The lambing may be proving particularly hard going for crofters and farmers just now, but spare a thought for Quendale Farm.
One of the South Mainland holding’s 800-plus breeding sheep has proved to be one in a million – by producing no fewer than five lambs.
The five-year-old Shetland cross ewe gave birth to the “Quendale quintuplets” on Tuesday afternoon.
The chances of a single ewe producing five lambs in one go are said to be a million to one – although the same thing is reported to have taken place in the Highlands last year.
In any case, the big arrival has proved to be a welcome surprise for shepherdess Lisa Breaden. She had only been expecting an already impressive tally of four lambs to be born. But a final check revealed a fifth still waiting to see the world.
Ms Breaden said: “She was scanned for four. It was a busy enough day. I came back to check her and she had lambed three. I took her in and lambed the fourth one, but there was a fifth one so I lambed that as well.
“Just when there were four I pushed her belly. When I got the fourth one out a just pushed her belly and I could see there was another one.
“It’s very unusual to have five lambs and them all be alive. I thought, wow, it was amazing to have five and them all alive. I was delighted that they were all fine.”
The new arrivals have led to regular trips to the pens to help their exhausted mother help with feeding the growing – and increasingly hungry – family.
Quendale Farm is run by Martin and Hilary Burgess and Mrs Burgess said she was amazed by the news. “It’s the first time we’ve ever seen it.”
It’s pretty unusual,” she insisted. “She was marked up to have four lambs, so we knew she was going to have four anyway.
“At the moment they’re all with their mother, although she’s not going to cope with all of them, so we’ll need to find new mums for some of them. Even the littlest one is managing to suckle his mum, so they’re doing well.
“She’ll keep two, and the other ones will go onto different mums. But they will stay with her until an opportunity comes up to go on to a new mum.”
Asked for her response to the amazing delivery, Mrs Burgess said: “I couldn’t believe it. We’ve had four, and to have five is just amazing. They’re good-sized lambs as well. There is one little one, but they are good, healthy lambs.”
But while farm workers are exhausted by the round-the-clock deliveries that are typical of the intensely busy season, the ewe in question has been left pretty worn out as well.
“She’s really tired,” Mrs Burgess said. “Normally, to lie down, it’s quite easy for a ewe because they’ve just got two or three to deal with at the most, but she’s got five.
“By the time she’s sorted herself out and found a space to lie down and all the lambs are cuddled up in amongst her it’s more like a litter of puppies than lambs really.
“She’s five years old and she’s had five lambs. Triplets would be quite unusual for us normally. We’re lambing about 820 this year, so 820 breeding ewes.”