The foresight of Western Australian Dorper breeder Graeme Howie to establish a Dorper meat brand nearly two decades ago has been recognised with an industry service award.
Mr Howie said he was honoured to receive the Dorper Sheep Society of Australia 2023 Distinguished Service Award.
“I feel very humbled for the small role that I have played in the Dorper lamb story,” Mr Howie said.
“It’s nice to be appreciated for the work and investment that has been done over the last 20 years.”
Dorper Lamb Pty Ltd was established in 2005 and has grown to become a longstanding producer, processor, and exporter of the Dorper Lamb branded product, exporting to all major markets.
Mr Howie was originally involved in the live shipping of Dorper breeding sheep to China and on one consignment, a group of 55 rams did not make the shipment.
He selected the best of those rams and mated them to 400 Merino sheep to establish his meat sheep business.
The operation grew rapidly to 1000 breeding ewes and 50 carcases a week.
Very soon, the restaurant market heard of Dorper Lamb and demanded certain quality cuts. The business pivoted to focus supply on the high-end market.
Time constraints forced another change a few years later, with Mr Howie winding down his own breeding operation and focussing instead on buying Dorper lambs from Western Australian producers.
“With strong support from pioneer Dorper sheep importer Stan Dorman, growers Margie Maslen and Adrian Veitch, we set out to educate the world on both the taste of Dorper lamb, the benefits it held to farming sustainability and to support the growing band of farmers who wished to “grow chops and not socks”,” Mr Howie said.
“Our aim was to be able to adapt to the ever-evolving market environment and shifts in consumer habits and the ever-changing market conditions.
“Recognised early as a premium lamb product, Dorper Lamb was marketed as a superior tasting lamb with a very low aroma.”
The business has grown from small beginnings to now being a well-recognised brand selling Dorper meat to Australian customers plus to an ever-expanding international market in the USA, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Mauritius.
Dorper Lamb has also expanded to source product from breeders throughout Australia.
On the back of strong demand for the Dorper lamb product and a growing appreciation from customers, Mr Howie is excited about the future of Dorper Lamb.
“More and more consumers now understand our value proposition and point of difference that we can offer a branded product backed by a breed – the Dorper,” Mr Howie said.
“It is encouraging to note how extensively distributed the Dorper breed has become throughout the world with steady demand for good Dorper genetics.”
“And how well adapted it is to a number of growing conditions from extensive pastoral properties across outback Australia, to more intensive operations in high rainfall zones, to arid and semi-arid regions around the world.”