The Care and
Maintenance of Soay Sheep,
A brief over view
Diet, Maintenance of a Healthy Flock, Lambing and a
Beginners Guide to Care
The Soay is very much like any other sheep or goat when it comes to care. Grass comprises the bulk of its diet, and because of its tiny size and light weight, it does little damage to pastures or terrain, even in wet Oregon winters. It is a browser and also enjoys woody plants such as alder and manzanita, as well as blackberry bushes, poison oak and coarse weeds. Rose bushes and the lower limbs of fruit trees are also favorites. If pasture is not available, plain grass hay is an excellent feed, supplemented with a small amount of oats or mixed grains. The Soay does not do well on a diet that is too rich and so grain should be given sparingly. We only offer alfalfa to animals that are off their food and then only until their appetite has returned. Alfalfa can be a serious problem for rams and so very little if any should be given to them. A loose mineral supplement, such as a sheep salt that does not contain copper, should also be provided. In areas such as Southern Oregon, which has a selenium deficiency, the trace mineral salt should also contain selenium. The salt can be fed by hand or provided free choice.
These little sheep do require some shelter from the wind and rain and a place where their hay will stay dry, but it can be a small three or four sided shed and does not need to be elaborate. It does however, need good ventilation. We have used 47" field fencing with great success but have also seen Soay kept behind 33" fences in the UK.
MAINTENANCE OF A HEALTHY FLOCK: In spite of the breeds' hardiness, we still vaccinate with CDT (clostridium perfringens types C and D, the fancy name for overeating disease and tetanus toxoid). In areas where there is a high sheep population with additional diseases, the veterinarian may recommend Covexin-8 as the vaccine of choice.
We also take stool samples to the vet every three or four months to check for parasites. Quite frequently the test results are negative which cannot be said for most other breeds, however if you have many animals in a small space or on dirt worming should be done on a more regular basis..
Many people raising sheep organically are also experimenting with an untreated diatomaceous earth added to the feed. Products such as Sustain and Restore can be tried to boost the immune system. These are available from Farmstead Health Supply at www.farmsteadhealth.com or P.O.Box 985, Hillsborough, NC 27278.
We have found that some animals do need an annual hoof trim. By tipping the sheep off balance and placing it on its rear with its legs in the air, it cannot move or struggle much. With Soay, which weigh a mere 50 or 80 lbs., this is a manageable task. With a sharp pair of hoof clippers (for example, Magic Shears, available from Quality Llama Products,www.llamaproducts.com) trim the extra nail away as you would your own fingernail. Fiasco Farms www.fiascofarm.com/goats/hoof-trim-rf.htm provides an excellent series of photos on how to trim feet of goats or sheep. It has been our experience that Soay hooves don't grow as fast as other domestic sheep and so we generally do this only once a year when we give annual vaccinations. This is its "doctoring" for the year and with a handful of grain as a peace offering it soon forgives and forgets.
Soay ewes are excellent mothers and rarely if ever need assistance with lambing. This includes first year ewes, most of which are mature enough to breed. When babies are born, each is picked up as soon as possible after it has been cleaned by the mother and its navel is immersed in 7% iodine as a precaution against infection. A small can or pill vial is very useful for this purpose. A quick check is made to determine the sex of the lamb and it is then returned to its mother. Because southern Oregon is so deficient in selenium, after the lamb is dry and rested we also give each newborn a 0.25cc subcutaneous shot of BoSe (which we obtain from our veterinarians) and a 0.25cc dose of Vitamin A & D. At approximately six to eight weeks of age ram lambs that we determine are not of breeding quality (their genetics are already well represented in our flock) are wethered and sold as pets for weed-eating or wool or for meat. They are easy to keep, ideal for those who are not interested in breeding and make wonderful "PR" animals.
For more comprehensive guides to the keeping and care of Soay sheep see
One and two week old lambs on their first outing
- History of Soay Sheep - History of Soay Sheep in North America - FAQ
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