‘Tis the season for little lambs leaping, cuddling, eating and sleeping at Parry Bay Sheep Farm in Metchosin. This year, however, there are a few more lambs in the barn than expected.
“We have the type of sheep that have a lot of lambs,” said sheep farmer Lorraine Buchanan, referring to the Finnish Landrace breed. “We cross them with East Friesan, which is a dairy sheep, so we have lots of lambs and lots of milk.”
Buchanan says the Finnish Landrace usually gives birth to two to four lambs at a time. But on March 4, Lorraine and her husband John were surprised to see a rare sight at the farm.
“We know these are prolific sheep,” said long-time sheep farmer John Buchanan. “The lambs are pretty small on that black one so we were starting to think, ‘oh maybe four or five, maybe,’ and then I thought it was five and I went to do something else and then I came back and a little white one came later.”
“We were really surprised at that,” added Lorraine.
The two had seen sextuplets just twice before in their 43-year sheep farming career. But then, just a few days later, another ewe had another set of sextuplets, marking the first time John and Lorraine had seen anything like that in the week, let alone from the same flock.
“To have them close together in a week, we’re kind of shocked,” said Lorraine.
Lorraine Buchanan says the mothers are physically able to give milk to only three or four of their lambs. The rest are fed a cow-based milk formula by bottle until they learn to drink from a machine. But one lamb was set up with another ewe, which recently lost her own lamb during birth.
“They do better on the mom, the mom does better with the lamb, so it’s a nice thing to be able to do,” said John Buchanan.
Buchanan says he’s heard of sheep having octuplets before, but doubts he’ll ever anything as rare as two sextuplets in one flock ever again.
“They’re doing well, they’re pretty healthy,” added Lorraine.
The farm expects to have 700 lambs born by the end of spring.