American Soay Sheep
People always ask me, are Soay hardy? Tough enough to survive winter in Alberta! American Soay are easy lambers, especially good mothers, and good grazers. They are excellent sheep if you are looking to do farm gate sales or have a smaller acreage. They will forage a large variety of native and tame plants, particularly enjoying any brush and forbs. Soay are not what you are looking for if you would like a high production meat sheep. They are an old breed, which means that they are slow finishing and have a lower consumption per pound of body weight than commercial sheep. But, slow finishing equates to higher parasite resistance which means less worming if you do proper pasture management.
Soay are very curious and inquisitive. They have not been domesticated for that long, so that means that they are very flighty. Once you get used to their behaviour it is relatively easy to manage, you just need to have a handling system set up, and a fast dog always comes in handy!
Soay shed their wool in the spring generally after lambing, and you can roo (hand pluck) or collect the wool. The double coated Soay produces fine, soft, short wool that makes it ideal for felting but it can be hand spun or commercially processed into yarn for use by hand-weavers. I have animals in color variations from the traditional "wild" pattern (various shades of brown with a light cream belly), to cream and self coloured black.
The history of the American Soay is certainly complicated; if you are interested in the details you should visit Soay Farms for more information.
The ewes that I keep for breeding are selected on a variety of criteria. First and formost is good mothering instinct. After that I look at conformation, size, twinning, colour, temperment, teeth, and feet. I also try to keep the traditional representation of 1/3 horned, 1/3 scurred, and 1/3 polled animals.
My breeding program looks to maintain as much genetic diversity as I can get through careful selection of breeding groups. I put rams in with the ewes in December for six weeks and lambing starts in May on the grass.
I select rams for horn conformation, body conformation, temperament, and colour. I have imported ten rams from the US in the years that I have been breeding. All of these were carefully selected keeping in mind genetic diversity within my flock.
I only keep a couple of rams each year due to the challenges associated managing a large number of rams. So if you are interested in purchasing a ram, let us know early in the year if you can.
Every year I select rams and ewes for breeding groups that I feel will offer genetic diversity and that will compliment conformation traits that the breed traditionally represented. From those animals, I select a few of the best rams to be packaged with unrelated ewes to sell in breeding flocks.
I have shipped sheep all across Canada, so contact me if you are interested in breeding stock.