6 sets of quintuplet lambs born on one lucky Offaly farm

No less than six sets of quintuplet lambs have been born, and survived, on one lucky farm in Co. Offaly since the start of the lambing season.

A father and son partnership, Ken and Richard Mathews, farm in Killeigh, Co. Offaly.

Since their flock of Suffolk/Belclare cross ewes began lambing on March 4, a total of six sets of live quintuplets have been born on their farm, Ken said.

The odds of a single ewe having quintuplets is often mooted as one-in-a-million. You can imagine the scale of the odds of six ewes successfully having quintuplets on a single farm in the space of three weeks.

Speaking to Agriland, Ken said the past three weeks have been very busy. The majority of their flock of over 300 ewes have lambed since the beginning of the month, with less than 40 ewes left to give birth.

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The most recent set of quintuplets born on the farm

“We try to keep them as compact as possible. Even the scanner noticed how compact they were this year.

Last year we had three sets of quintuplets and the year before that we had none. I don’t know why we’ve had so many this year.

“Around 9 or 10 ewes had quintuplets altogether, but not all of the lambs survived. At the moment we have six sets where all the lambs survived.

“Some of the ewes had been scanned with five. Others were scanned as quads; the scanner did have his doubts that there might be an extra lamb in some of the them, but he wasn’t certain,” Ken said.

A Prolific Flock

The Mathews’ flock has turned very prolific in recent years, with the rate of multiple births increasing significantly.

As well as the sets of quintuplets, there have been close to 40 sets of quadruplets born on the farm so far in 2017. Meanwhile, there are another 10 ewes scanned as quads still left to lamb.

quintuplets 1

“We run mostly Charollais rams. There is also 60 ewe lambs that are set to start lambing on April 15.

Out of the 60 ewe lambs, 13 of them have been scanned as triplets. In total, between ewes and lambs, we would expect to rear close to 950 lambs.

A lot of work has been put in over the last few weeks to keep all the lambs alive on the farm. This year the farm has been lucky enough to enjoy a relatively low mortality rate, Ken added.

“We’ve been very lucky, but there is a lot of work in it. Some of the lambs are taken away from the ewes and fed on a computerised automatic feeder.

There is one ewe that all five lambs are feeding off. She is continuing to rear them and she’s only a small ewe.

“At the moment there is around 100 lambs on the feeder and this could rise to more than 180,” he said.

lambs, feeder
The computerised automatic lamb feeder on the Mathew’s farm

Students from agricultural colleges also help out on the family farm, especially during the busy lambing period, according to Ken.

The Mathews also farm some tillage ground, with Richard Mathews taking charge of that side of the operation.

Both winter and spring barley are sown on the farm; a crop of beans was also tested out this year.