Saturday, 14 September 2013

The Boreray Boys

Friday 13 September 2013 was a momentous day in my life.  I became the proud owner of 5 male Boreray lambs.

Now it's possible that someone reading this may not be aware that there have been some very BIG changes in my life over the past few months.  So first thing to state is that I'm not trying to keep 5 Boreray sheep in my Newcastle back yard.  Instead they are happily grazing in the little paddock area, just below my lounge window that overlooks half of the fields on my Orkney farm.

Anyone who knows anything about sheep is of course going to be thinking, "What is she thinking starting off with a breed like Boreray?"  Yes, there is definitely some sense in thinking that.  I know the list of breeds that are good for first time sheep-keepers with an interest in fleece.  The problem was that I'd handled too much Boreray fleece not to be totally entranced with its variety and properties.  As a spinner I wanted to have lots of Boreray to play with.

That's not the whole story though - I mean, if anyone knows where to purchase Boreray fleeces .......

The real reason is that I'd fallen in love with these feisty, stubborn, independent and intelligent sheep.  My fate was sealed the day I walked into a field with Christine at Gaerllwyd and the 4 rams there had started coming towards Christine and the all-important bucket of feed, then seen me and rushed to the far end of the field.  They didn't like the look of me as a stranger and their desire for the food treat was irrelevant to them.  I however really liked them.

Now I'll tell the 'how we ended up in Orkney' story in another post because it won't be of interest to everyone.  Brief description of the farm is that it's on West Mainland and is up an east facing valley so we have more shelter than many parts of Orkney and even have some trees growing round the house.  We have fields on 3 sides of the house plus some moorland over the road for future expansion of sheep grazing.  This is the view down the valley to the sea from the moorland.

The reason I've got all males is that friends who know about sheep and fleece advised that wethers would be much easier to start off with and I knew that they would give the best quality fleeces throughout their lives.  I'd also learnt enough to know that getting sheep from a farm with similar conditions to my own would maximise the chance of the sheep doing well in the windy conditions up here.  So it was a quick phone call to Bob in Assynt earlier in the year to ask if I could buy any male lambs he had.  This is Bob's website with photos of a few of his sheep.

Time for a gratuitous lamb photo - here are some of my Boys in May

 After a couple of month's growing, here they are in early July, together with a photo of Boris, the lamb below with the black nose. Yes, Boris is a very silly name for a castrated wether!  Well, Boris is half of my future flock because he turned out to be far too good a potential tup to be banded.  Once I knew I was getting a tup the name for him was obvious.

So yes, I've got a challenging breed for a beginner and I'm starting off with a ram...... Let the fun begin.

So there began all the preparations at the farm to
get ready for the boys - the paperwork! I'll say no more about that side of things, except that the staff at the local Government office for this sort of thing were very helpful.

At the beginning of September the lambs were spained - separated from the ewes and weaned - and finally a date was sorted when we could get a ferry and drive down to collect them.
 This gave me a lovely opportunity to see Bob's ewes and rams in person - well as close as they'd let me get.
 You can see the ewe lambs on the little hillock still with their mums.
If I've remembered correctly the boy's father is the ram on the left of the photo.

Then the exciting bit as the lambs were put into our trailer and we started the journey home.
They travelled remarkably well, and it looked as if they'd slept during the ferry crossing.  By the time we landed it was dark and proved impossible to see enough to back the trailer round the bendy bit into the paddock area so we introduced more hay and topped up the water and left them to sleep in the trailer for the night.
At dawn today we were up and out to check on the Boys - they'd had a very comfortable night and probably slept better than me since I did wake a couple of times wondering how they were doing.

Well as you can see they'd resisted the opportunity to have a wild party in the trailer overnight and were looking very calm and collected.  Soon they were exploring the paddock and settling down to a good graze.  I should mention at this point that dear husband did a splendid job of reversing the trailer down the bendy slope without bashing either trailer or strainer, nor upsetting the Boys.  And all this before his morning coffee, having been woken at some unearthly hour.

Followed by a nice calm ruminating - the sheep that is, not the reverser of trailers.
I work on the theory that sheep won't lie down and relax if they're nervous, so this was a rather lovely sight.

ALL the boys on the farm have done very well indeed!


  1. How beautiful they are! Thank you for the photos.

  2. They have come to paradise :) Congratulations, Jane! They are so fluffy, you'd want to hug them. You're right about the ruminating. They won't ruminate when they feel stressed, at least not until they can't avoid it any longer. Those boys are very lucky!

  3. All sounding wonderful ..... now when am I coming up for a visit?!!!

  4. Lovely photos - I hope it all continues to go well for you. Go Boris!

  5. The Boys look very contented indeed!. Guess that they know that they have fallen on their feet coming to live with you! Look forward to lots more news about them..