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Quad lambs a rarity in the southdown breed

Posted by Christina On September - 20 - 2015
Bu JILL GALLOWAY, NZ Farmer

In 65 years of farming southdown sheep, Wattie Gray had never seen one of his ewes give birth to a set of quaduplets.

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That was until last week, when  he and daughter Janet Gray came across the brood on the family’s Manawatu farm in Rongotea.

“The southdown ewe is only a two-tooth [2-year-old] and these are her first lambs. She was heavily pregnant and I thought perhaps big twins, but I came out and there were four lambs,” said Janet Gray.

Janet Gray cradles the quads

Janet Gray cradles the quads

“The ewe that had the four live lambs did really well. Two lambs were slightly bigger, but they were a pretty even size.  All were born alive, stood up and were in good condition.”

She and her father said they had seen triplets before, but the quads were a new thing.

Some breeds of sheep produced quads and even quintuplets, but four was a rarity among the southdown breed, she said.

All the lambs had survived and were sprightly  at more than a week old, but Janet Gray said she had mothered two of the four lambs on to two ewes whose own offspring had died.

“It takes pressure off the ewe that had all four – now she only has twins to worry about, and they are the smaller lambs.”

The ewe had three ram lambs and one ewe lamb, which had all been given  small, fleecy covers  to help keep them warm.

“The covers are made out of wool. They are not water-proof, but they keep the lambs warm against the cool wind. The southdown lambs are born with little wool on them. So the covers give them a helping hand.”

She said most lambs born at the stud farm were given such covers.