Visitors to Waterkloof are likely to have noticed our woolly team of “nature’s weed eaters” making their through our vines, but did you know that we actually have two specific breeds of sheep on the farm, used for two specific purposes?
Waterkloof is home to both Dorper and Dormer sheep. Farm Manager Christiaan Loots explains that Dorpers are a hardy breed, with a good meat carcass and even fat distribution over their bodies. They also give birth to twin lambs, and are non selective grazers i.e. they eat anything!
The origin of the Dormer (an abbreviation of Dorset-Merino) breed resulted from a cross between Dorset Horn rams and German Merino ewes. Christiaan explains that Dormers are bigger sheep, which produce bigger lambs that gain weight quickly (the lambs are also good as slaughter lambs, but have more fat). Dormers also produce wool, which is a good source of nitrogen to be worked into our compost system after shearing.
Both sheep breeds are used to keep our weed population under control, spending their days grazing in between our vines. The Dorper sheep are used seasonally to provide succulent, free-range lamb to our restaurant, and the Dormer’s provide much-needed wool for our compost system.
When asked about the usage of sheep in the vineyards, Christiaan says “30 ewes produce enough lambs to cover the cost of the sheep herder, so it is a sustainable and cost-effective way to keep the weeds under control before vine budding.”
And what does our Executive Chef say about using Dorper sheep meat in his restaurant? “Since they are not traditional “wool sheep”, their meat is naturally sweeter and doesn’t have that strong mutton flavour, giving us lots of room to use the lamb in delicious combinations.”