Shepherds across the province are busy delivering lambs this spring, and one southern Alberta ewe was especially busy just before Mother's Day — she gave birth to sextuplets.
The ewe was dubbed Big Mamma on the Azure Sky Ranch south of High River, Alta., after giving birth to four lambs last year.
WATCH | See how Big Mamma and her babies are doing in the video above
Big Mamma lived up to her nickname a second time, on May 7 between 8 a.m. and noon, when she surprised owner Catherine Skory with six more.
"She was huge, she was having trouble walking," Skory told the Calgary Eyeopener on Thursday.
"[But] last year she looked larger than she [did] this year, so … we were guessing three or four again, but we had no idea there was six of them in there."
'Instinct took over and I gave him mouth-to-mouth'
Big Mamma is not on any hormones, and the births of the lambs — five males and one female — were natural, Skory said.
But during the delivery, joy on the farm turned to worry when the runt of the litter was born, blue and struggling.
"It was just exciting at first, but then when number four was born ... he was so tiny," Skory said.
"We thought that was the last one being born, so our attention focused on him … and while we were kind of taking care of him, out comes another one, and then another one."
Skory wrapped the runt in towels and rubbed him to get his circulation going, she said, but the life went out of him.
"Instinct took over and I gave him mouth-to-mouth about 10 times, little puffs of air in his nose and mouth, and he responded immediately to that," Skory said.
"He was revived and we put them under a heat lamp but it wasn't enough. So then I took him in the house and I took care of him in the house for about three days."
Follow in her footprints
After the sextuplets were born, Skory took to the internet to find similar occurrences, and found a few, but not many.
"Usually the first time they have a lamb, they have one, and after that it's very common for them to have twins," Skory said.
"You'll see triplets occasionally as well — but anything more than that is unusual."
As for what she plans on doing with the six lambs, Skory said she made the mistake of naming some of them, which means she'll have a hard time selling them.
She gets too attached, she said. But she is certain she will be hanging on to one of them.
"We will definitely keep her daughter," Skory said. "You never know, maybe her daughters will follow in her footprints, too, and give birth to multiples like that."
With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.