Why are these sheep so spe­cial?

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Feature -

The first dif­fer­ence you no­tice with Da­mara sheep is the adults still have their tails, but these are no or­di­nary tails. The tails are ‘fat’, start­ing off thicker at the base and ta­per­ing to a point. Their odd tails are where the sheep store their fat in­stead of on the body, which en­sures the meat is lean. While it can look odd when you see a fat tail on a slim sheep, it’s less no­tice­able when they are mov­ing as a flock.

It’s also dif­fer­ent to ‘fat rump’ breeds of sheep like Karakul and Awassi; Da­mara only have fat tails.

This fat tail has a num­ber of ad­van­tages. It is a store of energy when feed isn’t avail­able, per­fect in a drought as breed­ers have found in dry-prone Aus­tralia where Da­mara have been found to be even bet­ter adapted than Merino. The tail releases its store of vi­tal­ity into the blood­stream when re­quired, and from there into the milk.

When it comes time to home-kill, fat trim­ming is so much eas­ier and quicker as once the tail is off, lit­tle else is fat.

The meat of the Da­mara has a mild flavour with low choles­terol and low fat, and has done well in taste and ten­der­ness tests. The ‘Meat­mas­ter’ breed of sheep, recog­nised around the world and de­vel­oped in South Africa, is the Da­mara crossed with another shed­ding or hair­less breed like the Wilt­shire or Dor­per for im­proved growth and quan­tity of meat. A Dor­per cross pro­duces mar­bling in the meat which is pop­u­lar in Asia.

Another strik­ing dif­fer­ence is that Da­mara look more like goats, with no wool, long legs, floppy ears, and some even have tas­sels on their necks. The short, coarse coat is more like hair than wool, grow­ing in win­ter, shed­ding in spring; the belly and tail area are al­ways smooth. These at­tributes make the sheep the per­fect breed for any life­style block owner who doesn’t want the hassle of wool, sav­ing the time and cost of shear­ing. It also means the Da­mara has greater re­sis­tance to fly strike and there’s no need for crutch­ing, the two dreaded sheep chores and the worst part of own­ing sheep.

Like goats, you also don’t know what you’re go­ing to get colour­wise. Coat pat­terns are unique and an an­i­mal can have a range of wool colours: white, brown, black and white, or a mix of all of them. It adds to their high cute fac­tor and is al­ways a great talk­ing point with vis­i­tors who of­ten have only ever seen white sheep.

Da­mara sheep are very hardy, and in­cred­i­bly ver­sa­tile and adapt­able which en­ables them to cope with a wide range of cli­mate zones and ex­tremes of weather and tem­per­a­ture. They can cope with drought, heavy rain­fall, in­tense cold, ex­treme heat and poor graz­ing and still thrive. The breed can cope with -20°C in Canada right through to the trop­i­cal rain­forests of New Cale­do­nia. They’re al­ready pop­u­lar in the US and Aus­tralia as peo­ple have caught on to their amaz­ing adapt­abil­ity.

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