By Chris McCullough
Storm Eleanor may have come and gone but for one County Antrim farmer January 3 will certainly be a memorable occasion.
During the early hours of Wednesday morning while Eleanor was at her worst Ballymena farmer Alastair Kerr was out of bed watching over one of his ewes give birth to a whopping five lambs.
Thankfully for him, the young farmer had already brought his heavily pregnant ewes into a dry house for lambing where he is able to watch them from his own house using a camera system.
Alastair runs a flock of pedigree Hampshire Down sheep mixed with some other breeds and has 110 ewes and hoggets set to lamb this Winter.
This particular ewe is a Zwartbles Beltex crossbred animal which was impregnated by a Texel ram.
“It is her first set of lambs,” said a chuffed Alastair. “She was showing signs of lambing late on Tuesday night when Storm Eleanor started to appear and I knew that she would lamb at some stage in the night.
“I had no idea she was carrying five lambs which is a record for my flock here,” he said. “I am lambing 110 sheep this season and I have them all in the shed where I can keep an eye on them from my own house with the camera.
“At around 5am this sheep started to lamb and I came out to make sure she was ok. The winds were howling here at that time of the morning,” he added.
Alastair’s hogget lambed easily herself without any assistance from him and had four tip or male lambs and one ewe lamb.
“They are all very healthy and feeding well,” he said. “Normally it’s not ideal to have so many lambs from one animal as they can be small and won’t last.
“But in this case all five are doing well and we are topping them up with colostrum at regular intervals. Let’s see how they get on,” he said.
Alastair is no stranger to ewes producing high numbers of lambs each as last year his flock produced four sets of quadruple lambs.
This time though, that record has been beaten with one animal producing five lambs.
“Last year we had four sheep that gave birth to four lambs each,” said Alastair. “It is a tough ask for the mothers especially if they are first time mothers.
“The remarkable thing is that this particular ewe was scanned to have triplets but instead gave birth to five lambs. Storm Eleanor must have helped ease another two out of her,” he laughed.
Although it’s not the first time a ewe has given birth to five lambs it is still quite rare for five healthy lambs to be born.
In fact, the odds of a sheep have quintuplets is said to be one in a million.
The multiple births were also a unique event for Alastair’s six-year-old son Sam and three-year-old daughter Nicole who just can’t stay away from the new family.