Future looking bright

Bellevue bosses say Dorpers are revolutionising prime lamb breeding in Australia


Livestock Leaders
RIGHT FIT: Bellevue Dorper's stud manager Sophie Curtis says there are exciting times ahead for the Dorper breeds as the quantity of eating quality data on the sheep grows.

RIGHT FIT: Bellevue Dorper's stud manager Sophie Curtis says there are exciting times ahead for the Dorper breeds as the quantity of eating quality data on the sheep grows.

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Bellevue Grazing Company has struck the right balance with Dorpers and are striving to take the industry even further by working with new avenues of data collection to breed the best they can.

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It was due to long-term farming challenges of rising production costs and tightening markets that David and Robbie Curtis turned to Dorpers for Bellevue Grazing Company's future.

They stand by the South African-originating Dorper and White Dorpers as a "magnificent breed of meat sheep'' that is revolutionising prime lamb breeding in Australia, especially in regions where environmental conditions are harsh, dry and challenging.

"With markets for prime lamb being many and varied, both domestically and internationally, the future is holding strong for producers of quality prime lamb,'' Mr Curtis said.

Bellevue's first on-property Dorper and White Dorper ram sale in 2008 was the "game changer" for the operation, with genetics imported as embryos from South Africa in a joint venture agreement with two Namibian breeders.

"These unique and quality genetics launched the Bellevue Dorper and White Dorper Stud enterprise for our family," he said.

"Since then, we have been constantly monitoring and adapting our genetics with emphasis placed on objective Lambplan measurements and data, research, new technologies and very importantly, visual selection.

"This commitment has created a solid platform for genetic gain in our rams with each new generation. It gives our clients the information they need, and the confidence to select rams that will suit their particular management and environmental requirements.

"Every Bellevue ram that we sell is a product of a breeding program that places maximum emphasis on measuring and selecting for our commercial clients' prime lamb needs.

"Optimum yields, early maturity and weight gain, enough fat for excellent eating quality and maternal traits, visual selection for structural correctness, quality, temperament and soundness."

The Dorpers have really stood up well in the harsh drought conditions, he said.

"The breed has been a good natural fit. We find with our clients in the pastoral country, they are a very good fit, especially when producers have invested in exclusion fencing. The Dorpers have really stood up well in these harsh droughts that we've been experiencing."

Carcase competition success backs up the fact that Bellevue's strict selection criteria is delivering a quality, high yielding, early maturing, prime lamb.

In 2018, Bellevue Dorper lambs won the Champion Pen of Carcase Lambs and the Reserve Champion Pen of Carcase Lambs at the Warwick Show and Rodeo Assn annual Prime Lamb Competition. But, increasingly, it's new technologies and the demands and skills of a savvy new generation which is really driving success at the Millmerran, Queensland, operation.

Daughter Sophie is the stud manager, and is doing things a little differently, and Mr Curtis says better than ever.

Bellevue carries 3000 ewes, in a Dorper and White Dorper Stud and commercial prime lamb operation, as well as summer and winter cropping.

They have had a 100 per cent clearance at each of their past four annual September ram sales, where between 120 and 150 rams have been offered.

Sophie said Bellevue's approach to flock management includes tight joinings of 35 days and pregnancy testing.

"All ewes are pregnancy tested for singles and twins and are 'wet and dried' at the end of lambing to make sure we have no passengers in the flock," she said.

"All ewes have EIDs and all information is recorded with reports easily retrievable through the stud's Stockbook program."

But it's Bellevue's undertaking in the field of sheep genetics which show Mr Curtis is genuine when he says: "The Dorper industry as a whole is more important than the Dorper industry as an individual.''

"For quite a while now we've been in sheep genetics," Sophie said. "We take the raw Lambplan measurements, which involves birth weighing and tagging of stud lambs; weighing at weaning and at post weaning; and measuring eye muscle and fat depth which is done by a Lambplan-trained scanner.

"An exciting advancement for the industry going forward will be getting eating quality data back for our sheep.

"With DEXA technology available in a few of the leading abattoirs, individual carcasses are scanned for meat yield. Going forward producers may be paid accordingly, and this is when quality will count.

"We have a responsibility to our clients to breed rams with high eating quality traits. Lamb is a premium product ... with the price consumers pay for lamb, we need to reflect that in the quality of the rams we produce and sell to our clients.

"I think it's an exciting space to work in and I see a bright future ahead."

With an increasing broad push from the public asking more questions about food production, the family feels their farming philosophy should stand them in good stead.

Our philosophy is that where you produce food should be the healthiest place to live - David Curtis

"Our philosophy is that where you produce food should be the healthiest place to live," Mr Curtis said.

Sophie is also working hard to tell that positive story widely, turning to social media to connect more people with the Bellevue brand and way of life.

Using social media, she is giving them a snapshot of the Bellevue life and and direct them to Bellevue Dorper's Instagram, Facebook and impressive website at http://bellevuedorpers.com.au/

"Social media is such a fantastic way of connecting people and gives a good little snapshot into our farm.''

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