Dohne Merino breeders deserve to be complimented on major achievements during the past three years. World record prices were paid consecutively for the two best Dohne Merino rams in the world in 2017 and 2018. On top of that, five top sires were sold at the 2019 National sale at the average price of R106 400 each. Average prices at two production sales also crossed the R17 000 mark during 2019. This outstanding performance by Dohne breeders can largely be ascribed to diligent application of scientific animal improvement techniques over many years. This excellence of our breeders contributed to the Dohne Merino becoming, in the words of our president, a “world breed”. These achievements, together with the overall negative agricultural climate in South Africa, pose new and exciting challenges and opportunities to all Dohne Merino breeders. Some of these include:
- Effective international marketing of Dohne Merinos. The real challenge to South African breeders is to build on the initial successes of the breed abroad. Sustainable development and marketing of the Dohne Merino’s inherent ability to out-perform other breeds on a total-flock basis regarding net profit, is becoming even more crucial.
- Now more than ever, long term vision and discipline is needed to apply the Dohne Merino philosophy of not to overfeed animals for the purpose of short-term financial gain. Precision farming at all levels fits in well with the breed’s cornerstone of breeding hardy, well adapted sheep at minimum input cost. Improving on the amount of meat and fibre produced per kg input of dry matter and improved management thereof during more intense and prolonged periods of scarcity, is not negotiable. The fine edge Dohne Merino breeders are experiencing today, needs to be dramatically improved upon for competing successfully with other breeds in the small stock market.
- The Dohne Merino is the best positioned sheep breed to beat the current uncertainties in both the marketplace and the physical farming environment. It is however each breeder’s duty to exploit these new marketing opportunities to the best of his/her ability.
- Various bio-security issues pose new challenges to our breeders. One possibility to meet this challenge is to consider the possible production of disease-free genetic material. At the moment a host of diseases, some irrelevant, put South African Dohne breeders nationally and internationally at a disadvantage. It is trusted that Dohne Merino breeders will find innovative ways to meet this major challenge in 2020.
- Genomic selection is a given and breeders who collect DNA at this early stage, will benefit most from this exciting technology. Genomic selection will accelerate improvement of hardiness and adaptability traits. Accurate parentage, counteracting of inbreeding depression, identification of major gene effects and shorter generation intervals, are some added advantages that must be exploited.The Breed Society’s capacity to render service to its members will be greatly enhanced by the appointment of a technical officer. Currently negotiations with a possible candidate are underway. The Dohne Breed is looking forward to the upcoming World Conference which is already in its planning phase. The Breed Society’s management and every breeder will use all available resources in an accountable manner to stay at the forefront of animal breeding.