Cheaper by the dozens: The flock reduction sale

It was a wild and crazy summer. Even though we are both still healthy at 67 and 68, we knew we needed to cut back. When our long-time ranch hand announced his decision to leave, we had to move quickly to reduce our flock by half, a size we think we can handle by ourselves. First came the the announcement of a half-price sale advertised as widely as we knew how. What happened next left us breathless. Buyers appeared from everywhere. Once Ed Krische’s truck departed for the eastern half of the country and after our west coast pickups were completed, we had reduced our flock by more than half, from 145 to 55. And thus endeth the half-flock, half-price sale.

Plans for our second decade

Time was, each fall we would breed a whole bunch of ewes, one time as many as 66, using 6 to 8 different rams each time. And in March and April we were awash in lambs, one time precisely 99 of them! We were younger then; we had a 20-something ranch hand on site to help us; and we had buyers lined up for most of the lambs. No longer.

Back in 2005, new breeders (ourselves included) siged up and waited 2–3 years for the few available British Soay lambs from the one or two farms big enough to have extra lambs for sale. Happily, through the efforts of many of the early breeders (ourselves included), British Soay have flourished and spread to all parts of the US and several Canadian provinces and starter flocks are readily available from many different sellers.

We enjoy what we do, and we are proud of the genetic resource that is our flock, even in its reduced state. We intend to keep raising and distributing authentic soay sheep for as long as we are able and so long as there is a market for them.

When we first started out, ewes typically sold for $500 each, and rams somewhat less. As far as we know, this is still the case. But the tremendous response to our half-price sale suggests that the “traditional” pricing for British Soay sheep has come to be too high, putting them out of reach of many who would love to keep and conserve this breed. Since the goal for us has always been to preserve and conserve these wonderful heritage sheep by distributing them, from now on we will be charging $400 per ewe and $325 per ram (with additional discounts for starter flocks).

Prospectus: What’s on offer for 2016?

Of the three rams slated to breed this year in our normal ram rotation, one is tan, one exhibits white spotting, and one is virtually black. Because the ewes include both tans and white-spotteds, we can pretty much guarantee that those traits will be represented in the 2016 lamb crop.

We have held back some intact ram lambs from the 2015 group to go out with 2016 ewe lamb starter flocks so that we can provide rams that are pretty much unrelated to the ewes. We probably will still have a few 2015 ewes left to include in starter flocks so that new owners have adult ewes to breed in the fall while the 2016 ewe lambs continue to mature.

To reserve a starter flock, we ask for a deposit of $200 per animal. This deposit is non-refundable unless we are unable to fill your order. Once the lambs are on the ground in the spring, we will ask for the balance of the purchase price. Lambs can leave for new homes in late August or later depending on the summer heat.

Please contact us if you are interested in reserving a starter flock for 2016 delivery.

Historic Ranch, Historic Sheep

Old Saltmarsh Barn The old Saltmarsh Ranch is nestled at two thousand feet among the northern foothills of the Siskiyou Mountains in southwestern Oregon, astride the Little Applegate River. Arthur B. Saltmarsh, the original homesteader who settled in the 1880's, built the barn and several other outbuildings still in use. He and his heirs lived here for almost a century.

Weavers feeding sheep Soay sheep have a much longer history. They are descendants of a feral population of primitive sheep living for at least hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years in complete isolation on the island of Soay in the St. Kilda archipelago located off the northwestern coast of Scotland in the North Atlantic Ocean, some 4581 miles from here.

Today's Soay sheep at Saltmarsh Ranch provide us with many satisfactions, foremost among them the rare opportunity to help preserve an endangered variety of attractive small sheep.

Soay Sheep

Small Sheep for Small Acreage

Rural lifestyle amidst amenable creatures Many of us who have chosen to live in a rural setting with a few acres of green pastures, some trees, clean air, perhaps an outbuilding or two, tranquility and so on made our choice in part because we wanted to be able to keep animals of one sort or another, or will come around to the notion sooner or later. Odds are you already have thought about Soay sheep, or you would not be here reading these words. You are on Read more … ► the right track. These small, gentle, easily kept heritage sheep can enrich your life and improve your land.

Frequently Asked Questions

Finally it has dawned on us to add a FAQ list to this site. Check it out via the nearby link. We hope to add new entries as FAQ …► they come up in phone calls and emails.

Choosing your Soay Sheep

Blue Mountain Astro

read more ►Thinking about getting a flock of Soay, but feeling a bit bewildered? Here is a guide to the common types of Soay sheep flocks we and other breeders have put together to meet our varying goals.

Soay Sheep Husbandry

Husbandry Pages ► We continue to add pages on how we keep our Soay sheep. We write them as we go forward on the Soay Calendar, scrambling to get our thoughts together enough in advance so that you may may find them useful as the seasons progress.

Keeping Sheep as a Lifestyle

Paulina in tall grass Our city friends ask us all the time, “Why on earth do you live way out in the country and burden yourselves with a big flock of Soay sheep?” The answers could fill a book, but we think the following thoughts put to paper thirty years ago by a In the words of Mme Benoit …► renowned Canadian food writer, editor, chef, and shepherd capture the essence of the matter better than we can express it anew.