‘Thriving when it’s tough’
Passion is paying off for Fiegerts
The Fiegert family, Melashdan Dorper and White Dorpe rstud, Tumby Bay, is passionate about breeding impressive, robust sheep that can thrive in tougher conditions. Picture supplied
Breeding quality sheep doesn’t just happen by chance, it lakes a big dose of passion. And this is why Gary and Janice Fiegert have in spades – a passion to breed robust, meaty Dorpers and White Dorpers that can graze and thrive.
But they haven’t always been Dorper producers. Their decision to take the leap into Dorpers came about the same way as it does for many commercial producers – they just made sense.
It was drought on their dryland cropping properties that took them in a new direction. “We had about five droughts in seven years, and one of those was a financial drought,’“ Mr Fiegert said. “We grew a crop but we didn’t get any money for it.”
Mrs Fiegert said they had barley straw at the time. “We had it from the 2007 harvest, and we knew the Dorpers would eat it,” she said.
They bought their first White Dorpers in 2008, and for the Fiegerts, the toughness and the lack of shearing were big bonuses.
They headed to the national sale in Dubbo to get rams. “We bought four rams from four different studs,” Mr Fiegert said. “Someone said “are you going to start a stud?’ And I just laughed. We bought a small group of ewes, and went from there.” But pretty soon they weren’t laughing anymore. They were hooked.
“We had some surplus rams, and the agent said ‘why don’t you have a sale?’ We had a little Helsmann sale and sold all 18 rams in 2009,” Mr Fiegert said. They started selling commercial ewes, and began breeding Dorpers in 2015.
For them, the perfect Dorper has plenty of meat. “In a ram, I want a good top line and lots of depth in the flank,” Mr Fiegert said. “A strong head and neck, sound feet and shoulders is what we are looking for.”
Today they run 450 White Dorper ewes and 350 Dorper ewes, as well as 600 commercial ewes. ‘The best thing about them is you can join them any time of the year as long as you’ve got feed,” Mr Fiegert said. “They will rejoin soon after lambing, and we join twice a year. We put the rams back in when we tail the lambs about six to eight weeks after lambing.”
Mrs Fiegert said ewes were a massive priority. “We focus very strongly on our ewes. They’re the factory. You breed what you select,” she said.
Their stud sheep are run much like a commercial flock in large paddocks, and lamb unassisted. Mr Fiegert said it was crucial to select rams based on the ewe flock. “People don’t realise they’ve got to think about what they’ve got at home.”
The Fiegerts will be DNA testing all of their stud animals from now on, having been involved with Sheep Genetics since 2012. “We don’t select on figures, but they are there in the background to help people out,” he said.
“We also employ Wicus Cronje (Burrawang stud, Ootha). He comes here twice a year and goes through our stock. He will also come again to check over the rams before our sale, which he has done every year since 2017.” They have bought almost exclusively from Burrawang stud since 2018.
“We are looking for consistency in our sheep, and we are seeing big improvements every year,” Mr Fiegert said.
They have so far carried our four AI programs in their stud – in 2012 they used Terraweens Loftus. They have also used Burrawang Crackerjack, whose lambs will be available at next year’s sale. “Crackerjack has got an incredible early growth and excellent feet, and a huge amount of muscle,” Mrs Fiegert said.
In the future they are planning more AI programs using Burrawang Key, Burrawang Trump and Burrawang Piet. “We have some big plans – we are excited about the future,’ Mr Fiegert said.
One of the things they are adamant about is breeding paddock-run rams. “We don’t believe in self feeders,” Mrs Fiegert said. “They do well on just good feed paddocks.”
Mr Fiegert said it was important that Dorpers had good early growth. “Our ideal sale weight is five to six months old and a carcase at the 25 kilogram mark.” He said most newer shedding breeds were Droper based. “The Dorper has been around for 80 years. It is a stabalised breed. You know what you are going to get.”
But the most important part had been passion. “We were never in it for the money,” Mr Fiegert said. “It has been a hobby gone mad. I believe if all your worried about is making money, you are not going to progress. You’ve got to just sell quality and keep trying to improve. The goals is to each our 21st sale.”
A big part of reaching this goal is the help of family – especially their three children Melissa, Ashley and Daniel, whose names make up the name of the stud. “Our grandkids help us with the promotion with the videos and photos, and help out on sale day. They know how to run a ram sale,” Mrs Fiegert said.
The 14th on-property Melashdan Dorper and White Dorper sale will take place on Monday, October 23 at 10.30am. They will offer an exceptional team of 40 Dorper and 80 White Dorper rams, selected in conjunction with Mr Cronje. The sale will be interfaced with AuctionsPlus.
Melashdan Dorper and White Dorper stud will offer 40 Dorper and 80 White Dorper rams at its sale on October 23. Picture supplied