This has taken a while to write up because it is gutting basically. We had a bit of a disaster on Saturday with Mr Darcy, our ram.
We’d had a lovely day pottering about on the plot in the sun doing bits and pieces before our friends Nic and Sarah came over for the evening. They had kindly agreed to come over a bit early to help us catch the sheep to trim their hooves, check them over generally and get rid of some of the dredded fleace that hadn’t yet fallen off them. We managed to catch one set of ewes and lambs and dealt with them all fine. Mr Darcy and another ewe were still evading us though so we tried catching them. They sailed over the fence to their paddock in the end and we managed to pen them in the goat area in some hurdles. Mr D was very good at being shorn and clipped before we lifted him back over the fence to rejoin his buddies in the main paddock. This was when it happened. He struggled half way over, got his leg caught in either the hurdle or the electric netting and to our horror broke one of his back legs. It was clear to see.
We managed to get hold of him immediately, before he had chance to run away and lay him down quietly with hurdles around him. Z and Nic stayed in the pen while I got on the ‘phone to the emergency vet. We were convinced it was broken and were prepared when the vet arrived around 45 minutes later for him to say that the kindest thing to do was to put him to sleep.
We are devestated about this, and feel very, very responsible. It has however highlighted to us that we can’t really go on with this pantomime every time we need to catch them to deal with their welfare. If we are honest, it was an accident waiting to happen. We are just thankful that between the moment it happened and the moment he was put out of suffering was relatively short.
As a result, we think that Soay’s aren’t the breed for us. They have been a great start to keeping sheep and we have learnt an immense amount from keeping them over the past year; lambing, abbatoirs, worming, processing fleece, DEFRA, hoof care, feeding etc. However, we feel that they are not best suited to our smallholding and our abilities and we will be taking the 4 ewes with their 3 lambs to the abbatoir this winter. We will look into breeds very carefully over the next few months as we want to continue keeping sheep but would like a breed that is easier for us to handle and may ultimately be able to have a closer relationship with, i.e. we can actually get closer than 2 metres from them. We thought the Soays would become tamer over time, but the fact is, they are a primitive breed who are naturally wary (or the strain we have are anyway) and no amount of bucket shaking or careful approaches seems to have made any difference. They have actually become more difficult to catch as they have learnt what we are trying to do.
Another learning point.