Why Keep Soay Sheep?

Madame Benoit On Raising Sheep …

excerpted from Jehane Benoit, Madame Benoit's Lamb Cookbook, McGraw-Hill-Ryerson Limited, 1979, © Jehane Benoit, 1979.

Old Boots “One of the great joys of our lives has been the pleasure of living in the country … and raising our sheep. We used to live in Montreal before that. … We built our own surroundings, fixing up the house and outbuildings, while gradually becoming aware of the give and take in nature's cycle, and we learned to become a part of it. Both of us wanted to create some new life around us, and it just naturally came to us, as if we had planned it all along, that what we wanted was to create a very good sheep farm. What we did not know, of course, was how much hard work — and money — it would take. But somehow we have never felt we would like to give it up.

Feeding the ewes “Lamb, of course, goes back to the days of the bible and beyond, and it was this strong sense of tradition that appealed to both of us. In my romantic way, I could see our farm with woods and rolling green meadows, babbling brooks, an old stone house, a little chapel, a garden of roses (that goats never eat), and beautiful little lambs as I imagined they must have looked in the days of the bible, enjoying it all as much as I did. What I forgot was that a babbling brook could not run before it was cleaned of the debris from years of negligence, that roses took time to grow and great care so frost (or goats) would not make them disappear, that the stone house wasn't feasible, and that those "biblical" Livestock Guardian Dogs little lambs came into the world during the worst cold or storms just as human babies seem to. We also didn't realize that sheep have to be fed, watered and cared for every day, that to help keep wild animals from killing the lambs we would need good dogs, and that they must also be fed and housed, and cuddled as well.

Grazing in meadow “Sometimes we have wondered whether it has been worth the effort. But we think a moment, and look around us, and then we really do know that it is worth all the work we put into it. … After all, living in the country and breeding sheep is a whole way of life, so to do it you must have a real desire to create a pleasant environment so all your hours of work can be as rewarding as possible. On sunny summer mornings when I look out at our flock of lambs grazing in the green meadow, I cannot help but think they are part of that very long line of the most amenable animals man has ever known … ”