HILLGR‚ÄčOVE BREEDING PROGRAM

Hillgrove Philosophy And Practice


Our Current Breeding Program

Hillgrove Babydoll Sheep Stud has five bloodlines and there are two rams for each bloodline.  Because Babydolls are a rare breed we are very careful to ensure there is no in-breeding and genetic diversity is maintained..


When planning each year's breeding program, one ram from each bloodline is selected and this ram is then mated to a group of selected ewes.  To ensure the maximum number of pregnancies we use Artificial Insemination (AI) at Murray River Genetics near Moama, NSW, after which the ram and the selected ewes are placed in small paddocks for the next six to eight weeks.  


This year we mated fifty-five ewes to five rams, with some rams given more ewes than others, depending on the need for particular bloodlines.  In addition, we have thirteen recipient Dorper ewes who were implanted by Murray River Genetics with frozen Babydoll embryos left over from last year.


Very careful records are made and kept of each mating and a record of each lamb's pedigree is added to the Hillgrove Babydoll Stud's records.  


Management of Lambs

Babydoll sheep are joined in the Autumn and lamb in the Spring. Babydolls are seasonal breeders and are only joined in the Autumn. Twins are often born and sometimes triplets.


The ewes are good mothers and like any mother, take good care of their babies. However, when the ewe is pregnant, especially in the later months of pregnancy, they can easily get on their backs (called 'cast') and can't get up again. If this happens and they are not quickly found, they can die. Pregnant ewes should be inspected at least twice per day for this reason in the cold weather, especially if there are windy or frosty conditions.


Babydoll lambs must have shelter, preferably a shed or similar. They can easily die if they become cold and extra care must be taken when being born and for the first few days of life. We lamb our Babydolls in a shed and find the survival rates of the lambs increase if they are inside or at least under some sort of cover.


Babydoll Sheep have naturally woolly faces which makes it easy for grass seeds or bits of hay to get into their eyes. This is an emergency and the object must be removed as soon as possible. Lambing should not take place in a paddock with grass seeds for this reason

Modern Southdown Genetics

We don't use Modern Southdown genetics in our breeding program.


We are very conscientious of using only those Babydolls with traceable pedigrees and who are registered with the Australian Sheep Breeder's Association (ASSBA) in the Babydoll section of the Flock Book. Almost all our Babydoll's pedigrees can be traced from Hillgrove Stud which is the oldest Babydoll sheep stud in Australia. A number of years ago however, Hillgrove Stud used some Modern Southdown rams in their stud from Southern Pastures Southdown Stud and as a result some of our Babydolls have some Modern Southdowns genetics in their bloodlines. The Modern Southdown characteristics will show, for example, as taller with longer legs, long, thin necks and a cleaner face.


Any Babydoll ewe with Southern Pastures in their pedigree is never mated to a ram who also has Southern Pastures in his pedigree.

Babydoll Ewes Are Very Scarce

Due to the prevalence of Modern Southdowns in Australia today, the restrictions on importing semen or sheep from overseas and the tendency of breeders to keep their ewes for breeding it is difficult to locate pure Babydolls ewes in Australia.  This leads to a situation where most breeders have waiting lists and waits can be lengthy.  Babydoll sheep are rare and there is no quick way to obtaining a sizeable mob of Babydolls.


Using Artificial Insemination (AI) And Embryo Transfer (ET)

We originally started breeding Babydolls with one ram and three ewes purchased from the Hillgrove Stud, then at Greenhill in Victoria. It is impossible to quickly grow a sizeable flock with this small number and we were concerned about having to purchase a new ram the following year to prevent in-breeding.


This led us to investigate using Artificial Insemination (AI) and Embryo Transfer (ET) with our Babydoll sheep. Fortunately we are located near 'Murray River Genetics' at Moama, N.S.W. and they were very supportive throughout the whole process.


In 2019 we exported embryos to the EU. This is the first time Australia Babydoll embryos have been exported to the EU.


We have had enquiries from New Zealand and South Africa for embryos.

Please contact us for more information about using ET and/or AI. Frozen semen may be available by prior arrangement but only for a minimum of 100 straws. At the current time we don't 

have any frozen straws available.

Characteristics of Babydolls

Babydoll sheep are lovely little sheep. They are smaller than the average sheep which makes them easier to handle and they have a wonderful, docile temperament. They are friendly and quiet and are ideal for older people or for people with children. They never try to escape from their paddock through fences. They should not have horns.

If you are looking for a sheep to graze under orchard trees or grapevines, the Babydoll may be the answer, provided they are managed properly. Be aware though that if a Babydoll sheep has Modern Southdown or another breed of sheep in its pedigree it may grow too tall to be effective.

You can find more information about grazing Babydolls in orchards or vineyards on the Babydoll Sheep Association of Australia Inc (BSSA) website.