Saturday, 16 May 2015

A Rare Moment With A Rare Sheep - The Birth of Twin Lambs

Today we witnessed something rather special.  One of our Boreray ewes gave birth to twins and we were able to watch it from a distance.  Zelda was born in 2011 and this was her 3rd lambing.  I think she has only given birth to singletons before, but she seemed fully in control of the situation.

She could have picked a better day - we're unseasonably cold here in Orkney at the moment, with frequent heavy showers and very strong winds.

I've been advised by my friend, Bob, who has kept Boreray sheep for many years, that it is far better to leave them well alone at this time and let them follow their primitive instincts.  So the photos below were taken from just outside the field and we used binoculars to follow the progress.

Zelda has shed most of her fleece, so she is sporting the 'lion's mane' look at the moment.  Borerays are one of the few breeds that do shed their fleece.  She has the unusual dark colouring that a few Borerays have and it looks as if the 2nd lamb may also turn out to be darker than average.

The first photo was taken at 1.03pm just after, by chance, we spotted that she was about to lamb.  The first lamb was born at 1.14pm and the second at 1.25pm.

 You can just see the bag of fluid under her tail above.

 Bag has burst and membranes visible

 A minute or so of pushing and the lamb can be seen coming out - head out in first photo and body emerging in second photo.
 Zelda turns round to start licking the lamb.  The lamb was seen kicking immediately as it was born.
 Lamb now has its head up.

 A lot more licking from Mum before she lies down for the second birth 10 minutes after the first.

 The second lamb can be seen emerging in the 2 photos above.

 Here is Zelda turned round and licking the second lamb.

 Above Zelda is Blanche with her first lamb who was born in the early hours of 13 May, also in atrocious weather.
 You can see how quickly the first lamb got up on its feet and how alert the second one is after a couple of minutes of life.

 This photo was taken at 1.36pm.  Lamb 1 is 22 minutes old, Lamb 2, getting up, is 11 minutes old.

By 1.37pm Lamb 2 is up and standing well.

The two photos below were taken a couple of hours later at 3.15pm. Both lambs up and lively and eager to feed.  Zelda still has to deliver the placenta, but when she does she'll lick and eat everything, leaving the ground clean.

As you can see from her wary expression she spotted me looking at her from by the fence.  We'll wait a few more hours before very quickly checking the lambs, finding out if we've got boy(s) or girl(s) and putting iodine on the cords.  Although she is a very attentive mother we don't want to interfere with her bonding with the lambs by going up to her and them too soon.  Once the checks are done then we'll be keeping our distance again.  Gorgeous though the lambs might be they are a primitive breed, more feral than domesticated, and sadly not for cuddling!

ETA - 3.45pm.  Zelda has delivered some of the placenta, and is eating it, but there is more to come.

These last 2 photos are a bit grey and blurry because they were taken facing into driving rain - it's freezing and really wet outside at the moment.  Hopefully she'll take the lambs to a more sheltered spot when she's finished clearing up after the birth.


  1. Jane - thank you so much for sharing this! Lovely!

  2. Wonderful pictures and commentary!

  3. How wonderful, have just found these pics and find it amazing how quickly the lambs are on there feet. It has taken us 2 years to collect enough Boreray fleece to have it spun so I am really excited to know that next spring I will have wool from this exceptionally rare sheep to knit and put on the shelves for others to try.

  4. Oh gracious! What a wonderful series of photographs.