McAlpine family, York, celebrates rare five lamb birth

By Belinda Hickman
March 25 2022 - 5:00am
Ten-year-old Charli McAlpine, with siblings Landon Dale, 9, Judah McAlpine, 7, and Lincoln Dale, 6, are loving the baa-ing bonanza of lambs on their farm at St Ronan, near York. The family was amazed when one of their pet Merino ewes delivered a 'flock' of five lambs.

IT's a baa-ing bonanza at Leanne and John McAlpine's farm near York - they are happily sheltering a rare five lamb 'flock' in their home paddock.

The family's five children were thrilled with the surprise quintuplet birth on Tuesday last week, with the new lambs so far beating the survival odds.

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While twin lambings are common and triplets not unusual - it's been suggested that to have five lambs born alive and to survive is a "one in a million" chance.

It's certainly earned kudos for their homebred Dorper ram, which managed to get itself into the ewe flock a bit earlier than anticipated and has produced about 70 per cent twin offspring.

"I've never seen quintuplet lambs before,'' Ms McAlpine said.

The newborns last week.

"I Googled it and found a few stories online, that said it was a one in a million chance - so it's awesome.

"We have been watching them to make sure they are alright and she is feeding them - so we will see what happens.''

The couple farms about 56 hectares at St Ronan, breeding lambs every year from about 150 ewes.

The flock is 90pc Dorpers - although the quins' mother is one of a handful of Merino ewes on the property.

"I have some old pet Merinos and that is where she has come from,'' Ms McApline said.

"John has been saying 'we need to get rid of the Merinos' and I'm like 'no, you don't'.

"I couldn't get rid of my pets.''

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Ms McAlpine said as they didn't scan their pregnant ewes, the high number of multiple births this year was a surprise.

The cuteness-overload has delighted the couple's children, aged 6-13 years, who are particularly loving the quins.

Ms McAlpine said the ram's enthusiasm to get over the fence has meant that lambing was a couple of months earlier than they had being planning - but it had won back their approval with the number of offspring he had produced.

"We have used a different ram for the first time and all the sheep are having twins - it is crazy,'' Ms McAlpine said.

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"And then when we had the five - wow.

"He is doing an excellent job."

The McAlpines retain their ewe lambs for breeding and, working with another farmer, exchange their ram lambs for some of his ewe lambs.

She was closely monitoring the quins, and while they were feeding from their mum, was also bottle feeding a couple of them to help keep them healthy and strong.

"The mum is on extra feed and is doing a great job feeding them all but hopefully we can take some pressure off her by topping them up with the lamb formula and give them a better chance at surviving,'' she said.

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But her main concern were foxes.

"We have lost at least one lamb from our flock to foxes every couple of days,'' Ms McAlpine said.

"We have never seen anything like it before - it is scary.

"We are thankful the sheep are having twins, as we will still have a good number of lambs.

"We have these ones in a yard in the front of our house, with lots of food, so we can look out for them.''

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