The 2016 lambing season has begun at Yarnauwi, with seven lambs dropping so far. One set of triplets, two lots of twins (with three survivors) and our first, puppy-like Damara lamb.
It’s also our first season experimenting with Manchego the Damara ram. Our initial flock were Wiltshire horns, a British breed that we found were more selective than we would’ve liked in their grazing habits, and sensitive to the exposure of our blistering summers. A few of their lambs were part Dorper, and in the culture of the flock, they’ve mimicked the habits of the Wiltshire Horn matriarchs.
In an effort to move towards a breed that’s both resilient to a hotter, drier climate, and is significantly less selective in its grazing, we thought we’d try Damaras. Damaras are a hardy African breed that use their tails in the same manner as camels, storing up nutrients for the tough times.
Unfortunately, our Damaras have never really bonded with the existing flock, with the exception, apparently, of Manchego the ram. With large flight zones, the Damaras keep a cautious distance, while the Wiltshire Horns and Dorper crosses tend to approach us and are generally easy to get into the yards. In a wet year such as this one, the Damara’s desert-adapted feet have required significantly more maintenance than their peers in other breeds, growing long and grotesque without stony, hard ground to wear them down. The Dorpers, while adapted to the drylands of southern Africa, haven’t yet had a problem with their feet and also have the advantage of being excellent mothers: this year one had twins and the other triplets, all without complications.
The experiment continues as we see how all of the breeds move through the seasons, and are able to thrive in the climate and landscape of Yarnauwi.