Petkeen is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commision. Learn More

Dorset Sheep

Nicole Cosgrove

With the dozens of sheep breeds out there, identifying one that suits your needs best can be a daunting task. But have you heard of the Dorset?

The Dorset is renowned for its prolific breeding ability and superior meat quality. This breed is kept primarily for meat production. Nonetheless, it makes decent-quality fleece and produces a respectable amount of milk.

Here is everything you need to know about the Dorset.

sheep divider 1

Quick Facts about the Dorset

Species Name: Ovis aries
Family: Bovidae
Care Level: Easy
Temperature: Versatile
Temperament: Docile
Color Form: White
Lifespan: 10-12 years
Size: Up to 275 pounds
Diet: Herbivorous

Dorset Sheep Overview

The Dorset is one of the oldest sheep breeds in existence. This breed is believed to have come about from the crossing of a variety of native southwestern England sheep breeds.

Today, the Dorset is well distributed across the world and comes in two varieties, the Horned Dorset and the Polled Dorset. Unsurprisingly, the main difference between these two Dorsets is that one comes with horns while the other does not.

dorset sheep
Image Credit: diego_torres, Pixabay

The sheep has a characteristic wide face and long body and comes in white.

Like other breeds, the Dorset is an avid grazer and produces a generous amount of milk. It will also produce up to 9 pounds of medium-grade wool annually.

The Dorset is capable of lambing all year round. In contrast, other sheep breeds tend to be seasonal in their breeding, only mating during fall and giving birth during spring. Since the Dorset can produce multiple sets of lambs per year, they are an excellent breed to keep for commercial purposes, especially for meat production.

How Much Do Dorset Sheep Cost?

The price of a genuine Dorset sheep is around $350. However, before making the purchase, you must make sure that the breeder is authentic.

Alternatively, you can go to sheep fairs to scope out the various offerings. Take the contact information of those with good stocks and plan visits to their farms. You will be able to tell good breeders from the rest based on how well they manage their farms, in addition to how good the rest of their stock looks.

sheep divider 2

Typical Behavior and Temperament

Generally, the Dorset has a docile disposition. However, rams can be aggressive, especially when they want to mate. To minimize that aggression, make sure that the ram is used to handling from an early age.

Appearance and Varieties

Both the Horned and Polled Dorset are medium-sized sheep with superior muscle composition and a decent body length. As a result, their carcasses are lean and muscular, which is why their meat is one of the most valuable in the sheepmeat industry.

Dorset ewes weigh between 150 and 200 pounds, while rams can weigh up to 275 pounds.

Dorset sheep
Image Credit: Jim Champion, Flickr

hoof print divider

How to Take Care of the Dorset Sheep

For starters, your Dorset needs a nice and comfortable place to rest. This means building a shelter that not only protects them from adverse weather conditions but also predators.

As such, building a barn for your Dorset would be an excellent idea. Nonetheless, a three-sided shelter would also do. However, experts recommend building a barn with several stalls, as it will allow you to separate them as needed. For example, you might want to separate sick or pregnant individuals from the rest of the flock.

To enhance their comfort, consider providing them with thick bedding consisting of dry hay, especially during the cold season. While some people use sawdust as bedding material for their sheep, you should avoid it, as it can ruin the sheep’s wool.

In addition to the main shelter, consider constructing a shed out in the field that will provide them with shade when they are out grazing.

As mentioned, the Dorset loves grazing. Therefore, before you even get one, ensure that there is enough pasture for them. The ideal pasture size depends on the number of Dorsets you plan on keeping and environmental factors, such as climate and soil quality.

For example, an acre of pasture in a region that receives adequate rainfall will support more sheep than two acres in a region with harsh conditions.

Most importantly, make sure that you install a fence for your sheep. You cannot afford to compromise on the quality of your fence, as Dorsets are notorious escape artists. Besides, a good fence will keep the predators out.

Experts recommend installing a fence that is at least 5 feet tall. Additionally, make sure that the gaps between the wires are narrow enough to prevent the animal from squeezing through.

Do Dorset Sheep Get Along with Other Pets?

Like other sheep, the Dorset is a social creature. Therefore, they are capable of living harmoniously with other animals. However, it is important to socialize all your animals with each other from an early age.

dorset sheep close up
Image Credit: Cristiano Betta, Flickr

sheep divider 1

What to Feed Your Dorset Sheep

The most important factor when it comes to feeding any animal is the quality of the feed. While the Dorset can thrive on pasture, you will need to provide your animal with supplementary feeds.

Alfalfa hay is one of the best feeds you can give to your Dorset, as it is rich in nutrients essential to sheep. However, as alfalfa hay is rather expensive, you can feed them standard hay while supplementing with alfalfa pellets.

You can also feed grains to your Dorset. However, you will need to exercise caution, as too much grain can cause bloating in sheep.

Providing your Dorset with supplements is also a good idea, as they contain nutrients that other types of feed might not have. Like other sheep, Dorsets also require lots of salt. Therefore, ensure that they always have salt blocks at their disposal.

Access to fresh, clean water is also vital towards keeping your Dorset happy and healthy.

Keeping Your Dorset Healthy

Dorsets come with unique requirements. For starters, you will need to shear them at least once a year. This will prevent their wool from overgrowing and inhibiting basic functions such as moving and eating. However, do not shear them before or during the cold season.

You will also need to care for their hooves by trimming and ensuring that they sleep in a dry environment. Dampness causes the Dorset’s hooves to become soft, making it easy for bacteria to penetrate and cause problems such as foot rot.

To prevent any potential health issues, make sure that you have access to a vet so they can check up on your sheep regularly.

Breeding

As mentioned, the Dorset is a prolific breeder. However, for best results, make sure that your ewes are not excessively fat before mating. This means that you will need to adjust their nutrition accordingly beforehand.

Dorset rams are able to breed almost all year round.

sheep divider 2

Is the Dorset Sheep Suitable for You?

This breed is a good fit for those looking to rear sheep for commercial purposes. The high-quality nature of their meat coupled with their prolific breeding rate makes them one of the best breeds for meat production.

Conclusion

The Dorset is the second most popular sheep breed in the United States, and with good reason; it is hardy and profitable. You only need to make sure that you are able to take care of this sheep before buying.


Featured Image: Odd Wellies, Flickr

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.