The breed is capable of surviving wet and windy conditions but does poorly at altitude. Needs good quality varied forage, may benefit from shelter during the winter. Anecdotal evidence suggests they have a level of resistance to footrot and flystrike.
The North Ronaldsay can produce lambs into the teens. Lambing percentages vary depending on location - 130-155% for lowland flocks but less for the feral flock. Lambs are born very small but are lively and quick to rise. Care must be taken to prevent losing any to foxes. They experience very few lambing problems.
The North Ronaldsay is capable of surviving on less than larger breeds and is an active browser, used to ranging over long distances in search of food.
With the variety of colours and the quality of the wool, the North Ronaldsay is a good choice of breed for producing and marketing woollen products. The fleece can be shorn or rooed (plucked). Staple length- 4-8cm. Fleece weight- 1- 1.5kg. Quality- 52s-56s.
As with other primitive breeds the flavour of North Ronaldsay meat is highly prized but the animals are generally too small to be killed as lambs and usually killed as hogget or mutton.
North Ronaldsays are very sensitive to copper and will die of copper toxicity if put on the wrong type of grazing. This is due to their seaweed diet and the unique metabolism they have evolved. They should not be fed commercial sheep mixes as despite the label saying “No Added Copper” the normal ingredients used will often have a background level high enough to be toxic (ten parts per million is too high).
The Rare Breeds Survival Trust is the leading national charity working to conserve and protect the United Kingdom's rare native breeds of farm animals from extinction. We rely on the support of our members, grants and donations from the public to raise the £700,000 a year needed to maintain our conservation work with rare UK native breeds of farm animals. Visit www.rbst.org.uk to see how you can help.