by Joan LeBlanc
After seeing two of his ewes each give birth to five healthy lambs this spring, a New Brunswick man should have gone right out and bought a lottery ticket.
“Yes, I thought I probably should have, but I didn’t,” lamb producer Murray Deman admitted recently, adding that the odds of a sheep giving birth to five lambs at one time are thought be about one-in-a-million.
Deman, who also works as a full-time school bus driver, has owned and operated his sheep operation near Port Elgin, N.B., for the past 14 years. He said recently that it hasn’t been unusual for some of his ewes to have three or even four lambs each spring.
“It’s just Mother Nature I guess, there are no growth hormones of any kind here,” Deman said, although he added that he believes good nutrition and favourable growing conditions may have had a hand in the multiple births.
He noted that last year he had reseeded a field and the sheep had new pasture to graze on. “It was seeded with timothy and clover but I threw in some Annual ryegrass and that beefed it up too, so they were in good shape and pretty fat by the fall … and it’s nice and cool by the water,” he said, his farm being located along the shores of the Northumberland Strait.
During the winter months, Deman feeds his flock mainly round-bale haylage, which he grows himself, as well as some locally grown barley.
Most of his 30 ewes, including the two mothers of quints, are about 75 percent Rideau Arcott, he noted, while his two rams are purebred Rideau Arcott.
“They seem to be a pretty prolific breed,” said Deman. “Two years ago, I had four sets of quadruplets and last year I had two sets. This year again there were two sets of four and these two sets of five.”
Unfortunately, one of this year’s sets of quints has been reduced to four since the mother ewe inadvertently laid on one of the babies just days after giving birth.
“I found it, but it was too late,” said Deman. “It was a shame, particularly since it was the biggest one of the bunch.”
Deman bottle feeds three lambs in the remaining set of quints, mainly to give the ewe a chance to gain back more strength.
“The other two weren’t interested in the bottle at all, so they must have been getting enough milk,” he said. “But I can see the mom’s getting tired. They’re a month old now and she seems to be getting dehydrated at times. I may have to separate them. I don’t like to do that, but I think she needs a bit of a break now.”
Deman has his lambs shorn on-site and the fleece is shipped to a mill in Prince Edward Island to be made into wool.
“It’s not a money-maker, that’s for sure,” he said. “It’s just something that has to be done. It pays for the shearer and the cost of the bridge (the Confederation Bridge toll), and my lunch on the way home, but I’m happy to get rid of the wool.”
Deman currently has 49 sheep on his farm, which resulted in 110 lambs born this year. At about four to five months of age, the lambs are shipped to the Northumberland Lamb Marketing Co-op in Bible Hill, N.S.
“The prices are good right now and there’s a lot of support for locally produced lamb,” he said. “The most I’ve ever had though was 90 sheep. That was two years ago. But it was too much work, since I’m away from the farm for much of the day.”
by Joan LeBlanc