Soays in the Snow

January and February are tough months. It’s the deepest part of winter without the light filled festivals to lift our spirits. As I write there is a ‘weather warning’ for snow but so far we only have icy winds and threatening skies. When there is snow on the ground everything is so much harder for us and all our animals so we don’t welcome it unconditionally!

This image is actually from winter 2017. It features one of our hardy Soay sheep in the snow and I have written about this breed a number of times. I’ve used this image as we recently ran a day’s course on Soay sheep keeping and hoped the snow would hold off for the event. We had a beautiful frosty, sunny day for our wintery time outdoors with them, punctuated by a hearty soup and hot drinks to warm fingers and toes!

Preparing the course was a great focus as we tried to condense over a decade of learning about Soay sheep breeding and management into a day long course. We’re now in that part of the shepherd’s year where we like it to be a quiet time for the ewes (and the shepherd!). After taking out our tups last November, we try to keep interference to a minimum to prevent the ewes from losing their lambs. We like to be sure they are in good condition and we take faecal egg counts to check they are worm free. We always supplement with a small amount of hard feed to keep the ladies friendly and coming to the bucket. Considering the time of year our grass is quite good but they also get some lovely meadow hay especially if there is snow on the ground.

We think our wee flock is in lovely shape to receive visitors and we’re always very happy to share our knowledge and enthusiasm and hope that it gives our course participants the inspiration and confidence to keep their own wee flock. It’s certainly true that teaching something you know (even well) gives you a deeper understanding and often offers new perspectives.

Despite the winter feeling long we welcome this opportunity to look again at the familiar and hope for fresh insights.

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