Twin Lambs: the Multi-tasking Soay Ewe in Action

Quite by accident, I found myself a couple of days ago in the Maternity Ward with my camera just as Sandpiper started to lamb. Our first year as shepherds I dutifully photographed every birth, but no more. A person can get worked up about a still shot of an amniotic-sac-covered lamb just so many times in her life. But soon after Sandpiper’s first lamb arrived, it became clear another one was on the way, so I started clicking, and I am glad I did. Here is Sandpiper nudging her first lamb back towards her udder for the all-important initial meal of colostrum.


Not much news there; any self-respecting ewe will clean off her lamb and get it eating as soon as possible so it will stay warm and thrive.

But look again at Sandpiper’s back end. See those little black and white things sticking out of her vagina? Those are lamb #2’s front hooves on their way out of the birth canal. Is Sandpiper paying the slightest bit of attention? Nope, she’s too busy taking care of lamb #1.  

Next picture, less of lamb #2 shows here, probably between contractions, but Sandpiper seemingly takes no notice in any case, no matter what her body tells her is about to happen … again. She is still busy with lamb #1 and determined to get him jump-started before she turns her attention to her second lamb.


In the next photo, still no lamb #2, so Sandpiper has just enough time to get lamb #1 feeding.


Actually, even though lamb #2’s hooves are back out in the next picture, Sandpiper stays on task and finishes licking the membranes off lamb #1.


And it’s a good thing Sandpiper stayed focused, because by the time I could take the next picture, the second lamb was on the ground. Lamb #2 is the yucky-looking slimy black mass in this picture.


Now, finally, Sandpiper is satisfied that lamb #1 can fend for himself for a few minutes, and she turns her attention to lamb #2 and starts the cleaning-licking-nudging process all over again.


Just a few minutes later, the little family of three is all cleaned up and ready to go.


As you know from reading my last post about lamb games, lamb #2 (Cascabel) actually wandered off about this time and Llucy had to fetch him back. In this picture, you see Cascabel turning away from Sandpiper and getting ready to strike out on his own.


Why he did that we will never know. We do not see this kind of wandering very often in a newborn. [2013 update: in the last six years, we have seen this happen over and over again. In fact, first-twin wanderings have led to better jugs, better vigilance, almost anything to keep that first little tyke from getting lost in the shuffle. Check it out here and here and here!] The ewes each have a unique gurgly-meowing-baa sound that only the “right” lamb responds to, and the lambs each have a slightly different baa sound as well. Whatever possessed Cascabel to go exploring, with Llucy’s help he was reunited with his mother and all was well and remains well. But let me tell you, once Sandpiper finished her double lambing, she chowed into the hay like there was no tomorrow. There is tomorrow, however, and it will come soon enough for the pregnant ewes who have yet to show off their multi-tasking skills.

 For now …

3 Enlightened Replies

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  1. I love this section, for those of us who are never there when the delivery actually happens thank you so much I was laughing and enjoying the wonder of it all.
    Keep me in mind for RBST lambs or yearling, I haven’t heard from Kathie about what she will have, for the time I’m just ooooing and ahhhing.
    Happy Lambing, Elayne

  2. Robbyn says:

    Wow, this was fascinating! Thanks so much for sharing the process and the wonder!

  3. priscilla says:

    Hi Elayne, We are a little more than half way through lambing. So far we have 9 RBST ewe lambs and 11 RBST ewe rams, plus about a dozen beautiful tan, mahogany, and medium reddish American/British lambs, quite a stunning group. We should have both RBST lambs and yearlings but we will not know precisely which RBST animals are for sale until lambing is complete and Steve can asses what we need to keep for the conservation breeding rotation and what we will sell. There is a fuller description of the types of Soay we have for sale on our farm website ( and I plan to add a lot of pictures showing the various types as soon as I can get the lambs to slow down a bit and the rain stops. I’ll keep you posted as we finalize what’s for sale. Meanwhile, thanks for your nice comments.