Soay Ewes-in-Waiting: a Study in Tranquility

Anyone learning about Soay sheep for the first time and who embarks on a literature search commonly will encounter numerous references to the Soay ewes’ legendary ability to lamb easily.  In fact, if you find an article about Soay sheep that does not remark about how easy lambing is, I would be surprised.

The good news: it’s not just easy at lambing time.  During the final weeks leading up to lambing, the pregnant ewes loll about, sleep, eat then ruminate, and generally do a pretty darned good imitation of furry blimps.  We hear no demands for trips to town to stock up on chocolate chip praline meringue ice cream, no extra manicures, and no natural birthing classes.  If we give our girls plenty of good quality grass hay to eat, and an occasional scoop or two of COB (a mix of corn, oats, and barley with a smidgeon of molasses thrown in for good measure, should be readily available at your local feed/farm store), they quietly gestate and then effortlessly (on our part, not theirs) produce irresistible lambs.

Pictures tell the story.  Look at our pregnant girls yesterday afternoon out in the sun of an early spring day.  Lambing has not started here yet, to our dismay, but as you can see, it cannot be far away. 

Carolina is one of our original ewes.  We did not breed her last year, which explains her thick, rather unkempt fleece.  In our experience, ewes that do not lamb often do not shed their fleece that year.  When Carolina does cast her fleece this spring, it should be quite a spectacle.


Next comes one of our British ewes, Catalaya, lying in the barren wasteland that is our young lamb playground.  We long ago despaired of keeping grass in this area, what with all those little rambunctious hooves racing around pounding it to pulp.  We are hopeful that Catalaya is carrying twins, but we know better than to count on it.


Portia gave us black twins last year.  This year we bred her to our one-of-a-kind tan ram Fenugreek, he of the gorgeous fleece.  We can hardly wait to see what their offspring look(s) like.


I cannot resist sharing a picture of Holly, a nearly-polled, beautiful ewe we bred for the first time this year.  She is so regal when she moves through our pastures –check out her other pictures on the OFP Gallery — that it is hard to believe this big lumpy thing is really our lovely Holly.


Finally, pictorial evidence that pregnant Soay ewes are a tranquil lot who will lower your human blood pressure if you spend a little time wandering quietly among them in the week or two before they lamb.  I took this last picture in the late afternoon, shortly before the second hay feeding of the day, when all was peaceful here at Saltmarsh Ranch.  I know our British ewe Sequoia is up there on the left because I recognize her white-spotted face, but I did not want to disturb the matrons’ sleep by getting close enough to confirm who the other three are, especially the one facing away from me.


Whether or not I have convinced you that pre-lambing is a special time on the Soay calendar, at least taking the photos for this post kept me from going crazy yesterday waiting for our lambs to start arriving.

For now …

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  1. Melissa says:

    Thanks for the lovely entry. We’ve been checking the Lamb-O-Meter several times a day, and I was SO SURE you were going to have an Easter lamb or two. Oh well, it’s nice to see that the girls, at least, seem to be in peaceful repose while they’re driving all us humans to distraction. Meanwhile, we’ll keep our fingers crossed.