By GEOFF PARKS
For the Capital Press
Jason Dovenberg's two sons will be working twice as hard on their 4-H projects this year. One of their ewes, Buddy, gave birth Feb. 21 to rare quadruplet lambs.
Dovenberg said he thought the odds of a ewe giving birth to four lambs at once were small, and the fact that his were all males shot up the odds even more.
He contacted Penn State University to check statistics on the rarity of quadruplets/multiple births in his breed of sheep, a Suffolk-Hampshire cross.
"I don't have exact statistics on the rarity of quads in sheep, (but) it's not very common among (those breeds)," said Robert Mikesell, a program coordinator with Penn State's Animal Science Department.
Young Hampshire or Suffolk ewes birthing their first set of lambs "are even less likely to give birth to 'litters' of lambs," Mikesell said.
Mikesell's co-worker, Jana Peters, was even more exact in her estimates.
"I can tell you in my own flock of Hampshire sheep, I have had two sets of quadruplets in approximately 400 births over 25 years," she said. "I would say that is pretty typical."
Dovenberg, 43, runs horses, cows, goats, sheep and chickens on the 10 acres he owns in the hills above Sherwood, Ore. -- "we call it the Funny Farm," he laughs. His sons, Brock and Cade, belong to what they say is the oldest 4-H club in Washington County -- Blooming Livestock and Rabbits -- and each year raise market lambs as a project.
"Last year I made $500 or $600" from a lamb, Brock, 14, said. He is using the funds to continue building a truck to drive when he gets his license.
Cade, 12, made about the same amount, but says he is saving his money. Both boys keep back $100 to $150 to have the farm's ewes bred.
Dovenberg said he came out to tend to Buddy and found two of the black lambs on the ground. He pulled the third one. An hour later, after vaccinating the first two, he returned to the ewe to find the fourth lamb had been born.
While 10- to 15-pound single lambs are the norm, the four born on the Dovenberg farm -- named Eeny, Meeny, Miney and Moe -- weighed 7 to 8 pounds each.
Both of the Dovenberg boys are up early each morning bottle-feeding the lambs with milk replacer formula.