It was no April Fool’s joke. And Travis Fowler is still getting used to the idea that he witnessed an unusual event at his Minnesota farm.
A ewe gave birth to eight live lambs – two males and six females. “I called my wife and children, and said, ‘You’re going to have to come out and help me with this,’” said Travis, who farms fulltime in south central Minnesota.
In past years, the Polypay ewe – number 0171 – had delivered one set of twins and four sets of triplets. But this was extraordinary. Travis was completing evening chores when he saw the ewe was getting ready to lamb. He put her in a small lambing pen designed to keep mother and babies together.
“I left to do something, and she had four lambs on her own when I got back,” he said. “They were a little small, so I thought that was odd for the size of ewe that she was.”
Two lambs were standing and moving toward the udder for their first meal. The other two were slower to get moving, so Travis dried them off. Checking the ewe’s udder, he found that her milk had not let down yet. He thought that was a little odd, but he collected some extra colostrum from another ewe and “tubed” all four new lambs.
He had gone into the house, and when he came back out to the sheep barn, the ewe was getting up and down and acting like she was in labor again. Putting on an OB sleeve, he checked her and discovered four more lambs to be delivered.
He made the decision to guide each lamb through the birth canal. Lambs are best born with their two front feet just ahead of their head, so he got each in the correct position to be born.
“I was more worried about getting the lambs out of her than what they were doing,” he said. “I didn’t know if they would live.” Turned out, the lambs were alive and had some spunk. Travis scooped them up, brought them to the heated barn office, and called his family to come out quickly.
His wife, Jeanine, and their children, Jed, 13, Tessa, 12, and Tyne, 3, towel dried the newborn lambs while Travis went back to the house to thaw some frozen colostrum.