In the Spring of 2016 we decided that we would bring some rare breed sheep to our 33 acres of land at Upper Seaview. We felt that bringing animals to Bachlaw Projects would bring a new dimension to our offering here at the project and they duly arrived in July and August 2015. It has enabled us to expand our work experience offering to our young people, as they can now become involved in animal husbandry. This project has been immensely popular and the excitement of the lambs arriving has been a constant source of conversation and delight with the young people choosing names for all the new lambs. We have 16 ewes and 15 lambs as of April 2016.
So why did we choose Soay Sheep and what is it about them that appealed to us?
Soay sheep originate from an island called Soay, which is located in the St Kilda group. Its means “island sheep” in Norse and would suggest that there were sheep on the island since the Vikings. In 1932, two years after the last human inhabitants left the island of Hirta, 107 Soay sheep were transported to the island to live a feral existence . This was successful and there are now in excess of 1500 sheep on the island today, the population are part of an ongoing scientific study researching evolution, population dynamics and demography. Soay sheep have been imported to the mainland, however they remain a rare breed on the mainland.
They are the most primitive looking of all the breeds of sheep, being very athletic with a look of a Gazelle about them. Soay sheep are exceptionally hardy and can survive in the most adverse conditions. The ewes typically weigh around 25kg and the rams around 40kg and are brown in colour ranging from tan to chocolate in hue. They have lighter patches around the eyes, jaws, rump and under the belly. Soay sheep are known for general resistance to most health problems that affect the more developed breeds. During lambing season, which is April and May, they require little assistance to “lamb” and can also shed their own fleeces. Ewes can produce lambs up to the age of 10-12 years, the lambs are small but are born easily and are quick to rise and feed after. This was all taken into consideration in our decision to go with a flock of Soay sheep, as they required much less intervention and were a great starting place for us.
All of our sheep are registered with the Rare Breeds Society Trust and our young people are involved not only in their care, but take great delight in showing them at local agricultural shows and winning rosettes!