14. Triplet lambs
Triplets are quite common in a few sheep breeds. This can sometimes lead to problems as a ewe has only two teats. But triplets may cause problems during their delivery as well.
A swifter is a crossbreed between a Flemish sheep and a Texel sheep. This is not a Belgian joke, but rather the outcome of scientific research. The crossbreed was devised by Wageningen University. The breed owes its popularity to its fertility: triplets are quite common, increasing the proceeds of the sheep breeder. Sheep breeding has not been about the wool for a long time now, it’s all about the meat.
swifter ewe with two lambs
It is March. The ewe that the call concerned has been put in a separate shed: it is a somewhat older swifter. A bucket of water and some towels are already being fetched. I roll up my sleeves high, rinse the rear of the ewe clean and wash my hands. I then apply lubricant to my arm. I feel three legs and one head in the vagina: which two legs go with the head? I soon have the answer and the first lamb is delivered promptly. And the second lamb, to which the third leg belongs, quickly follows. I insert my hand into the uterus again, but there are no more lambs. I quickly wash my hands, roll my sleeves back down and put on my coat. Because it is cold and I have already been paged for the next delivery. It is lambing season.
The next morning, the owner of the swifter calls to inform me that he has found a third lamb in the shed. Dead. The farmer takes this ill of me. But surely I had felt around for a third? Still, the unpleasant fact remains: in this case, a dead lamb.
Bale of straw
It is possible to overlook a lamb in older ewes that have already lambed a number of times. You cannot know for sure that the uterus is empty until you have reached its very bottom. To that end, the belly of the sheep must be pushed upward as you feel deep inside the uterus. It is not an easy thing to do by yourself. Which is why I have since positioned the ewe crosswise on a bale of straw (or hay) every time I had to deliver a lamb. With its belly on the straw, the belly is pushed upward with no effort on my part. I never overlooked a lamb again.
© Leo Rogier Verberne