A brief history of the Damara breed
Damara sheep have a long history in Africa, where the challenges of survival in a harsh and hostile environment produced a breed of sheep that by a process of natural selection has developed many traits and characteristics that make it ideally suited to the Australian environment.
That said, the Damara breed is relatively new to Australia, being first introduced from South Africa into WA in 1996. Here they are grown predominantly for their meat and their “lawn mower qualities”, although their skin is high regarded in the leather industry and some cultures regard their fat tails as a delicacy.
Unique characteristics of Damara sheep
They are a very low maintenance sheep, requiring no shearing, mulesing or tail docking. They do not get fly blown and have a high natural resistance to worms and parasites. They have hair not wool, although a woolly undercoat grows in winter and is naturally shed in summer. Damara sheep thrive in hot, dry conditions and can go days without drinking water, especially in winter.
Damara sheep eat grass and roughage in a similar fashion to goats, quickly ridding a paddock of weeds and self-sown tree seedlings. They love the fodder tree tagasaste and can be trained to come on demand with sweet hay and grain pellets. The tails of Damara sheep indicate whether or not they are getting sufficient feed. In good times their tail enlarges, hence the name “fat tail”. When food is scarce they draw on the reserves in their tail to survive and it becomes much thinner.
How we manage our Damara flock
Damara sheep exhibit an incredibly strong flocking instinct which makes moving them from paddock to paddock very straightforward once you understand their temperament. They cannot be rushed through gates, but once a leader decides to go, then you know that they will all go through immediately. There are never any stragglers! Mothers and lambs do not get separated and at night they settle as a group with the lambs in the middle and all the adults surrounding them, facing inwards. This group behaviour prevents lamb losses due to foxes. Damara sheep are very attentive mothers, and lambs are not lost due to poor mothering.
Damara rams are very virile, and ewes are highly fertile, with the latter having a long productive life of up to 12 years. Ewes can lamb every 8 months and incur few losses due to predators or bad mothering. A limited supply of lambs are available periodically – contact us for details.