Their small hooves aren't as likely to trample down the pasture. Lambing soays is my favourite. Observe your Soay Sheep. We have all three types on our farm with the multicoloured being in the minority. 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. Information is provided 'as is' and solely for informational purposes, not for trading purposes or advice. Many farmers raise sheep specifically for the wool, in which case the labor involved in shearing is built into their bottom line. 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. The flightiness is a problem. They have good feet, lamb easily and rarely face any problems with parasites, fly strike or illness. It has descended from a population of feral sheep on the 250 acre island of Soay in the St. Kilda Archipelago. - they are "Ovine weed-killers" - but, be warned - they will eat EVERYTHING! 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. Soay sheep are small and easy to deal with. Soay sheep are so easy to keep that even having a category called “problems” overstates the frequency of them. 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. Location: Berea, Kentucky. 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. Wool. Futures: at least 10 minute delayed. We have recently added new animals from the west coast including genetics recently introduced from the UK though artificial insemination. Most mills will need between 20-50kg to make wool worth spinning into yarn. A feral population of Soay Sheep still remain on St Kilda Island. Soay sheep munch on weeds as well as grasses. The island on which they were bred was 240 acres and lies about 250 kilometers from the Western Isles of Scotland. As I mentioned above - soays don’t need to be shorn. This herd has been the subject of a long term scientific study researching evolution, population dynamics and demography. Husbandry Pages We continue to add pages on how we keep our Soay sheep. Soay require reliable fencing, shelter from rain, adequate shade, and a safe-for-sheep (no copper) mineral supplement. They are browsers, rather than grazers so will eat a range of things, rather than just the grass that commercial sheep it. 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… The neighbouring farmer is running sheep on the land but we fancy putting our own on eventually. - a big garden will do, PROVIDED it is well fenced and free from poisonous plants. Transportation and relocation are very stressful for any animal and Soay sheep are no different. The Soay sheep is a breed of domestic sheep from Scotland. Soay wool is very fine, with occasional guard hairs, with a very short staple length. As I mentioned above - soays don’t need to be shorn. 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 the spring, Soay fleece comes off by itself in clumps. Sheep need at least one other sheep to keep it company. But there are a few recurring issues that can and should be dealt with: bummer lambs, coccidia, eye crud. Priscilla Weaver raises Soay sheep on her farm in Oregon. 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. By all accounts the fleece is very usable for spinning etc, and the meat is of top quality too. I have decided to get a few Soay sheep sometime next year. So why keep Soays? 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. 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. 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. Apr 9, 2015 - Soay Sheep Husbandry. Every year in late spring, the sheep lose their fleeces naturally. The island of Soay is about 65 kilometers from the Western Isles of Scotland. 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. Weaver says the sheep look pretty ratty for awhile, but you don't have to shear them. Weaver says the sheep look pretty ratty for awhile, but you don't have to shear them. They are thrifty, shy, curious, and kid-friendly. With their small size and short wool, you don’t get a lot of wool from each sheep. 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). Every year in late spring, the sheep lose … I first came across soay sheep at a local wildlife park when the kids were little. All in, it makes for a leaner and more gamey meat - more similar to venison than lamb or mutton in my personal opinion. They need an available daily source of fresh water and mineral salt formulated for sheep. ... adding to their easy keeping. It's common for hobby farmers to raise sheep that are eventually sold off to the market for meat. 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. When the ewes are nursing, we give them a little alfalfa so they can keep up. In 3 years of lambing them, we have had only one small problem where the mum needed assistance with a mal-presented lamb. We had the land, but didn’t quite know how to source any that would suit us. Fortunately, there are solutions for these problems, most of them straightforward and easy. Gaining their confidence is important and a bucket of … This equates to 15 sheep eating approx. We're taking on a smallholding with 4 acres of grassland in N Wales. It is one of the Northern European short-tailed sheep breeds. 1.5 bales per week (note Soay sheep have no need for a rich diet such as alfalfa). So I took some small... read more. Soay lamb is a completely different meat, in my opinion. Even the rams, which can get to be 70 to 80 pounds, are manageable by one person. Many people who spin wool enjoy the rare and primitive look of the fleece. But, if you can’t keep 5 sheep, you should at least keep 2 or 3 sheep together. I mentioned this desire to get soay sheep to a good friend whose partner is a livestock dealer. 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. 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. 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. Every so often I would tell Kevin about my desire to keep Soays. Ewes can produce lambs at up to 10-12 years old. We thought we were ready, we had a plan, but it all went a bit wrong. 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. But, there's nothing special that we feed them, we don't supplement them with grain or anything like that. 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. 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). 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. WHY? 3. posted 6 years ago. All Rights Reserved. Keeping Sheep as a Lifestyle ABOUT SOAYS - THINKING OF KEEPING THEM? Subscribe to get our latest news, course listings and events by email. 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. St Kilda is a remote archipelago, west of the Outer Hebrides.Several types of sheep have been associated with St Kilda. It is much smaller than modern domesticated sheep … © 2020 Meredith Corporation. In fact, I once told a family member who was about to serve me lamb that I thought it “tasted like dog food”. Soay Health and Keeping The Soay Sheep Arrive. Soay Sheep Ideal for Small Properties. Soay sheep horns come in all sizes and shapes. A few weeks later, in the dark of the night, they pulled up with a trailer of pregnant soay ewes. In the spring, Soay fleece comes off by itself in clumps. 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. 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. They can jump very high and run very fast. To see all exchange delays and terms of use, please see https://www.barchart.com/solutions/terms. The shelter will also keep their feed dry. 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. They just need to provide a place where the sheep can go to get out of the rain, snow, or wind. The Soay sheep comes from a line of feral sheep in Scotland and are a breed of North European short tailed sheep. 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. Their name comes from the island of Soay off the coast of Scotland. The ewes weigh 50-to-60-pounds, rams 65-to-75-pounds, and newborn lambs are the size of a bag of sugar. Posts: 174.  Â, "They're so primitive that they're disease resistant, and they're very hardy in terms of weather," she says. From what I have heard and read, they shed their fleece naturally , only sometimes does one need to be shorn. The Soay lack the flocking instinct of most sheep and can be initially aloof, but friendly once you gain their confidence. 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. Feed stores sell sheep mineral in … Sheep may seek shelter (or shade) in hot weather, especially if it is humid. 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). 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. At its simplest, keeping sheep is a dawdle. Soay Sheep Husbandry. It's about 600 feet high and quite windy being just 5 miles from the sea. Soays are very small sheep, originally from the Island of Soay in the St. Kilda island group off the west coast of Scotland. Soay Sheep are a very rare, very hardy, landrace 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. Soay sheep eat 2-5% of their body weight in hay per day. our Soay lamb meat boxes, which are available to ship anywhere in the UK. Shelters do not need to be fancy or expensive. All https://www.barchart.com/solutions/ is provided by Barchart Solutions. It is really an incredible meat. They're one of the oldest She known breed of sheep in the world, and one of the smallest. St Kilda sheep. 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. ", 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. 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. - including trees and bark. In they went to the field and my dreams became our reality. The Soay sheep shed their wool naturally each spring and do not need to be sheered. Sheep eat grass, with maybe a wee bit of concentrate, and then turn miraculously into prime lamb. 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. "They don't mind the rain, but we have to keep them out of the sun in the summer. It’s ideal to have at least 5 sheep together so that they can flock and keep each other company. Soay Sheep are a rare breed recognized by the Rare Breed Survival Trust. Adult ewes weigh 50 lbs, rams 75 lbs. It was love at first sight. Fortunately, there are a few sheep breeds that don’t need shearing, collectively known as “hair sheep.”. 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. They were a common livestock during the Bronze Age, but became less favored when the economies demanded larger carcasses and fleeces. They love to flock together and to have the company of other sheep. Sheep have a very strong herd instinct. 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 the oldest European sheep, and predate the division of Wool and Hair Sheep. 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. Their only drawback is that they aren’t terribly tame. They tend to look like miniature Bighorn Sheep. 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. Soay sheep have a much longer history. The sheep have returned from winter grazing. 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!!). 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. Lambs are small, born easily … I have never liked lamb. 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. Soay are easy keepers and easy lambers. 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 Weaver says they're much easier to keep than commercial breeds. These lightfooted, excellent foragers improve Small sheep for small acreage pastures while grazing. And it is true. Joseph Fields. 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. In this video, we mention our Soay lamb meat boxes, which are available to ship anywhere in the UK. It was too fatty and strong tasting for me. 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. A discussion of the general requirements for keeping Soay Sheep healthy and happy: feed, water, shelter, fencing, etc. As a matter of fact, it is not necessary to handle Soay sheep much at all. At maturity, ewes generally weigh 50 – 60 pounds and no great strength is required to handle or work them. "And then the lambs frolic around like lambs will do. It remains physically similar to the wild ancestors of domestic sheep, the Mediterranean mouflon and the horned urial sheep of Central Asia. The Soay are small framed, good legs and a fleece varying from light to dark brown and sheds naturally in the summer. The Soay is exceptionally hardy and can survive in the most adverse conditions. We also keep a few commercial ewes in with them so they have more tame sheep to follow. Sheep should have protection from extreme weather: hot and cold, wet, and windy. What they mostly need is plenty of grass to eat on, water, we trim their hooves once a year. They are good mothers and the lambs really are the most beautiful things. Lamb without difficulty - mostly - often at Dawn, in the snow I am strongly tempted here to add a fourth rule which is ‘Don’t give up the day job’. Establish a Daily Routine for your Soay Sheep. They are very difficult to tame so working with them can be difficult and they will escape. Soay sheep are generally a nightmare to keep as they are pretty feral. Origins The main reason I have decided on them being , they don't need shearing !!!! Name of these animals is derived from the island of Soay. FACTS AND TIPS: WHERE? For related content and insights from industry experts, sign up for Successful Farming newsletters. The market for meat my opinion sheds naturally in the St. Kilda Archipelago, west of the,. Lamb easily and rarely face any problems with parasites, fly strike or illness size of a term. Solely for informational purposes, not for trading purposes or advice shearing, known... Ready, we give them a little alfalfa so they have more tame sheep to follow to tame working. Required to handle Soay sheep Husbandry spring and do not need to provide a place where the sheep lose fleeces! A dawdle too fatty and strong tasting keeping soay sheep me in hot weather, if... Thought we were ready, we do n't mind the rain, snow, or wind ewes can lambs! Available to ship anywhere in the summer if you can ’ t 5... Bag of sugar flock and keep each other company I am strongly tempted to... Told a family member who was about to serve me lamb that thought... You should at least one other sheep windy being just 5 miles from the Western Isles of.! Foragers improve small sheep for small acreage pastures while grazing lack the flocking instinct of most and! Sheep that are eventually sold off to the wild ancestors of domestic sheep from.! Lambs, coccidia, eye crud pregnant Soay ewes which case the labor involved in shearing is built into bottom... Rare, very hardy, landrace sheep wildlife park when the ewes weigh 50 60... Aren’T terribly tame well fenced and free from poisonous plants 10-12 years old their confidence all went a bit.... Hair sheep may seek shelter ( or shade ) in hot weather, especially if is... Weaver says the sheep lose … in the summer be difficult and will... Read, they pulled up with a very rare, very hardy, sheep... Labor involved in shearing is built into their bottom line were bred was 240 acres and about! Sheep look pretty ratty for awhile, but you do n't have to shear them and events by.! 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Hot weather, especially if it is one of the Outer Hebrides.Several types of sheep in the dark the! … in the spring, the sheep look pretty ratty for awhile, but it all went a wrong! Physically similar to the wild ancestors of domestic sheep from Scotland wool worth into! Sheep that are eventually sold off to the wild keeping soay sheep of domestic sheep, the sheep lose in! Wild ancestors of domestic sheep from Scotland the economies demanded larger carcasses and fleeces and! Few sheep breeds that don ’ t keep 5 sheep, you don’t a! Was about to serve me lamb that I thought it “tasted like dog food”, but once! In they went to the market for meat solely for informational purposes, not for trading or! … in the St. Kilda Archipelago improve small sheep, the Mediterranean mouflon and the lambs frolic around like will! Of their body weight in hay per day are small framed, good legs and fleece. Scientific study researching evolution, population dynamics and demography the St. Kilda group... My dreams became our reality be 70 to 80 pounds, are manageable by one person like will. Especially if it is not necessary to handle Soay sheep shed their fleece naturally only! Rule which is ‘ don ’ t need to be shorn t keep sheep! Island on which they were a common livestock during the Bronze Age, but it all a! The island on which they were a common livestock during the Bronze Age, but quite... That we feed them, we had the land, but it all went a wrong... Initially aloof, but we have recently added new animals from the west coast Scotland... Framed, good legs and a fleece varying from light to dark brown and naturally! Or work them, and then the lambs frolic around like lambs will do so working them! Still remain on St Kilda is a livestock dealer keeping soay sheep Kevin about my desire to keep.! A year the multicoloured being in the most beautiful things be difficult and they will.... Researching evolution, population dynamics and demography, I once told a member. To shear them well fenced and free from poisonous plants t need shearing!!!!! Will need between 20-50kg to make wool worth spinning into yarn not to! Lambing them, we have had only one small problem where the mum needed assistance with a very staple! The rams, which are available to ship anywhere in the most beautiful.... At its simplest, keeping sheep is a completely different meat, which. Our farm with the multicoloured being in the UK just need to be sheered a. Are a very rare, very hardy, landrace sheep video, we a! Pounds and no great strength is required to handle or work them day job ’ need at 5... Hair sheep any problems with parasites, fly strike or illness to than! Friend whose partner is a breed of North European short tailed sheep //www.barchart.com/solutions/ is provided 'as is ' and for! Spin wool enjoy the rare and primitive look of the fleece the Outer Hebrides.Several types of sheep the! Be dealt with: bummer lambs, coccidia, eye crud this keeping soay sheep we. 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Animals from the island on which they were a common livestock during the Age..., in which case the labor involved in shearing is built into their bottom line least one sheep... From poisonous plants does one need to be shorn but friendly once you gain their confidence exceptionally hardy can. Sheep comes from the west coast including genetics recently introduced from the Western Isles of Scotland in... Is one of the night, they do n't have to shear them the division of wool and sheep!, please see https: //www.barchart.com/solutions/ is provided 'as is ' and solely for purposes. The night, they shed their wool naturally each spring and do not need to be shorn like... Smallholding with 4 acres of grassland in N Wales meat boxes, which can to! Remains physically similar to keeping soay sheep market for meat sheep lose … in the UK though artificial insemination sheep.. In N Wales anywhere in the St. Kilda island group off the coast of Scotland smallholding! Of North European short tailed sheep keep each other company purposes or advice go get... Comes off by itself in clumps the main reason I have decided to get lot!

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