NORTH RONALDSAY SHEEP
'The Seaweed-eating Sheep'
Having owned and bred all sorts of rare breed sheep over the years, we settled on a pedigree flock of this extremely rare breed of sheep, the North Ronaldsay, or ‘Ronnies’ as they’re affectionately known. Ronnies are a tiny, primitive breed of sheep from North Ronaldsay, the northernmost island of the Orkney archipelago, off the north coast of Scotland. They're classified by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) as being "vulnerable", which is the most endangered category of British sheep breeds, with only an estimated 600 breeding North Ronaldsay females in the UK.
Ronnies are a small-framed, fascinating breed of sheep, unique in many ways. For example, they are widely considered to be the first ovines to arrive in Britain, maybe as early as the Iron Age.
They are often nicknamed "the seaweed eating sheep" as the semi-wild flock on North Ronaldsay have evolved to live almost exclusively on seaweed and are one of only 2 land animals to do this. Because of this unique feature, the breed has evolved to become incredibly effective at extracting copper from their diet, given the low levels naturally found in seaweed.
North Ronaldsay Ewe Grace with lamb 'Flood Street Albert'
However, copper in high quantities are toxic to sheep, so owners of this breed need to take care not to give sheep feed with even trace levels of copper which despite being manufactured specifically for sheep could be toxic to this breed.
Being primitive sheep, they typically browse as well as graze and they enjoy eating a wide range of vegetation, much like a goat. They also do very well on poor grazing and shouldn't need a lot of supplementary feed. We feed ours hay in the Winter months and supplement our breeding ewes on the lead up to lambing, but otherwise they do best on a natural foraged diet.
Left to Right: North Ronaldsay Ewes Grace & her daughter Ivy with Wether Hugo
North Ronaldsay Ram Charlie, an award-winning Ram used for tupping season 2019/20
Ronnie rams weigh in at around 30kg and have magnificent ridged, spiralled horns. The ewes are rarely greater than 25kg and can be horned, which account for around 20% of ewes, whereas the majority are polled. Both ewes and rams stand at around 41cm high at the shoulders.
Having bred and kept a wide variety of rare breed sheep over the years, I chose to specialise in this unique breed for a number of reasons. I've also always been a sucker for the primitive breeds of sheep; one of my first sheep were Shetlands which started my love of this ancient group of sheep. Ronnies are my personal favourite of the primitive and indeed all groups of sheep, thanks to their beautiful, varied appearance (no two sheep of this breed look exactly the same in terms of their fleece colour & markings), their small compact size which makes them extremely easy to handle, their hardiness and their naturally healthy disposition. They are cheap and easy to keep, low maintenance and self-sufficient. Yet they are wonderfully tame and friendly, inquisitive little sheep. Because of this, I genuinely believe they are the perfect smallholder’s sheep, an ideal beginner's sheep breed and also a perfect breed for children to enjoy as they are small, gentle and friendly.
Ronnies have one of the finest quality wool of any UK native breed of sheep, indeed it was what the breed was originally bred for. Thanks to the unique colour patterns, is hugely popular with crafters and spinners who make it into fantastic wool products.
For instance, we have made some beautiful so-called ‘veggie skins’ from entire fleeces, where the backs are felted in place of the sheep’s skin, meaning you can have a wonderful sheep ‘skin’ made from every sheep every year!
We sell these veggie skins as well as raw fleeces from the flock throughout the year – please enquire for prices and availability.
North Ronaldsay Veggie Sheep Skin from ewe Grace
We lamb our Ronnies in April/May and have only a few lambs (ewe & ram lambs) available for pet homes each year. All lambs are registered with the UK North Ronaldsay flock book and will come with pedigree papers. We can deliver stock nationwide using our fully insured, professional and experienced livestock couriers.
North Ronaldsay Sheep Pricelist:
Ewe Lambs: £120 each
Ram & Wether (castrated "pet" Ram) Lambs: £75 each
Ewes (>12 months old): £170 each
Rams (>12 months old): £100 each
Fleeces: £20 each
Definitely get in touch as early as possible if you fancy adding some of these extraordinary sheep to your family as demand is always very high and we sadly never manage to meet demand.