Why Our Sheep?
Rocky Lane began raising sheep in 1978 with some commercial ewes. Within four years we decided to seriously consider breeding Dorsets.
We also raised North Country Cheviots and Hampshires, alongside the Dorsets,
but we eventually desided to specialise in the Dorset breed in the 1990’s.
The origin of our Dorset flock stems from an importation from New Zealand in 1980. To complement these superior maternal genetics, we carefully selected a "Legacy" son and a "Birchwood" ram (1990) to increase body capacity and length of loin. The subsequent matings also succeeded in raising the "udders" off the ground.
To maintain maximum health, we closed the flock in 1994. All new
genetics were obtained by Artificial Insemination (AI) or Embryo
Using AI, we introduced some Carwell genetics from Australia, known for its extra-muscling gene (1996-2000). We were very pleased with the progeny from this
endeavour, as the lambs presented extremely full hindquarters and increased width of loin.
As part of the Ontario Lamb Improvement Breeding Strategy "purebred project", with the assistance of Dr. Brian Buckrell, we shared some Canadian genetics by embryo transfer with two other Dorset breeders. This venture was designed to have the maternal traits of the three flocks complement each other.
In 1999/2000 we introduced new genetics from Britain.
In 2006 and 2011, two importations from New Zealand introduced 6
Our Breeding Goal
The objective of our breeding program is a dual challenge - to produce polled Dorsets that have the best possible combination of maternal and terminal characteristics.
Our view is that these traits are not mutually exclusive. We are striving to produce animals that have the potential to exhibit, simultaneously, superior maternal and terminal traits.
The synthesis of these attributes requires time, effort and sound selection. Dedication to the employment of objective and subjective evaluation over the short and long term are bringing our goal ever closer to fruition.
Certifications and Programs
We have participated in the following:
- Genetic Evaluation testing since 1983 (SFIP) (now by GenOvis)
- Station tested rams from 1984 until the test station closed
- Sheep shows and sales from 1984–1994
- Shepherds’ Research Program 1988-1989
- Ontario Lamb Improvement Breeding Strategy Program, 1995–2000
- Master Shepherd's Course Certification, 2000
- Participated in research of AI and ET with United Breeders’ and the University of Guelph, 1988–2000
- Participated in an "oocyte recovery" program, 1997
- Member of Ontario Sheep Health Program
- Maedi-Visna Flock Status Pilot Project - Status "A"
- Ultrasound pregnancy testing
- All Stud Rams are Scrapie tested, sale Lambs are tested upon request
- Offer Sheep Mentoring Programs through Farms at Work 2014-2015
Rocky Lane is a "no frills" operation, concentrating on the production of the best possible sheep with the least possible capital investment.
In winter, the dry ewes are kept outside with access to a pole barn for shelter. The replacement ewe and ram lambs are also housed in the pole barn, as are the mature rams and weaned lambs. This facilitates selection for hardiness. An old bank barn is used as our drop area in winter, but the ewes are fed outside. There is an insulated claiming area, which can be heated in extreme weather. In the summer, we use a rotational grazing system for all the mature animals. The weaned lambs are confined to optimize feed intake and growth.
We operate on an accelerated program, lambing in Jan.–Feb., Apr.–May, and Sept.–Oct. Ewes are expected to lamb three times in two years.
Weaning occurs at the time of the 50-day weights. The first selection and culling are also done at this time. The second sorting follows the 100-day weighing. A further evaluation takes place prior to breeding.
Genetic Marker Genes
We are striving to attain the maximum values of the New Zealand
The results from the hoof to hook live seminars indicate success in
the loin max gene category.
- Loin Max Gene (Myo Max Gene)
- Lamb Hardiness
- Cold Tolerance
- Worm Resistance
- Breed type
- Genetic performance potential (record of performance EPD’s)
- Structural soundness
- Females - maternal traits, early maturing, maintaining body condition,
ability to lamb out of season and longevity
- Dam families
- Males - muscling, maternal traits and conformation
Genetic evaluation, using expected progeny differences and "eyeballing", are equally important in the selection process.