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Local breeder promotes Dorper sheep

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Penny Lambach returns to the stall with Reserve Champion, Pistol. Photo by Dan Lambach
Laura Beaton
Staff Writer
9/24/2013
 

It’s not for money that Penny Lambach works day in and day out on her Galeppi Ranch farm raising sheep. The southern California native has been raising Dorpers since 2002.

Lambach, who lived in Agoura with husband Dan and their three daughters until moving to Galeppi Ranch in 1986, had sheep, cattle, goats and horses before she relocated to Quincy.

Initially the Lambachs took a break from raising and showing livestock when they moved to Quincy. But about 10 years ago, they were introduced to the Dorper breed and purchased a ram and ewe with two offspring for pasture management.

The Dorper breed is a South African native that is a cross between a Dorset and a black-faced Persian sheep. They were bred in the 1950s and brought to the U.S. soon after.

The Lambachs love Dorpers for their friendliness, gentleness and good personalities. Penny’s ram, Big Guy, weighs 275 pounds, while her ewes average 160-170.

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Penny Lambach takes a break from the ever-present chores that a working ranch entails. The Lambachs were the second family to settle in the Galeppi Ranch area of Quincy in 1986 and they began raising Dorpers around 2002.

Dorpers are praised for their excellent meat, Penny said, which she describes as mild-flavored lamb that is delicious baked, barbecued or broiled.

She said Dorpers are also known for their exceptional hides that are used to make high quality shoes, purses and sheepskin seat covers.

Dorpers are short, compact and broad. They are shedders, making them easy to care for maintenance-wise. They are also well adapted to hot and cold conditions, and thrive in Plumas County.

Penny cares diligently for her sheep, worming them regularly and utilizing a “turntable” that allows her to trim a sheep’s hooves easily while it is immobilized on its side. She said she calls on a veterinarian about 5 or 6 times a year.

Dorpers are healthy animals not very susceptible to disease, Penny said. They are not prone to scrapie, a degenerative disease similar to mad-cow that affects the nervous systems of sheep and goats.

Penny conducts genetic testing to determine the carrier status of her Dorpers for scrapie. The genetic testing (required at many sheep shows) helps in determining which sheep she will keep for breeding and which she will cull out for meat.

The Lambachs’ primary focus is on improving and promoting the Dorper breed. Penny keeps all of her ewes with favorable genes and good conformation.

She does not sell lamb meat per se, but does sell the culls as lamb on the hoof. She currently has a waiting list of buyers for her sheep, an indication of their growing popularity.

In late May, Penny won Reserve Champion spring lamb ram at the 2013 Nugget All-American Invitational Show and Sale, an all breed sheep sale. Last year she won Grand Champion spring ewe lamb and reserve champion ram lamb.

Penny said she received an inquiry recently from a rancher in Santa Barbara wanting to buy 12 lambs to establish a commercial herd (she declined).

When butchered, Dorpers produce about 60 percent of their body weight in meat, compared to the 50 percent rate of most other sheep.

Penny currently has 14 ewes and three rams. Many, if not all, of the ewes are pregnant. Dorpers tend to produce twins and have a gestation period of five months.

Penny said she assists at births when necessary, which is about half the time. She has a web cam mounted on the wall of her lambing barn. This allows her to check the status of the ewes and kids from her house.

This year her ewes bred earlier than usual, and are nearly ready to give birth.

Penny is stocking her lambing barn with supplies she’ll need: gloves, lubricant, iodine, heat lamps, towels, baby blankets and First Lamb, an energy booster. After drying the newborn kids, she wraps them in the baby blankets for the first day or two to help prevent freezing.

Buddy and Jake, Penny’s two border collies, are hard workers with important jobs on the farm. The dogs watch and herd the sheep from pasture to pasture. Typically, guard duties are left to Great Pyrenees dogs, Penny said.

However, she has not needed to employ guard dogs, as she has had few losses of sheep. She used to keep chickens, but the skunks and raccoons made raising hens a losing enterprise. Dan converted the chicken coop to the lambing barn, where up to five ewes can birth their babies under protective cover.

Penny lost one ram to a bear several years ago. Last year she and her husband saw a big mountain lion walk across their pasture but keep on going.

She said the ranch is a natural byway for coyotes, but so far, they have seen no destruction from them either. She thinks her three horses may have something to do with that.

Penny’s biggest helpers, aside from Dan and her dogs, are her horse Riley, daughter Windi and granddaughter Hannah.

All three women are members of the Indian Valley Riding and Roping Club and Hannah participates in 4-H. Windi and Hannah help out on the farm, at sheep shows and join Penny on horseback camping trips.

The 9-acre Lambach Farms is a beautiful, quiet haven in American Valley. Now that Penny is officially retired, she can spend even more time doing what she loves — raising sheep, working with her dogs, riding her horse and spending time with family.

You can learn more about Dorper sheep and the Lambachs at their website, http://bit.ly/1d91H3T.

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