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If I don't live out west

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I wanted to pull this out of the "Ask an Expert" section because I thought it was an interesting point:


The best sheep that one can find in the east that can replicate the heaviness of the western variety, I think are dorpers.


My sheep have a good bit of dorper in them still (used a dorper ram for my first four years in this, then a 1/4 Dorper 3/4 BFL two more years). I've noticed that sheep that people say act like Western sheep, act like mine. I have a small farm though I graze bigger in the summer (use dogs on two hundred unfenced acres). My original stock was western ewe lambs brought here for a big trial - but that was ten years ago and just the other day I was thinking they couldn't still be harking back to that heritage!


It's always been my thought that what made western sheep the way they were, was the large operation systems of management, plus of course they use meatier breeds usually. You're saying if I cull out the dorper in favor of my BFL/Dorset/Texel blood, I'll get better behaving sheep?


This is one of those eternally fascinating nature versus nurture questions, I think. I hope we get some additional input here!


If that's true, does anyone want about 30 wool cross ewes to practice for western trials? I'll make you such a deal! :rolleyes:

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There are a variety of factors that make western range ewes.....breed (normally fine wool), management/shepherding (usually running in large bands in the thousands on open range) and survival techniques (related to fine wool breed and management system and experience surviving heavy predation). There is alot of variability amongst range ewes depending on the above factors. In general, you can count on strong flocking (another survival technique), unless splitting will defeat the dog....then they might split...or twitch, never taking a line.


I would have to disagree with the person that claims dorpers are the closest things to range ewes....dorpers are fat heavy pigs (my pardon is this offends any dorper lovers) that put their own pressures on dogs. "Heaviness" is only one of many survival techniques of the western range ewe....if it's hot and the dog hasn't earned their respect, then "heavy" might be the technique du jour. Western range ewes can also run like lightening.....the fastest sheep I've ever seen in my life were the range ewes at Soldier Hollow (much faster than any barbado you've ever seen)....at this same event, they could be heavy if that was what worked to defeat the dog. Range ewes can also "lean" on the dog that doesn't cover pressure or gives ground. They can also turn and face a dog that catches their eye (perhaps the dog came too far forward on the shoulder) or the ewes have sussed out the dog that has too much eye...or doesn't have the guts to walk on. They will split or twitch on the dog that doesn't have great balance.


I believe that more than any other thing (ie breed), the management environment (the open range) of the range ewe is what makes the range ewe....you can go buy range ewes and put them in your pasture, but after one tour around your field, they will cease to be range ewes.

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I believe that more than any other thing (ie breed), the management environment (the open range) of the range ewe is what makes the range ewe....you can go buy range ewes and put them in your pasture, but after one tour around your field, they will cease to become range ewes.


I'm in complete agreement with Elizabeth's summary here. I've set sheep for years for many great Western trials that have used range ewe flocks and it's the case 100% of the time that after the first day the ewes are accustomed to me, my dogs, and my setout partners and their dogs, and they are absolute cupcakes for us to handle. It's still a different story for the outrunning dogs because the prey-predator relationship exists at the point of the lift; but give me a sweet range ewe flock to manage up top any day!

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I got some range ewes about 2 years ago and for the first week, they were real pistols to work....they would huddle in a circle and then one would go out and try to smash the dog or they would run like wild deer, making any racehorse look slow. After about a month, they were good to work but VERY, VERY light and had a hair trigger.


My dogs learned a lot the first month, then it was like working light sheep. I sold them last year as what I got them for was not happening anymore




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I am in total agreement with Elizabeth and Amy.


A few years ago (I won't mention which year), the Blue Grass allowed the Texas sheep to be rerun one time for the first open trial. The scores for the 2nd half of the first trial were significantly higher than the scores for the first half. It never happened again at the Blue Grass. Each open entry has sheep that have never been dogged or down the field before.


This to me proves Elizabeth's statement. Once down the field and they are no longer range ewes.


I bring in fresh woolies every spring. They are great for the first month. After that only the weakest dogs have trouble with them. (Diane,I guess it took mine longer to dog down because I bought more sheep and didn't work them as often!)


From my limited experience with different breeds of sheep, I felt that dorpers I've had have "dog broke" quicker than most breeds.



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For what it's worth, I don't think the Dorpers I've worked have been anything like the range ewes out here. I think they are more "wool" ish than the average hair sheep but that's about it. Range ewes are basically wild animals and react accordingly. They are more willing to defend themselves than any average farm sheep. The only way I can think to express it is that they act to survive, whereas the average farm sheep seems to be acting in a way to keep from dying, if that makes any sense.

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