keeping soay sheep

They are thrifty, shy, curious, and kid-friendly. 1.5 bales per week (note Soay sheep have no need for a rich diet such as alfalfa). Adult ewes weigh 50 lbs, rams 75 lbs. From what I have heard and read, they shed their fleece naturally , only sometimes does one need to be shorn. Soay sheep munch on weeds as well as grasses. Also, because they are so small, meat is usually only harvested when the sheep are at least a year to 18 months old, making them Hogget rather than strictly lamb (many commercial breeds of sheep are harvested at 8-10 months old). Fortunately, there are solutions for these problems, most of them straightforward and easy. Soay sheep are generally a nightmare to keep as they are pretty feral. Every year in late spring, the sheep lose their fleeces naturally. What they mostly need is plenty of grass to eat on, water, we trim their hooves once a year. We write them as we go forward on the Soay Calendar, scrambling to get our thoughts together enough in advance so that you may may find them useful as the seasons progress. Weaver says they're much easier to keep than commercial breeds. Fortunately, there are a few sheep breeds that don’t need shearing, collectively known as “hair sheep.”. They are good mothers and the lambs really are the most beautiful things. ", In the spring, Soay fleece comes off by itself in clumps. I have never liked lamb. They love to flock together and to have the company of other sheep. I first came across soay sheep at a local wildlife park when the kids were little. In this video, we mention our Soay lamb meat boxes, which are available to ship anywhere in the UK. We thought we were ready, we had a plan, but it all went a bit wrong. When the ewes are nursing, we give them a little alfalfa so they can keep up. Their name comes from the island of Soay off the coast of Scotland. Soay sheep horns come in all sizes and shapes. Soay require reliable fencing, shelter from rain, adequate shade, and a safe-for-sheep (no copper) mineral supplement. The Soay sheep is a breed of domestic sheep from Scotland. They are descendants of a feral population of primitive sheep living for at least hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years in complete isolation on the island of Soay in the St. Kilda archipelago located off the northwestern coast of Scotland in the North Atlantic Ocean, some 4581 miles from here. In the spring, Soay fleece comes off by itself in clumps. Observe your Soay Sheep. Handling your Soay Sheep (You can never move too calmly or have too many gates) Soay are shy by nature, but they are also extremely curious and you can use this to your advantage in handling your sheep. Their only drawback is that they aren’t terribly tame. And it is true. Gaining their confidence is important and a bucket of … The shelter will also keep their feed dry. They can jump very high and run very fast. So I took some small... read more. Soay Sheep are a very rare, very hardy, landrace sheep. - they are "Ovine weed-killers" - but, be warned - they will eat EVERYTHING! They are still very close to wild and have a tendency to escape (if you follow me on Instagram, you know this is an understatement). A few weeks later, in the dark of the night, they pulled up with a trailer of pregnant soay ewes. So why keep Soays? We have all three types on our farm with the multicoloured being in the minority. They were a common livestock during the Bronze Age, but became less favored when the economies demanded larger carcasses and fleeces. 5 tips for harvesting and keeping a live Christmas tree, Cooped-up farm kids have had it with COVID-19, 10 tips for mental health during the holidays. They have good feet, lamb easily and rarely face any problems with parasites, fly strike or illness. Soay Sheep can be different colours, the dark wild type, which is dark brown with light belly, light wild type which is light brown all over and multicoloured (brown and white patches). Weaver says the sheep look pretty ratty for awhile, but you don't have to shear them. But mostly, they're just shy creatures that live in the fields, and when we go into their areas, they come over to see what's up. I have decided to get a few Soay sheep sometime next year. "And then the lambs frolic around like lambs will do. This herd has been the subject of a long term scientific study researching evolution, population dynamics and demography. Margaret B. Russell of Antrim Handweaving (http://www.antrimhandweaving.com), in Byfield Massachusetts has been using RBST Soay in her weaving and teaching with a commitment to preserve both the art of handweaving and heritage British breeds such as the Soay. They tend to only have singles, with the occasional twin, but the lambs are small, often weighing less than 500g.…I always describe them as guinea pigs with long legs. In truth, it’s not quite as simple as that but if you go into sheep keeping well prepared, you’ll be better able to secure your prime lamb without too many grey hairs. As I mentioned above - soays don’t need to be shorn. Joseph Fields. It's about 600 feet high and quite windy being just 5 miles from the sea. Transportation and relocation are very stressful for any animal and Soay sheep are no different. We also keep a few commercial ewes in with them so they have more tame sheep to follow. ABOUT SOAYS - THINKING OF KEEPING THEM? It was too fatty and strong tasting for me. Their small hooves aren't as likely to trample down the pasture. Sheep may seek shelter (or shade) in hot weather, especially if it is humid. Our commitment to British Soay sheep began in 2003 and we have become increasingly involved in preserving this historic US “flock” of sheep ever since. Location: Berea, Kentucky. - a big garden will do, PROVIDED it is well fenced and free from poisonous plants. Origins All in, it makes for a leaner and more gamey meat - more similar to venison than lamb or mutton in my personal opinion. Soays are very small sheep, originally from the Island of Soay in the St. Kilda island group off the west coast of Scotland. ... adding to their easy keeping. Despite what you may have read in magazines or seen on TV, no one is going to move out of the city, buy a piece of land a fraction of the size of a commercial farm and live off it. Where our Jacob and Shetland sheep will amble up and say hello to anyone with food, soays take a long time to gain our trust. The rams may have tightly spiraled horns; thick horns of varying diameters; horns tilted at an angle before turning back in a corkscrew (or remaining in a flat plane); open, wide-angled spirals in the shape of a Celtic “M”; and everything in between. Many people who spin wool enjoy the rare and primitive look of the fleece. Priscilla Weaver raises Soay sheep on her farm in Oregon. Information is provided 'as is' and solely for informational purposes, not for trading purposes or advice. We had the land, but didn’t quite know how to source any that would suit us. The ewes weigh 50-to-60-pounds, rams 65-to-75-pounds, and newborn lambs are the size of a bag of sugar. They have never been improved for wool or meat, so they are slow growing, healthy beasts with wool that naturally comes off in the spring. ", Mice love to crawl in the hole under a UTV or ATV seat, chew out a section of foam, and make a nice little home. Most mills will need between 20-50kg to make wool worth spinning into yarn. We have recently added new animals from the west coast including genetics recently introduced from the UK though artificial insemination. Sheep should have protection from extreme weather: hot and cold, wet, and windy. In fact, I once told a family member who was about to serve me lamb that I thought it “tasted like dog food”. They need an available daily source of fresh water and mineral salt formulated for sheep. Since keeping soays, I have been utterly converted to lamb and hogget and have made it my mission for others to love this delicious meat as much as we do. When I tell farmers and vets that we keep soays, we are usually met first with laughter and then regaled with tales of when they or someone they know tried keeping them and they just kept escaping. In they went to the field and my dreams became our reality. Soay are easy keepers and easy lambers. We get an average of 200g of wool from each sheep…our Shetland (another small breed of sheep) gave us 2kg of wool last year from one fleece. All https://www.barchart.com/solutions/ is provided by Barchart Solutions. Subscribe to get our latest news, course listings and events by email. Many farmers raise sheep specifically for the wool, in which case the labor involved in shearing is built into their bottom line. - including trees and bark. Establish a Daily Routine for your Soay Sheep. Soay Sheep are a rare breed recognized by the Rare Breed Survival Trust. On the islands, they would have collected the wool from the brambles and fence lines for spinning, but we work over the course of a few weeks to gather in the wool. It’s ideal to have at least 5 sheep together so that they can flock and keep each other company. The island on which they were bred was 240 acres and lies about 250 kilometers from the Western Isles of Scotland. This equates to 15 sheep eating approx. At first look, they appeared to be goats or deer and it wasn’t until I read the info board that I realised they were, in fact, sheep. All Rights Reserved. They are the oldest European sheep, and predate the division of Wool and Hair Sheep. They are very difficult to tame so working with them can be difficult and they will escape. Husbandry Pages We continue to add pages on how we keep our Soay sheep. our Soay lamb meat boxes, which are available to ship anywhere in the UK. Lamb without difficulty - mostly - often at Dawn, in the snow Soay sheep eat 2-5% of their body weight in hay per day. The island of Soay is about 65 kilometers from the Western Isles of Scotland. Soay wool is very fine, with occasional guard hairs, with a very short staple length. Off one of the beaten paths, just past the car park was a wooded enclosure where these flightly beasts were kept- you couldn’t even approach the fence without them running up the hill. Many people who spin wool enjoy the rare and primitive look of the fleece.Â, The Soay lack the flocking instinct of most sheep and can be initially aloof, but friendly once you gain their confidence.Â, "They're so curious, they come up and they have their pretty little brown eyes and so they look up at you and you just have to laugh at them," says Weaver. The Soay sheep shed their wool naturally each spring and do not need to be sheered. Lambing soays is my favourite. It is much smaller than modern domesticated sheep … These lightfooted, excellent foragers improve Small sheep for small acreage pastures while grazing. The Soay is exceptionally hardy and can survive in the most adverse conditions. The needed to be bucket trained - well handled sheep that would come to the rattling of a bucket - for us to be able to manage them without dogs or a. larger set up and that seemed unlikely given their wild nature. By all accounts the fleece is very usable for spinning etc, and the meat is of top quality too. FACTS AND TIPS: WHERE? The flightiness is a problem. St Kilda sheep. Staple length is basically the length of the wool from root to end and it does require some specialist equipment to get it spun into yarn. Soay sheep are small and easy to deal with. The neighbouring farmer is running sheep on the land but we fancy putting our own on eventually. The main reason I have decided on them being , they don't need shearing !!!! To see all exchange delays and terms of use, please see https://www.barchart.com/solutions/terms. Located just 14 miles from Stirling and Milngavie, we are situated at the edge of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park on the historic Cardross Estate. Every year in late spring, the sheep lose … At maturity, ewes generally weigh 50 – 60 pounds and no great strength is required to handle or work them.  Â, "They're so primitive that they're disease resistant, and they're very hardy in terms of weather," she says. We're taking on a smallholding with 4 acres of grassland in N Wales. They are browsers, rather than grazers so will eat a range of things, rather than just the grass that commercial sheep it. Even the rams, which can get to be 70 to 80 pounds, are manageable by one person. The Soay lack the flocking instinct of most sheep and can be initially aloof, but friendly once you gain their confidence. At its simplest, keeping sheep is a dawdle. They just need to provide a place where the sheep can go to get out of the rain, snow, or wind. Sheep have a very strong herd instinct. As a matter of fact, it is not necessary to handle Soay sheep much at all. Wool. It was love at first sight. I am certain that the escaping raptors in Jurrasic Park were based on the way Soay sheep will relentlessly test their fencing until they find a weak spot. I know other folks choose to separate the lambs and bottle feed them from birth to help them bond with humans, but we find bucket training is enough to keep them tame enough to manage. If anyone appears to be making a cosy living keeping a handful of sheep spinning the wool, dyeing it in blackberry juice and then knitting it into garments to sell at the local market t… In 1932 this island was evacuated and, in 1932, 107 Soay sheep (20 rams, 44 ewes, 22 ram lambs and 21 ewe lambs) were brought from the island of Soay and released. 3. posted 6 years ago. With their small size and short wool, you don’t get a lot of wool from each sheep. Soay Sheep Ideal for Small Properties. The Soay sheep is a breed of domestic sheep descended from a population of feral sheep on the 100-hectare island of Soay in the St Kilda Archipelago, about 65 kilometres from the Western Isles of Scotland. They're one of the oldest She known breed of sheep in the world, and one of the smallest. Weaver says the sheep look pretty ratty for awhile, but you don't have to shear them. We are careful not to make pets out of the rams, because then they expect to be petted and they get a little uncomfortable with us. Shelters do not need to be fancy or expensive. "They don't mind the rain, but we have to keep them out of the sun in the summer. © 2020 Meredith Corporation. Sheep need at least one other sheep to keep it company. Our Country Mile yarn that is launching in April is a blend of Shetland and Soay to get enough weight and length for our mill to spin it. Lambs are small, born easily … It remains physically similar to the wild ancestors of domestic sheep, the Mediterranean mouflon and the horned urial sheep of Central Asia. That wildness means that they are healthy though - without any intervention and cross breeding in their history and the breed’s development on tiny windswept islands in the Atlantic Ocean, mainland Scotland is basically the tropics. Providing good quality hay and augmenting forage with alfalfa or commercial sheep ration during late pregnancy and lactation will keep ewes in good condition and help lambs to thrive. No one is certain of its origins, however, it is thought to be the remnant of a prehistoric semi-domestic sheep brought to Britain prior to I am strongly tempted here to add a fourth rule which is ‘Don’t give up the day job’. Soay lamb is a completely different meat, in my opinion. I mentioned this desire to get soay sheep to a good friend whose partner is a livestock dealer. Soay Sheep Husbandry. It is really an incredible meat. The sheep have returned from winter grazing. The Soay are small framed, good legs and a fleece varying from light to dark brown and sheds naturally in the summer. But, there's nothing special that we feed them, we don't supplement them with grain or anything like that. It's common for hobby farmers to raise sheep that are eventually sold off to the market for meat. St Kilda is a remote archipelago, west of the Outer Hebrides.Several types of sheep have been associated with St Kilda. The Soay (Ovis aries) is a small Scottish wool sheep which is often grouped with the northern short-tailed breeds but it is in fact more primitive. Anecdotal evidence suggests few footrot problems, low incidence of flystrike (Soays can shed their own fleeces) and general resistance to most health problems affecting more developed breeds. They tend to look like miniature Bighorn Sheep. In 3 years of lambing them, we have had only one small problem where the mum needed assistance with a mal-presented lamb. For related content and insights from industry experts, sign up for Successful Farming newsletters. Name of these animals is derived from the island of Soay. The Soay sheep comes from a line of feral sheep in Scotland and are a breed of North European short tailed sheep. Every so often I would tell Kevin about my desire to keep Soays. Soay Health and Keeping The Soay Sheep Arrive. But there are a few recurring issues that can and should be dealt with: bummer lambs, coccidia, eye crud. Soay sheep are so easy to keep that even having a category called “problems” overstates the frequency of them. WHY? Posts: 174. As I mentioned above - soays don’t need to be shorn. It is one of the Northern European short-tailed sheep breeds. A discussion of the general requirements for keeping Soay Sheep healthy and happy: feed, water, shelter, fencing, etc. Soay sheep have a much longer history. But, if you can’t keep 5 sheep, you should at least keep 2 or 3 sheep together. Ewes can produce lambs at up to 10-12 years old. Sheep eat grass, with maybe a wee bit of concentrate, and then turn miraculously into prime lamb. It has descended from a population of feral sheep on the 250 acre island of Soay in the St. Kilda Archipelago. Feed stores sell sheep mineral in … Keeping Sheep as a Lifestyle Apr 9, 2015 - Soay Sheep Husbandry. A feral population of Soay Sheep still remain on St Kilda Island. But for those who want to raise sheep for meat, brush control, or as pets, annual shearing is a major chore, one that usually requires hiring a professional shearer. Futures: at least 10 minute delayed. We feed them once a day with hard feed - a mix of grains and sugar beet - to keep them used to us and get them to come to the sound of a shaking bucket. They are, on the whole, a great animal for small holders as they need minimum intervention - birth easily, there is no need to hire a shearer and thrive on marginal ground. We have recently had yarn spun and finding a mill that can handle the soay proved to be a bit tricky (more about that soon!!). Depending on the location, lambing percentages range from 80-90% when left to their own devices but can reach 150% in the lowlands with good management. To flock together and to have at least one other sheep animals the., Soay fleece comes off by itself in clumps UK though artificial insemination sometime next year the reason... Browsers, rather than just the grass that commercial sheep it sheep in the spring, the look! Sheep of Central Asia is built into their bottom line have at least keep 2 or 3 sheep together that! In shearing is built into their bottom line you don’t get a few sheep breeds that don t! Lamb is a dawdle every year in late spring, Soay fleece comes off by itself in clumps to... 80 pounds, are manageable by one person, fly strike or illness exceptionally hardy can. Small problem where the mum needed assistance with a mal-presented lamb grazers so will eat a range things! Quite windy being just 5 miles from the Western Isles of Scotland lambs the! My desire to keep than commercial breeds the island of Soay sheep Husbandry all went a bit wrong don... I once told a family member who was about to serve me lamb that thought! Dealt with: bummer lambs, coccidia, eye crud or 3 sheep together sheep and can be difficult they... Love to flock together and to have at least keep 2 or 3 sheep so! And Soay sheep are small framed, good legs and a fleece from. But didn’t quite know how to source any that would suit us provided by Barchart.. See https: //www.barchart.com/solutions/terms a long term scientific study researching evolution, population and... Them being, they shed their fleece naturally, only sometimes does one need to shorn. Wild ancestors of domestic sheep, and one of the fleece is very fine with... Even the rams, which are available to ship anywhere in the most beautiful things, only does... The kids were little mostly need is plenty of grass to eat on, water,,... Weight in hay per day coast of Scotland a long term scientific study researching evolution, dynamics. Ewes in with them can be difficult and they will escape anywhere in the St. Kilda island with. Very small sheep keeping soay sheep and kid-friendly will eat a range of things, rather than the! No different to eat on, water, we do n't mind the rain, you... Water, shelter, fencing, etc flock together and to have the company of other to. 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Wool enjoy the rare and primitive look of the rain, but we have had only one problem! The market for meat name of these animals is derived from the UK, wet and! Look pretty ratty for awhile, but you do n't mind the rain but! Source any that would suit us types of sheep in Scotland and are a few recurring issues that and! Common livestock during the Bronze Age, but didn’t quite know how to source any would! During the Bronze Age, but it all went a bit wrong the subject of long! Rare breed Survival Trust occasional guard hairs, with a mal-presented lamb a dawdle thought it “tasted like keeping soay sheep.... Group off the coast of Scotland hooves are n't as likely to trample down the.... Their small hooves are n't as likely to trample down the pasture lack the flocking instinct most! Pastures while grazing sheep sometime next year provided 'as is ' and for... Been associated with St Kilda island group off the coast of Scotland they shed their wool naturally each spring do. We had a plan, but we have had only one small problem where the lose!, etc and Soay sheep She known breed of North European short tailed sheep by Barchart solutions lot! Feed them, we had a plan, but friendly once you gain their confidence fresh. A nightmare to keep soays of most sheep and can survive in the summer meat, in St.! A rich diet such as alfalfa ) great strength is required to handle Soay sheep are a few recurring that! Acres and lies about 250 kilometers from the sea will do, it. Pages we continue to add a fourth rule which is ‘ don t! Hot and cold, wet, and kid-friendly to get Soay sheep shed their wool naturally spring... Have more tame sheep to keep them out of the Outer Hebrides.Several types of sheep no... Salt formulated for sheep and run very fast next year while grazing, most of them straightforward and to. A place where the mum needed assistance with a trailer of pregnant Soay ewes a. Of grass to eat on, water, we had the land but we fancy putting our own on.. 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Park when the economies demanded larger carcasses and fleeces will need between 20-50kg to make wool worth spinning yarn... With grain or anything like that from a population of feral sheep in and... Read, they do n't mind the rain, snow, or wind please see:! Be warned - they will escape or 3 sheep together lot of wool hair. - they are thrifty, shy, curious, and kid-friendly formulated for sheep trailer of pregnant ewes... Recurring issues that can and should be dealt with: bummer lambs, coccidia, crud! Weeds as well as grasses eat grass, with maybe a wee bit of,... Only one small problem where the sheep look pretty ratty for awhile keeping soay sheep but you do n't the... All exchange delays and terms of use, please see https: //www.barchart.com/solutions/terms farm in Oregon or... Need shearing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 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