A SHEEP has beaten one in a million odds to give birth to five healthy lambs – weighing in at a quarter of her own weight.
But proud owner Joan MacDonald has her work cut out as the ewe can only produce milk for one of the lambs.
The remaining four are having to be hand-reared at her croft in Sollas on the Isle of North Uist.
It is rare for a ewe to have quintuplets and for them all to survive – especially when they weigh in at 31 ¾ lb all together.
But the island Cheviot cross, a breed which more often produces twins, has managed to keep all her flock alive and well.
Joan, 40, works as a nurse in the local hospital and said the number of new arrivals was a “shock to us all”.
She said the ewe had been scanned and they were told she was carrying triplets.
“She was big but I never thought for a moment she would have more than three,” said Joan.
“The kids are around all the time. They were blown away with the whole thing. It was a shock to us all.
“The local shop is just a couple of hundred yards away. They were all talking about it.
“A few people turned up so that they can look.
“It’s a once in a lifetime occurrence. My father is in his 70s and he’s never seen this before.”
Joan said the ewe is doing well and is “very proud” but has had problems producing milk.
“Half her udder isn’t working,” she explained. “We’ve left one lamb with her. The other four will be pet lambs until we foster them off.
“She is a bit hassled. They are continually calling for her. But she’s very proud.”
Dr Joanne Conington, a Livestock Geneticist at Scotland’s Rural College, said: “She may simply be one of those sheep that has a higher ovulation rate naturally.
“She was probably in very good condition when she was mated.”
Dr Conington continued: “The ewe is probably quite light – about 65 kilos. She was carrying 23% of her live weight which is a huge burden on her body.
“For a 65 kilo female having twins the burden on them would be only 8% and this ewe had more than double that.”