Dear Dorper Friends,
The rains have come to West Texas and we are blessed at the moment. We are anticipating fall lambs soon and our online sale the first week of October. 2017 has had its ups and downs and we are looking forward to seeing what is in store for us for the balance of the year. One interesting non-sheep related issue is that I am featured in a major upcoming documentary about hunting. It is called Trophy and it is a very controversial film about the many facets of the hunting industry around the world. It will premier in New York and Los Angeles in theaters September 8th then across the country. I have been traveling across the country to film screenings to explain conservation, hunting, and wildlife management to audiences that well let's say are less than enthused about hunting!
Here is the trailer:
The docking of sheep tails has been "in the news" so to speak lately. Although the practice is thousands of years old the docking of sheep tails is now controversial. There are always people wanting to force others to do things the way they see them. This is especially true when it comes to the animal welfare crowd. That said I do believe we should evaluate from time to time how we raise our sheep. I for one do not mind docking tails and if done correctly it is not detrimental to the sheep's health. Our Dorper sheep do look particluarly nice with a properly docked tail. The issue that I believe is at hand concerns the extreme or club lamb docks that are surgically done. These ultra short docks over time actually look really unnatural and I personally detest them. Many of these sheep will prolapse if they get a cough or are fed to long.
I have stopped docking all my commercial ewes. I have found that they are healthier, breed more regularly, and especially maintain body condition much better than docked ewes. I began this a few years ago on the advice of my good friend Pieter van Schalkwyk from Africa. He had years of records to prove that undocked ewes outperformed docked ewes in most every way possible. Less work and more money who can be against that? I'm not quite ready to stop docking my registered sheep but who knows there may come a day!
So what should we do about it? Should we seek legislation to stop tail docking? Should our sheep shows begin an enforcement mechanism? I for one would like to see extreme docks thrown out of all of our show and sales. This would send a message that we are not against docking but we will not tolerate club lamb, surgical docks in the Dorper world!
I must say the recently completed Sheep & Goat Expo in San Angelo was THE turning point for Dorper Sheep as an industry. The reason I say this is because with 250 attendees and options for wool sheep, goats, club lambs, and hair sheep the vast majority of attendees went to the hair sheep educational sessions. As I was setting up to do a condensed power point presentation on Dorper Sheep the number of people in the stands kept increasing. By the time I was ready to kick off the session I estimate that there were 200 people in attendance. That was 80% of the attendees at this event! This is a testament to the productivity and popularity of Dorper sheep. I have always said that, although many of us worked hard to market Dorper sheep, its the sheep that due to their hardiness, ease of care, and ability to produce a superior product that are due the congratulations.
Over the years I have personally felt extreme predujuice coming from wool sheep breeders. I was pushed aside for so many years by these people who I had nothing but respect for. They were in charge and it didnt matter what us "new guys" were doing. At every meeting we had to apologize by stating "we are not asking you to change sheep breeds" before we could report on the exponential success of our enterprize. I am happy to say this is behind us. Dorpers and their crosses are now approaching 75% of the Texas sheep flock. Now our industry is the one in the lead and it is time we take charge and move on from the past.
What do we do now that we have achieved this goal of being number 1? Its very, very simple. We must maintain what got us here and that is the strict adhereance to the Dorper Breed Standards. We must not allow shows and extreme trends to sway our breeding programs. If we do we are doomed to the same fate as the Boer Goat, now roundly shamed for its poor performance. Lets educate everyone on the merits of our wonderful sheep by attending courses and workshops. Spread the word that the exceptional book Dorpers Into The New Century is now electronically available on Amazon Kindle and the Kindle Ap for iPad so everyone can learn the Dorper Breed Standards and how to apply them.
Dear Editor,The people running our national sheep organizations are perpetrating a crime on the American public. The system is set up so that they can sell mutton as lamb and top industry leaders have admitted that this has been happening. Do any of you every wonder where mutton is sold in the US? It’s pretty hard to find because most of it is sold as lamb. All foreign countries use dentition for determining maturity. Since the beginning of time the eruption of the first permanent teeth has been used as the standard for aging a sheep. Modern America has come up with a “better” way to determine maturity with the break joint technique which is the issue so many of us are at odds with. And the lamb industry wonders why we have an inconsistent product? When I get a chance to go to a big city from time to time I like to dine at one of those Brazilian steak houses. You know the ones that bring the meat out on a sword-like skewer and let you eat all you want. Well they all serve lamb in addition to everything else you would expect as far as quality meats are concerned. I’ve come to find out that one of them serves New Zealand lamb and the other serves American Lamb. I am ashamed to say that the most recent visit I had was to the chain that serves American Lamb and I could not eat the loin chop I was served because it was so strong with the muttony flavor most of us dislike. I am not saying that New Zealand lamb is better than American lamb I am just saying that in fact New Zealand lamb is better than American mutton. The first step to increasing consistency in American Lamb is to actually sell lamb and not mutton!Philip GlassWater Valley, TX
There is a saying in Southern Africa among stock farmers and it goes something like this: “We eat our vegetables, we just feed them to the chicken and the pig first!”. One finds out quickly when arriving in this part of the world that meats of many kinds are on the menu every day. Lamb and venison are top of the list because this is what they raise primarily and what they love to cook and eat. Beef is next in popularity and pork and chicken are last and then come the veggies.
Afrikaans people make a jerky style dried meat that they call biltong. It is typically made from venison which in Southern Africa can be from several different antelope species but most commonly Kudu and Gemsbok. It is cut into good sized long pieces and seasoned and marinated in apple cider vinegar overnight then hung to dry naturally in a clean screened in area. After it is completely dry it is chopped with a biltong chopper into bite sized pieces. Biltong is served most anytime of the day for a snack or can even make a light meal. Similarly they take lean venison and blend it with lamb fat and spices and fill natural sheep casings with it to make a dried sausage called droewors or dry sausage. These are very long and hang over a large horizontal pipe in the meat room that many farmers have in Africa. After the sausages are dry they are easily broken into smaller pieces for serving. Droewors are absolutely delicious despite the fact that to some they may not look so appetizing. These sausages vary in flavor based on the lamb and venison used to make them as well as the spices. Each person has their own way of preparing food as we all know so some personality goes into each batch. There are commercial spice blends available at virtually every store for both biltong and droewors because it is such a part of the culture. The main flavor that comes to mind is coriander which is one of the main ingredients in most spice blends. In my experience biltong and droewors are foundation on which their meat culture is based upon.
Lamb Chops! Oh my how good Dorper lamb chops are no matter whether you are here at home or on a trip to our Dorper’s homeland. The only difference is that here we likely are going to a custom packer and have all our cutting done there and in Africa you are likely going out to the walk in cooler to fetch a whole carcass and do the cutting yourself. Yes most farmers will have their own cooler and meat cutting room with all the tools necessary to do the job. What could be better than when supper time arrives you just go and cut the chops just the way you like them! One thing that I have found unique in Southern Africa is the wood fired grill they use to cook on. In Afrikaans braai means Bar-B-Que. There is a very popular and commercially made grill unit that has a special way of preparing the coals for your chops and steaks. There is a fire box inside the grill on the right hand side that small pieces of wood are placed into. As they burn the coals drop down and are raked under the meat from time to time. This keeps the bad smoke from the bark going up the chimney and just hot coals are under your meat doing the cooking. This is an absolutely brilliant way to grill and smoke meat in a short time frame. This is something I have to have at my ranch someday.
I recall a hunting trip in Namibia a couple years ago where we sitting down to a very nice noon meal and the owner Danene asked us if there was anything we could not eat. I mentioned a few vegetables that I unfortunately could not eat because of food allergies and she said not to worry “we mostly eat meat here”. I was so enjoying this place with wonderful food and atmosphere. It is stories like this that you will never forget when you go and experience the meat culture of Africa for yourself.
Dear Dorper Breeders,
Well the election did not go the way many of us thought it should and after all the hype, news stories, advertisements, and calls asking for money I'm glad its over. I am in political detox! I have had to cut out the News and Radio for a while and just enjoy nature and be at peace with my thoughts.
As a producer you produce something. You have a factory and manufacture a good that then enters the marketplace. We produce Dorper market lambs and breeding stock. If we were in Australia each sheep sale we make would be taxable. Unthinkable to us in the good ole USA right? Unfortunately the unthinkable will soon be the norm if the current administration gets its way. Thats right take from the producers to pay the non producers! This is what our nation just voted for. Our US sheep industry is holding on by a string and predators, taxes, and many other perils are about to take us out. The liberals would like to take away our predator control tools as they have done in many states. Folks I don't know about you but I work my tail off to care for my sheep and I have lost over $70,000 worth of sheep this year to predators. If our Wildlife Services budget is cut and our predator control tools such as the M44 are taken away I'm afraid to say we may be out of business or have to drastically cut back our flock. I don't want to have a sheep hobby its a great business if your lambs live and you manage well.
Lets just hope that some common sense will trickle down from real Americans to our center of power Washington D.C. Be active in your sheep organizations at both the state and federal level. This is our only voice in these matters.
Now its time to kick back and enjoy the holidays with family and friends. I always enjoy the fall and winter and Thanksgiving and Christmas. I suppose I'm just a kid at heart!
Another trip downunder! What a great time visiting sheep farmers and working with awesome Dorper and White Dorper sheep. I left out of San Angelo on a short flight to Dallas and then had the good fortune to have a direct flight to Brisbane which is on the East Coast of Australia. Brisbane is only a few hours drive from Bellevue farms which was my first destination. After arriving at Bellevue I quickly changed clothes and headed for the sheep pens and shearing barn. This is where I found my friend from Namibia Pieter and his Aussie partner David. Sorting the "show team" and making all the final selections for the National Dorper Show and Sale. After three long days of working, washing, shearing, and loading sheep we were off to Dubbo. An 8 hour drive was ahead of us and some great scenery along the way. We even passed a little town nicknamed the Windmill City which is what my hometown of Sterling City has always been known as. Arriving in Dubbo we found everyone else had arrived simultaneously and a long line to unload and weigh show and sale sheep was ahead of us. No time to waste I headed in the barn and found John and Marion Dell along with their Aussie partners Jean, Moozie, & Andrea van Niekerk. This was my second visit to Dubbo and third trip down under and I had made many friends so I felt quite at home here. Getting over 40 head of sheep unloaded, lambs weighed for their classes, sale rams weighed, paint branded and evaluated, and then everything fed and watered was quite a chore. Lucky for us we had plenty of helping hands including a young fellow named Josh from New Zealand that has been working at Bellevue this year. All the people I've met down under seem to be so nice and happy! Show day arrives and it is only ewes the first day and a long day it was. A three judge panel did the judging independently and then scores mathmatically tabulated. The first ewe lamb class was at 8:30AM and we ended the day at 8:00PM! An exhausting day to say the least. The ram show was similar but did not take quite as long but still a full day in the show ring began at 9:00AM and ended at 6:00PM. That evening was the formal awards ceremony where Bellevue took top honors with most points in Dorpers and White Dorpers. They received so many awards they insisted the "Texan" go up and receive a couple of them. What an honor. Did I mention these people are kind? David, owner of Bellevue, took the microphone as top winner of the event and went out of his way to thank me for my hard work in the show ring. He stated that it was a miracle that I could get his sheep to stand still since they had not been handled and has nicknamed me the "Sheep Whisperer". What a laugh we had that night.
The final day was sale day and a large crowd slowly amassed in the sale barn. Many top rams and ewes sold and a few over $10,000. These sheep were going all over Australia and some to China and Brazil. With sale day over and people beginning to leave we had a quiet night at our hostess Lynn's home with dinner, drinks, and good conversation. The next morning it was off to the Dubbo airport which is similar to San Angelo in size and only 1 hour to Sydney and then 14 hours direct to Dallas. These long trips are tiring but the experience is well worth it. I hope someday you can travel to Australia and meet these wonderful people and see their country.
The M44 is a highly selective predator control device that we have been able to use to control canine predators for many years now. It can only be activated by a very strong pull that only a canine with their powerful jaws can activate to eject the toxicant. Therefore nontarget kills are nonexistant. They have been very valuable to livestock producers in keeping the increasing predator problem in check.
Now the EPA run by Obama and his animal rights and environmental wackos are trying to put all of animal agriculture out of business. You see this is their wish to have everyone eat corn and soy products. Their other aim and mission is for all private land to be so regulated it is basically federal land. Our country's founders never envisioned a day where private land ownership would be regulated in this way. We have a constitutional right to utilize our land in the manner in which we desire. We also have the right to keep these predators that the federal governtment claims ownership of out of our sheep and goat flocks. In fact I believe since they claim ownership of all wildlife they should have to pay 100% of all damage they do to livestock and crops.
EPA now seeks to punitively enforce the nearly 30 regulations regarding M44's and have the person who is using them pay steep fines for little fine print rules that are unimportant. With the threat of these fines no one is going to place an M44 and risk the wrath of Obama's EPA. These fines could be nearly half a months salary to a trapper. So they have effectively banned one of our last remaining legal tools to fight coyotes.
Even if you have never had to use the M44 on your operation we all need to contact our representatives and both the state and federal level and tell them to get the EPA off our ranches and out of our lives.
Sustainability is one of those trendy buzzwords that are thrown around all the time as it relates to our "environmentalness" or the supposed lack thereof. I once was in a meeting where a greenie sheep farmer from the Austin area was chirping about her sustainable operation when a friend of mine sounded off. He said how about 120 years on the same ranch doing the same thing is that sustainable? I laughed and never forgot that statement because I too have family ranch land being operated for that period of time as well.
I suppose I am really not sure what the greenie people mean by sustainable. Even when we are talking about row crops here in the US I don't believe they are an unsustainable farming practice. I mean we grow the seeds, plant the seeds, fertilize the seeds with fertilizer created by our own abundant natural gas, and harvest the crop to feed the world! I understand the need for soil conservation and have had that drilled in my head my entire life. Sheep and Cattle here in the US are certainly a sustainable operation if ever there was one because we utilize land that has no farming value. This is where the moron greenies get totally lost in their arguements. They think cattle are raised on corn their entire lives and that is not the case, not by a long shot. And hey don't get me started on the grass fed thing. If you want to do that go ahead help yourself as for me and my house we shall have a well marbled steak from a grain fed steer!
Now for my final point on sustainability and it relates to trophy hunting. As a Texas game rancher I am also in the hunting business. We along with a few thousand others raise some common and some rare and endangered animals. We raise them because we love them and want to preserve them and only hunt the old trophy males which is where the income is derived to make this sustainable for us and the animals as well. Step back and THINK about this for a minute. We take several million dollars worth of land, build quality improvements on it to care for these wild creatures their entire lives, and only the old males which have gone past their prime breeding years are hunted. Sounds like the perfect conservation plan right? Yes it has been until the Federal Government decided to make stringent regulations on some of these animals reducing their value. Sustainability has STOPPED as it relates to any animal that is considered rare or endangered.
Anyway I encourage everyone to THINK when some discussion comes up like Sustainability. What does it mean to you and what should it mean to us as farmers and ranchers.
Dear Dorper Breeders,
Many of you have contacted me about the direction our breed is headed in and how shows affect this. I made it the central focus of my term as ADSBS president to discuss and reinforce the Dorper breed standards and the Type of Dorper that has worked for 80 years now. Can shows be detrimental? Of course they can but with a knowledgeable judge we can enforce and improve our breed standards. The problem we are facing and some people don't like me saying this is that the "Club Lamb" judges can not get their eye adjusted to our sheep. They have spent their life and have been reinforced by others in this artificial sheep industry to the point that they will destroy our breed if we are not careful. What we have is a sheep that almost magically takes the worst forage and turns it into the best meat in the world. They can't understand forage first of all because their industry is based on feedlots and liquid diets. Second they can not understand that at 6 months our lambs are dead and are hanging up a carcass that has larger chops than theirs at 12 months. Who is efficient here? Who cares about efficiency? Dorper breeder do because it puts money in our pockets. Forget about breeds for a minute what do you honestly think the difference is in taste on a 6 month old lamb versus a 12 month old almost mutton? It does not take a PHD to figure that out!
So what do we do? We continue with our breed, our breed standards, to educate on our hardiness and adaptability, educate on our meat qualities, and only allow judges to judge our sheep who are committed to Dorper Sheep. Then we can continue with showing and improve our breed.
Commodity insurance has been around pretty much as long as most people have been farming. Row crops can be insured cheaply and easily through federal government programs. It became so lucrative that people started gaming the system by not planting, planting too deep, etc in order to not have a crop and just get the insurance. This has gotten better now. There are proposals to revamp how crop insurance and direct payments such as price support work. My hope is that livestock are able to get a real disaster insurance product that is subsidized so that it is affordable. I don't know about you folks but I have been wiped out three times and I am not talking about a lamb crop. I mean a set of ewes or nannies gone or dead with no recourse to rebuild. Once due to packs of dogs, once to a late spring freeze that killed most all my goats, and once to theft. Then as we have all experienced a bad or nonexistent lamb crop. Predators are usually to blame but there are many situations such as disease or weather as well. You know the scenario. You work hard to get a set of ewes bred and in good shape, keep the fences up and look for predator sign and then the lambs come and wham! Coyotes or other predators show up and take your crop from you. What to do. This is when I wish I was a corn farmer! I don't look to the government for anything but factually they own the predators so under the law they should pay for the damage they do. Seems fair and certainly not a handout!