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Ewe has quadruplet lambs on Decorah farm

By Jean Caspers-Simmet

Date Modified: 04/19/2013 3:11 PM

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DECORAH —Peter Gerleman knew his Suffolk ewe was going to have more than one lamb.

"Her stomach and her bag were really big," said Peter, 13. "I thought maybe twins or possibly triplets. I was really surprised when she had four."

Peter's father, Myles, said the ewe needed no help lambing.

"We tube fed colostrum to get all the lambs up and going, and we had a heat lamp in her pen," Myles said.

Peter said that his father got up first and checked on the ewe, and she had given birth to two lambs. When Peter came down to the barn about 30 minutes later, she had four lambs, three males and a female.

The lambs were born March 4, and a month later have at least doubled in size.

"You're really happy with twins," Myles said. "We've never had four at once. When you hear of this many being born at once, they usually don't all make it."

All Peter's lambs are healthy and so is the ewe.

"It takes a really good mother to raise four lambs," Myles said. "These lambs are coming along. We're starting on some creep feed, and I think they're going to be okay."

Peter said that they don't name the sheep. They refer to them by the number on the ear tag. The ewe is No. 419.

Peter started showing sheep in 4-H when he was 10. The first year he had four lambs, and he bought a few more over the years. He kept the females, bred them and has been lambing each year. His goal is to build his flock and sell club lambs to kids who want to show sheep.

Peter showed the Supreme Champion Ewe at the Winneshiek County Fair in 2012. The year before he showed the Reserve Grand Champion Market Lamb.

Peter isn't in 4-H this year. He's taking a break from showing to concentrate on his flock.

His ewe, No. 419, is just two years old.

"She didn't get bred last year so this was her first time lambing," Peter said.

Peter's flock has grown to 10 ewes. One didn't get bred, and another lost its lamb. Among the other eight ewes were the quadruplets, several sets of twins, and the rest were single births.

Last summer Peter was able to rent a ram from David Langreck. This year he's hoping to buy a ram.

Peter's flock started lambing the second week in February. His first lambs went on creep feed a few weeks ago.

Peter has two older brothers, John and Ross, who raised sheep for a number of years. They had up to 52 ewes. They were really surprised to hear about the quadruplets.

"All the years they were raising sheep, they never had quadruplets," said Connie, Peter's mother. "I don't know anyone who has had quadruplet lambs. This is an amazing story because all the lambs are normal, and the ewe is doing well too."

The family's cousins from Minneapolis came to see the lambs, the Decorah newspaper took a picture, and there have been other visitors as well. For pictures, Peter's younger sister, Grace, helps by holding the two smallest lambs.

"It's getting harder to hold them because they're getting bigger and feistier ever day," Connie said.

Grace, 9, said she likes working with calves and helping her dad with the cows. She has three bottle calves that she is feeding and two cats she cares for.

It's a busy time around the Gerleman farm. They have 220 Angus cross cows and are in the midst of calving. They feed out the calves, and they finish 1,800 pigs each year. They raise corn, soybeans, oats and hay and have lots of pasture for the cows. Connie works full time at Stanley Engineered Fastening in Decorah.

"With calving we have some late nights and early mornings," Connie said.

Peter is a seventh grader at Decorah Middle School where he plays football and basketball. He plans to join FFA when he is ninth grade. Grace plays the piano, is in the spellathon and participates in park and rec activities.