Why breed heritage sheep? To share the joys of raising them

No amount of elegant writing, clever sayings, or even high quality photographs can compare in “advertising” value to the spontaneous and heartfelt messages we sometimes get from new or repeat customers when they arrive to pick up their sheep or see their new sheep come off Ron Keener’s truck. There is no question that these moments are a major reason we keep raising Soay sheep. I’ve thought from time to time about making a comprehensive post with as many of the “thank you” notes as I can find from our first ten years of breeding British Soay sheep, but just one of these expressions of delight will make my point.

Ewes about to go for a trip with Ron

Ewes about to go for a trip with Ron

Over the last week, Ron has made his way from our farm in southern Oregon to the east coast, carrying 21 of our sheep to an established customer in North Carolina, an eager new breeder in Pennsylvania, and our longest-standing customer in upstate New York. The first dropoff took place earlier this morning. Within minutes we received a note from Kate in North Carolina. I have dutifully copied every word and punctuation mark from her message, but I cannot resist adding pictures of the sheep she refers to.

I can’t believe how beautiful all the sheep are. Especially Tarleton! I’m pretty sure he is going to be my new dominant ram. Right now it is Ferrington, but Tarleton has an “air of authority” about him. Whitestone is cute (and magnificent)! Colgate has such wonderful horns, and he is so dark! Compton is funny, he’s trying to pretend he is invisible, which is a good survival technique for a prey animal. The little girls were baaaing at the llamas. I hope to be able to let them out this weekend. The new girls will probably adjust quickly to the rest of the flock, because they baa with a “Saltmarsh” accent. Kate

Saltmarsh Tarleton, British Soay ram

Regal Tarleton has his share of battle scars, but is eager for his next ‘rodeo’

We are particularly pleased that Kate likes Tarleton. He is getting up in years and we were afraid she might have second thoughts when she saw him. Apparently not.

Regular readers may recall that a couple of years ago we had a scary small lamb (1 lb 13 oz), then known as Tiny Tim, who grew up just fine, traded in his name for Saltmarsh Ferrington, and then moved to Kate’s farm to breed for her. To hear him described as a “dominant” ram makes my shepherdess’ heart sing!

The other three rams Kate added to her flock should keep her in breeding rams for a long time, each adding his own physical traits and package of genes to her growing flock. We will take pride in following their progress.

And have a look at Kate’s three “new girls,” all from the lambing class of 2014. I submit that no one can look at Felton without breaking into a grin.

As to the matter of speech inflection, we cannot claim to have instilled in our sheep the lilt of a North Carolina accent, but since we spent five years in Chapel Hill during Steve’s postdoc and my stint as a law student, maybe, just maybe some of it crept into our genes.

Now that I have been re-infected with Kate’s enthusiasm, I think it is time to go over to the Maternity Ward and see whether we have any new lambs to replace the ones now gracing Kate’s fields. What fun!

For now …