on."

Mr Kirby stressed it was critical producers got the essentials right first.

"It sounds like common sense, but rams have to be masculine and ewes need to be feminine, especially in the head and you usually find if they have a good head the rest will follow."

Dorpers

Front: Well placed head and neck, straight legs, good shoulder placement, with brisket protruding at the front.

Middle: Long, well fleshed with a good spring of ribs.

Back: Good depth and structure.