Cute Ewes

A Mason-area sheep farmer returned home from his farm after one of his ewes gave birth to cute, fluffy twin lambs last week.

When he returned in the morning, there were five babies, a true rarity in the world of sheepery, particularly given the breeds of the ewe and sire - a Suffolk mix and a Cheviot.

"I've had quads - quadruplets two times over the years," said farmer Paul Oesterle, who has raised lambs for 42 springs. "This is the first time I've seen five."

Michigan State University sheep expert Alan Culham confirmed the rarity.

Five lambs by a Suffolk?

"Oh, that's different," Culham said. "I would say it's easily one in 10,000, and it might even be rarer than that because it just doesn't happen."

And just like the California woman who delivered enough kids in January to fill a minivan, Oesterle's ewe needs assistance. Every six hours, he drives the quarter mile from his house to his barn to bottle feed several of the five, all of whom are forever hungry.

"I've been getting up at 4 o'clock in the morning," he said.

It's not much of a semi-retirement for the 63-year-old Vevay Township man, but he figures that in a couple of weeks, he'll be able to space out the feedings to every eight hours.

For now, he's imagining the five lambs could be little money makers. As lamb for the grocery meat case, the animals fetch up to $125 each. As little breeders from a prolific mom, they could bring up to $200 apiece.

Genetics, though, has only about 15 percent to do with a female's breeding productivity, Culham said. In reality, it might have been the feed the ewe was receiving or even the weather that made her such a standout among the 60 or so other females in the herd.

Of course, in some ways, she might just be a trouble maker.

"A ewe having five is a problem," Culham said. "She only has two faucets."

Oesterle's temporary work schedule and lack of sleep are proof of that.

"She just doesn't have enough milk to go around," he said.

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