|PREHISTORIC SOAY SHEEP|
Originally from the Island of St Kilda our first Soay sheep actually came from Lundy Island off the north coast of Devon. These small primitive sheep are quite wild by nature and are thought to have been “left” on St Kilda by the first people that came to Scotland as long ago as 4000 BC. In many aspects they appear to be intermediate between domestic sheep and wild sheep.
Their ancestry has been traced back to the European Mouflon, a wild goat found in mainland Europe. Certainly when people encounter our Soays for the first time they are struck by their “goatlike” appearance.
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). We have all three types on our farm with the multicoloured being in the minority.
So why keep Soays? Alan and I have been to St Kilda twice in August 1989 and 1991 to help Cambridge University catch the Soays there for research purposes. We were taken by their hardiness and ability to survive in really tough condition. They are a sheep that sheds its own fleece and the sheep we handled on St Kilda seemed to be completely disease free, with no signs of foot rot or fly strike. When it came to lambing they just got on with it themselves.
So in 1995 there was an opportunity to buy a flock of Soays from Lundy Island. Alan drove down with a livestock truck, helped to catch them and then bring them back to our farm. Over the years since then we have brought in new stock to address the genetics
From one season to the next the Soays look after themselves. They lamb themselves in April and early May with no intervention from ourselves. Soay ewes are very good mothers, have plenty of milk and easily raise twins and sometimes triplets. They are very attentive to their lambs and self wean in the autumn. Because of their small size we tend not to harvest the lambs for meat but wait until their second summer before we cull them. By then the carcass weight is about 12 to 15 Kgs in weight. Soay meat is lean, very tender and has a good flavour. For those who don’t like “fatty lamb” soay meat is a good option.
The only time we really handle the Soays is when we are worming them or gathering them to take to slaughter. Because they are a small sheep they are easy to handle however they can be tricky to gather. This can either be done by feeding them into an area or herding them using good dogs. Contrary to belief Soays will respond to a couple of good working dogs.
We always have live Soay sheep available to buy:
We also sell soay meat off the farm. This is sold frozen in the following cuts: back leg, rolled shoulder, mince and chops. All cuts are from £7.70 per Kg. The small carcass produces small manageable cuts.
|© The Reindeer Company Limited 1952-2017.
Last revised:- June 29, 2017