Raising Soay sheep | Living the Country Life

Raising Soay sheep

Soay sheep are a small breed perfect for someone without a lot of room to spare. Soays are easy keepers, don't require shearing, and make great weed wackers.

Radio interview source: Priscilla Weaver, Sheep Owner

It's common for hobby farmers to raise sheep that are eventually sold off to the market for meat.
Priscilla Weaver raises Soay sheep on her farm in Oregon. Their name comes from the island of Soay off the coast of Scotland. They're one of the oldest She known breed of sheep in the world, and one of the smallest. The ewes weigh 50-to-60-pounds, rams 65-to-75-pounds, and newborn lambs are the size of a bag of sugar.
Soay sheep munch on weeds as well as grasses. Their small hooves aren't as likely to trample down the pasture. Weaver says they're much easier to keep than commercial breeds.   
"They're so primitive that they're disease resistant, and they're very hardy in terms of weather," she says. "They don't mind the rain, but we have to keep them out of the sun in the summer. What they mostly need is plenty of grass to eat on, water, we trim their hooves once a year. When the ewes are nursing, we give them a little alfalfa so they can keep up. But, there's nothing special that we feed them, we don't supplement them with grain or anything like that."
In the spring, Soay fleece comes off by itself in clumps. Weaver says the sheep look pretty ratty for awhile, but you don't have to shear them. Many people who spin wool enjoy the rare and primitive look of the fleece. 
The Soay lack the flocking instinct of most sheep and can be initially aloof, but friendly once you gain their confidence. 
"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. "And then the lambs frolic around like lambs will do. 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. 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. "


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