Ewe gives birth to quadruplets

March 14, 1998


Staff Writer

A 4-H project turned out to be quadruple the work for Stacy Beckley when her pet ewe gave birth to four lambs - two rams and two ewes.

The freshman at Williamsport High School came home from school March 5 to find Mindy, of the Shropshire breed of sheep, wasn't alone in her pen.

"I saw four little things running around. I was amazed," said Beckley, 14.

It's not uncommon for ewes to give birth to twins and even triplets. In fact Mindy is a triplet herself.

But quadruplets are rare, occurring in about one in 10,000 births, according to Jeff Semler, an agent with the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Service.


"I don't know of any others in the state, but that doesn't mean it's not possible," Semler said.

The four lambs stand about a foot tall and have black faces and legs with gray and black spots on their bodies.

So far, Beckley has only named the second lamb that was born - Miracle - because it's the runt.

Semler originally owned Mindy, but gave it to Beckley for her 4-H project.

Looking over the four sprightly offspring Thursday afternoon, as Beckley struggled to bottle feed them warm milk, Semler said he's relieved she has the job of caring for them.

"I'm glad I let her go," he said.

Last Thursday, Beckley's father, Steve, noticed Mindy had given birth to one lamb as he passed by her wooden pen.

His wife, Karen, who just got home that day from having surgery, called some family friends to check on the ewe.

Don Reid answered the call, temporarily leaving his job at Southern States Cooperative Inc., to check on Mindy. He suspected the ewe was going to have at least two more lambs when he felt an entangled mass of legs and heads inside.

"If I hadn't helped, they would've all been gone," Reid said.

As it was, he didn't think the second one born was going to live.

From then on, Beckley bottle fed the lambs every two hours around the clock for the next few days. She said she took "maternity leave" from school on Friday.

Now she's down to a more reasonable schedule, bottle feeding the young animals four or five times a day. They also eat from their mother.

In two weeks, Beckley will only have to feed the lambs three times a day.

"The day I tell her she can wean those lambs is the day she'll be happy," said Joe Frey, a family friend who sold Beckley her first lamb and got her started in the project.

She will raise the lambs as part of a 4-H project and plans to show them in this year's Washington County Ag Expo in August. The two rams will be sold to market, she said.

The four new lambs brings the total to 12 the number of sheep Beckley owns. More are on the way in the next few weeks.

Besides belonging to the sheep club in 4-H, Beckley is also a member of the lamb, goat, chicken and rabbit clubs, among others, she said.

"I like the animals," Beckley said.

She said she sees herself working in an agriculture-related career when she gets older.

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