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Sunday 4 September 2011

Not Geep

A friend of mine posted an article from a metropolitian newspaper about the discovery of Geep.

Clicky thingy here to see Geep!

What the hell is a geep you ask? The answer you get will depend on who you ask. If you ask the good people in the article they will tell you it's a cross between a goat and a sheep. If you ask me I will tell you it's closely related to dropbears, yowies and honest politicians. How would I know? We run about 15000 of them on our properties, and by "them" I mean the supposed geeps. If it looks like a geep, talks like a geep, walks like a geep, then it's a damara. Or maybe a dorper damara cross. Or dorper merino cross. It gets blurry at times, but it's not a goat crossed with a sheep.
Freshly mustered weaners.

The damara breed originates from East Asia and Egypt circa 3000BC. They are a natural breed, meaning nature has done the selection, not humans. The first genetics were imported into Australia in 1996 from South Africa, a time when the wool industry continued to struggle. At first glance they do look similiar to goats. They have hair like a dog and some have bells like a goat on their throats. They are long rangey bodied animals, with a very strong herding instinct. Their defining feature though is their fat tail. They use their tail similiar to a camels hump, storing fat there which is then drawn upon during hard times.

Baby Damara. No goats were shagged in the making of this.
Think of a damara as a small cow (or a goat, but let's not confuse people). We don't shear, crutch, mulse, tail, jet, dip or castrate a damara. They naturally shed their coats, which has raised concerns about contamination from woolgrowers, legitimate concerns, but provided care is taken and the breeds are seperated there shouldn't be an issue. Damaras have gained a reputation as fencers, but I don't believe they are any worse than merinos, it's just that they stand out if they do get out.

Baby Goat. I repeat, a goat.
They do have their drawbacks. They have almost no domestic market, as they hang up similiar to a goat. The primary market is live export, they are a preferred breed in the Middle East. You won't see a damara bening shoved into a car boot, aside from the fact a damara ram would kill you in trying, they are saved for the big wigs. They handle alot differently to a merino or crossbred. By different I mean imagine trying to herd fish. Their strong herding instinct has come from generations of being chased by lions, tigers, wild dogs and god knows what else. They know that the sheep on the outside of the flock gets eaten, so they all try to be on the inside at once. What you end up with is a sort of rolling maul that wouldn't be out of place on a thugby, sorry, rugby field. Getting a damara to break from the mob to head up the draft can be nigh on impossible, but once one goes, they all follow, so sometimes they can be easier to draft or load than sluggish merinos or crossbreeds. It comes down to experiance. If your truck driver hasn't learnt that pushing one down the race on it's own only leads to him copping it in the back of the head as it comes flying back again, then you're in for a long day. Usually it takes three or four goes for the driver to realise he's going to get killed if he keep persisting. When loading, it always cracks me up when after trying for a bit to see if they go on their own, the driver grabs one be the horns and walks it up the race. The rest of the mob, who ten seconds ago were not going up the race come hell or high water on their own, happily follow their one mate who is kicking and fighting all the way up. I can only imagine the conversation on the top deck. "What the hell did you lead us here for?" "Lead you? Didn't you see me fighting all the way? Why the hell would you follow?"

We find the damara very well suited to the pastoral country. By all accounts they seem to walk further, graze a larger variety of feed and are much easier to muster. A few mustering pilots have commented they are doing them out of a job. One or two passes and they mob up and that's it. None of this endless griding chasing a mob of 300 spread out in 300 mobs of one. We have ewes and lambs in country the previous owner said was only his wether counrty, it wasn't strong enough for a merino ewe to grow a lamb and a coat of wool. I would describe our ewes down there as waddling.

So that's it in a nutshell. Not Geep. From all accounts I don't think a geep exists. I have seen the chimera, a hybrid of a lamb and a goat embreyo fused together in a lab by Dr Frankensteins apprentice. I have also heard of the rare occurance where they have mated, but produced stillborn offspring. And even rarer occassions where they offspring has survived, but is sterile. If anyone has any other stories I'd be interested to know. But considering Gabyon has around 4000 feral goats each year plus the sheep, and considering a billy goats tendancy to mount anything within range, be it animal, vegatable or mineral, I reckon the previous owners would have seen a few geep in the hundred odd years they ran the place. But try telling that to those who wrote the article.

More photos
Damara Association Website

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CountryMouse said...

haha ... here they got a couple of dorper sheep (undoubtably crossed) to eat and on arrival the kids decided they were geep because they looked like a cross between a goat and sheep. They know that they are sheep but the name has stuck.

I guess it is us folk coming up with silly names that makes it so confusing for people.

Anonymous said...

Nice pictures, but sorry you won't convince me. :) But Thanks again for the input and the discussion on my blog.