Nine-year-old, rare-breed ewe gives birth to quad lambs on Kangaroo Island

A nine-year-old, rare-breed ewe has given birth to quad lambs on Kangaroo Island.

While not unheard of, quad lambs are a rarity and being born to a sheep of such an advanced age, through natural process, makes these births even rarer.

The Drysdale-Romney cross ewe belongs to Lyn Dohle, who once ran a Drysdale sheep stud in Victoria before moving to KI.

Drysdales were known across Australia and New Zealand for producing lower-grade carpet wool, but as demand for this product declined, so did Drysdale numbers.

Ms Dohle said she was fond of the breed and so, along with Will Marshall of Will's Rare Breed Farm, she kept producing Drysdales.

Besides, they also make good meat sheep when crossed with a white Suffolk ram.

"But we won't tell the lambs that," she said.

All four newborns were doing well with supplementary bottle feeds to take the load off mum.

This particular ewe was just about to retire from lambing.

"We decided to give her one last go given she's been such a good mum," she said.

"She's had plenty of singles and twins over the years, but obviously knowing that this was her last go, she decided to give us four."

AgKI chairman and sheep producer Rick Morris said Merino wool sheep generally started reducing the clip they produced by age five or six, while most sheep started losing their teeth after age six.

Most producers started culling older sheep out of their flock from about six or seven onward.

Triplet and quad lambs could be the result of artificial manipulation, however in some cases, certain individuals were naturally genetically predisposed to having more than twins.

While commercial sheep producers could keep extra lambs alive with expensive mechanical feeders or time consuming hand feeding, but more than often than not nature was left to run its course.

Kangaroo Island producers trying to build back their flock after thousands were lost in last year's bushfires, may be more inclined to nurse extra lambs.

It had been a tough lambing season due to the lateness of the spring rains, forcing farmers to feed their sheep well into winter.

"We've only just put away our feed trailer and this late in July is the latest we've ever put it away," Mr Morris said.

Speaking of sheep and New Zealand; the old saying used to go that New Zealand had 20 sheep per person. Radio New Zealand in 2019 reported that number had fallen to 5.6 sheep per person.

But consider this. Kangaroo Island with a population of only 4500 people and an estimated 500,000 sheep, according to AgKI, has a ratio of 111 sheep per person.