Kojonup producer finds solution in composites

Kate PollardCountryman

Kojonup producer Craig Heggaton claims he has the solution to improving growth rates and fertility in Dorpers.

Recently, _Countryman _ spoke to Gingin sheep producer David Roe about his experience with Dorpers and the above two issues.

But Dr Heggaton and his wife, Liz, who run Evergreen Grazing in Kojonup, said their BreedersBEST Kojak composites put both attributes back into the breed.

The Heggatons first bought White Dorpers 11 years ago and said they soon found the genetic base needed a boost.

"We originally looked to increase carcase size and fertility by adding Wiltipoll genetics," Dr Heggaton said. "Subsequently, we added both Finn and East Friesian genetics to further increase fertility and carcase size."

BreedersBEST Kojaks are today 37.5 per cent Dorper, 37.5 per cent Wiltipoll and 25 per cent Finn and East Friesian.

"Our White Dorpers were taking six to seven months to turn off, whereas now, we are turning off lambs straight from their mothers at 16 weeks with an 18 to 20 kilogram carcase," Dr Heggaton said.

He said the key driver was the explosive growth in milk, size and fertility of the East Friesian.

"As mature ewes, our Kojaks are recording 130 per cent fecundity after a five-week joining period," Dr Heggaton said.

For ewe lambs to go into the Evergreen Grazing breeding flock, they have to conceive at eight to nine months and rear twins from that mating.

Embryos from the top 5 per cent of those ewes are flushed to breed the next generation.

Dr Heggaton said at this stage they did not intend to change the genetic base, but he would not rule out change in the future.

"BreedersBEST Kojaks are perfect for people who want an easy care, non-shearing sheep that has high fertility and high growth rates," he said.

"The only profit driver of a non-shearing sheep is the number of lambs you drop and how rapidly they grow, whereas other non-shearing breeds have been based more on carcase composition."

After seven years of research and breeding, Dr Heggaton said the Kojaks were attracting the interest of Dorper breeders.

This year, 230 BreedersBEST Kojak ram hoggets will be put up for sale, including those with a higher percentage of East Friesian and Wiltipoll for producers who already own Dorpers.

For producers with a shearing flock, such as Merinos, Dr Heggaton said it would take three generations to get to a non-shearing breed using a straight Kojak.

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