AUSTRALIAN BREEDERS OF

AFRICAN FOUR HORNED SHEEP

 

Traits

Horns The extra horns are formed through a process still debated by most involved in these type of breeds which also include  Jacob sheep and the Manx Loughtan. This trait is also seen in goats. I favour the theory that it is a damaged gene for splitting and is often associated with split eyelids as an indicator  as well.  The horns can appear in any number having seen 2,3,4,5,6 so far (males or females) in the African Four Horn sheep - obviously the name is only an indicator.  Shape of horn can not be predicted and vary quite a lot. This may be able to be changed by selection.  In our base flock we cull any males not having the shape we want and already headsets are better. Polled ewes seem to be able to produce good multiple horned progeny as do two horned rams.  The  flocks in South Africa  were run as one group and no selection took place. The horns on young sheep can be fragile and it is best to catch individuals to drench or vaccinate to keep from knocking horns off in the race - ewes have very small horns and are often broken.  We have tipped the light horns on young rams to keep them. They do attach properly eventually.  Horn growth is nutritionally driven so it pays to have them on good feed if growing trophy heads - any seasonal setback will show in horns so supplements should be in place before condition losses in hard times.

Temperament The flocks in South Africa have a reputation for wild sheep and indeed our donor animals were very wild when yarded for the first photos.  Stories from Americans that hunted them in South Africa also confirm this.  When we ran them on a big property it took a while to wear them down before heading them to the gate but were ok once yarded in a group - the can not be handled by themselves - always better to have a few wethers of another breed around to keep them settled  We manage the rams with a tame big wether and have no problem with them on a small farm where they see us regularly. They will follow the wether into the yards or to get hand feed. The ewes are very much like Damara to handle - keep it quiet with no pushy dogs and no problem.  If not handled for a time they will become reactive again. We handle them in a standard sheepyard.

Colour  Colour is not predictable as in many of the indigenous African breeds - we imported all reds but some of the different coloured lambs had better horns so the group is now mixed colour. (primary selection is for horn)

Coat  Coat varies a little with some animals having quite a heavy winter coat of hair and down. All shed off clean in summer and therefore need no maintenance.

Meat The Genelink sheep are big framed animals a little tall with a Meatmaster type carcass and fast growth (surprisingly) seeming to be able to grow on lower quality pastures as long as enough volume. It is essential in my view to have a realistic meat production ability to be able to utilise surplus animals.  Horn buds are checked at a month and any with no growth, only two horns or multiple horns in the wrong configuration are castrated. At three months the inspection produces some more wethers if horns not right.  The wethers and cull ewe lambs are sent in with other lambs over the hooks at around 7mths and to date have always made some price per kilo as other crossbred lambs. Meat quality is good and the preferred option from our breed groups for household use.

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