The Accidental Smallholder Forum

Livestock => Sheep => Primitive Sheep => Topic started by: DrMunns on July 25, 2019, 11:03:00 pm

Title: Soay sheep and brambles
Post by: DrMunns on July 25, 2019, 11:03:00 pm
I'm currently having a "discussion" with my business partner about the best way to clear some rough ground. It's about 5 foot high with bramble, nettle and cow parsley. I want to put some goats on to clear it, he wants to use Soay sheep. Will they clear it? I dont think they will hit I've only ever worked with Mules and other lowland sheep in the past
Title: Re: Soay sheep and brambles
Post by: Fleecewife on July 26, 2019, 12:00:47 am
The problem with having brambles in the mix is that the Soay would become entangled.  All sheep react in the same way when that happens - they don't try to escape but just stand there til they die (That is why I say that brambles are carnivorous - they get a free feed)  I have heard of this happening in brambly woodland, I have also seen sheep getting stuck in gorse and dying, or getting free when someone approaches and they think to struggle.  Even if they didn't get stuck, I very much doubt Soay could clear the area. They do like browse but not brambles.  They would eat the nettle tips and seeds, but they certainly could not exterminate it.   Pigs might have a better chance.
Title: Re: Soay sheep and brambles
Post by: SallyintNorth on July 26, 2019, 01:00:54 am
Yup, dangerous for sheep, they will become entangled and die if you don’t find and free them.  Fleecewife has kept Soay, so if she thinks they won’t be any more sensible in this regard than other sheep, I’d listen to her! 

Goats might work but I’d want to hear that from goat people. 

Pigs would probably do it over time.  I’ve had pigs clear fairly overgrown patches.  They don’t like thorns though, so if it’s really dense bramble, I’m not sure.   Others who’ve had more pigs than I may know more.
Title: Re: Soay sheep and brambles
Post by: Anke on July 26, 2019, 09:30:23 am
Goats would work, as long as you also have shelter (they hate rain) and hay to feed overnight. They will also need fresh water twice daily, more so than sheep. My sheep drink rarely, even in this heat, but the goats empty three buckets a day each! I also wouldn't use milkers (or goats with udders) - thorns can do real damage to udders. But a gang of wethers - preferably Boer types will get it cleared for you and you would have an end product if you don't want to keep goats once ground is cleared. But you will be hooked by then....
However all perennial weeds will return unless you keep grazing the land afterwards...
Title: Re: Soay sheep and brambles
Post by: macgro7 on July 26, 2019, 03:34:41 pm
My goats were fed almost only brambles and ivy for 1.5 years. That s their favourite food!
Title: Re: Soay sheep and brambles
Post by: DrMunns on July 26, 2019, 08:34:12 pm
I knew sheep were a bad idea, doesn't surprise me they would just get tangled and die since they only have two ambitions in life; get out and die! (I'm not a sheep man at all!). I was planning on running pigs after the goats to get the roots out. It was a toss up between Boer wethers and milkers as I plan on getting some milkers once the site is clear.
Title: Re: Soay sheep and brambles
Post by: fsmnutter on July 26, 2019, 08:51:41 pm
My kune kune pigs have been living on an area of woodland that had been felled and left to overgrow. There were brambles etc taller than me, and they've cleared it beautifully! They're still working on rooting up the tree stumps but are having a good go, many are loose now! Also it's pretty easy to work a bit of a path through the overgrowth to lay electric fencing to gradually expand the bit they're clearing, as pigs only need a couple of strands up to about knee height, where sheep and goats need more robust fencing.
I definitely wouldn't recommend sheep (I've had hebrideans tangled in far less), nor goats (in my experience they'll really pick and choose what they want to eat - my grass is good just now so the weeds- thistles, nettles, docks- are really growing in the goat field!)
Just going by my experience, I would recommend pigs for clearing that area.
Title: Re: Soay sheep and brambles
Post by: Fleecewife on July 27, 2019, 01:26:48 am
I knew sheep were a bad idea, doesn't surprise me they would just get tangled and die since they only have two ambitions in life; get out and die! (I'm not a sheep man at all!).


I can tell  :innocent: .  That old chestnut just isn't true.  Sheep are prey animals so their ambition in life is to survive.  Who are their predators?  In this case US!  Sheep, and other prey animals, will hide their pain or sickness until their last gasp, so to an unobservant shepherd they might appear to die without warning.  An observant shepherd will have spotted the subtle signs of sickness early and will have sought treatment for the sheep in time.  As for escaping - yes if there is a holey fence and better grass on the other side sheep, not being stupid, will go through the hole to get to the better grass, or a tup will go to meet a ewe on the other side. The only time we get escapers is from the rounding up pen on abattoir day when jumping out and scarpering would seem to be eminently sensible  ;D   We had a Soay ewe who did that for three years in a row, until we gave up and let her be  ::)
As for getting stuck in the brambles, I think they are just being fatalistic - they've been caught so why fight it.  Have you ever been caught in brambles?  It's decidedly difficult to get out, even with the use of two extra limbs plus hands.  Brambles twist around the fleece and may need for the fleece to be cut off to rescue the sheep.  :hugsheep:
Title: Re: Soay sheep and brambles
Post by: Penninehillbilly on July 27, 2019, 01:27:28 pm
None milking goats may help, (Miller's are likey to scratch and cut udders),  but could take years, only taking green shoots off.
If possible slash/mow area? Then either sheep or goats would keep nibbling new growth, broad leaved plants should die off at that.


Edited, I should have read Ankes post better, but I'll leave mine in anyway  :)
Title: Re: Soay sheep and brambles
Post by: macgro7 on July 27, 2019, 02:21:26 pm
None milking goats may help, (Miller's are likey to scratch and cut udders),  but could take years, only taking green shoots off.
If possible slash/mow area? Then either sheep or goats would keep nibbling new growth, broad leaved plants should die off at that.


Edited, I should have read Ankes post better, but I'll leave mine in anyway  :)
Yes that what I was doing. Goats were eating bramble leaves then I was cutting the bare branches with lopperso they have access to a new section.
They will keep growing back for about three years if continuesly grazed. If grazed only once in a while they will keep growing back forever! Realistically it will be cheaper and much faster for you to buy a machete or if it's a really large area hire someone with a flail mower.
Title: Re: Soay sheep and brambles
Post by: DrMunns on July 27, 2019, 10:31:22 pm
None milking goats may help, (Miller's are likey to scratch and cut udders),  but could take years, only taking green shoots off.
If possible slash/mow area? Then either sheep or goats would keep nibbling new growth, broad leaved plants should die off at that.


Edited, I should have read Ankes post better, but I'll leave mine in anyway  :)
Yes that what I was doing. Goats were eating bramble leaves then I was cutting the bare branches with lopperso they have access to a new section.
They will keep growing back for about three years if continuesly grazed. If grazed only once in a while they will keep growing back forever! Realistically it will be cheaper and much faster for you to buy a machete or if it's a really large area hire someone with a flail mower.

Its half an acre and I have done it by hand in the past, but I'm not a young man anymore lol. The site is too steep to get a tractor on unfortunately. Guess I'll just have to struggle on
Title: Re: Soay sheep and brambles
Post by: Scarlet.Dragon on July 28, 2019, 08:16:37 am
Goats or pigs would do it... if looking at goats you may want to try one of the natives suchas Bagots or Old English and then you'd also be doing some good for conservation.  My Bagots target (in approximate order): Rosebay Willowherb, Brambles & Rasps, Dock, Thistles, Nettles as well as grass and trees.

Depending on where you are, you may be able to "borrow" some goats for conservation grazing - have a look at the "Browsing Bagot" programme as an example.  Contact the relevant Breed Society Secretaries to see if there are any keepers local to you that may consider loaning you a "boy band" to clear the area... you will need decent fencing, shelter and husbandry for loan stock though.