What to do with 23 acres of grassland unsuitable for anything but grazing animals? You can mow for several years – which we did. But one day, motivated to reduce our “carbon footprint”, we decided to let nature take her course. Unfortunately, within weeks, our beautiful meadows were overrun by a jungle of invasive, non-native flora, e.g. Himalayan Blackberry, Scotch Thistle, Yellow Flag Iris, Norway Maple saplings, Lombardy Poplar saplings and even Tansy Ragwort, which is toxic to other herbivores. NOT what we anticipated!
Appalled at the degradation, we decided to try grazing a few sheep. Sheep are small enough to be easily managed and would fertilize the soil as they grazed. With proper management, the native vegetation on our property could be “mowed” at the same time, without damage. Voila! We went on craigslist and bought some sheep.
We were innocents: a sheep was a sheep was a sheep, eh? Wrong! The variations in behavior between the dozens of breeds of sheep is amazing. Some breeds turn their noses up at weeds – they want cultivated, grass pasture, good hay and grain. Others are “indiscriminate grazers” (what we needed). Those sheep eat whatever is available. There are breeds that constantly patrol the fence line, convinced that the “grass is greener on the other side of the fence.” It didn’t take us long to discover many other differentiating breed traits as well: Disposition, lamb vigor, mothering temperament and “flocking” tendencies, to name a few.
After working with several different breeds (trial and error), we found one breed that was gentle enough on our aged bodies and that fit our circumstances: DORPERS. We found that Dorper ewes are calm, deliver vigorous lambs (usually twins) and are great mothers. But best of all, they were the chow-down champs in our uncontrolled weed-lot. Within a few months, our Dorpers cleared meadows and woods of the most invasive, noxious plants – including Tansy Ragwort, Himalayan Blackberries and Canadian Thistle!!
That is how Brandwein Dorper became a working sheep farm 15 minutes from downtown Portland, Oregon.
Shepherdess at Brandwein Dorper
9801 NE 13th Avenue
Portland, OR 97211
805-256-5599 (text or voice)
503-384-2283 (no text)
Only 15 minutes from downtown Portland and 10 minutes from downtown Vancouver, WA!