Pat Cooney, a Cork sheep farmer, witnessed a "one in a million" event when a quintuplet of lambs was born on his farm near Minane Bridge on March 23.
"I was delighted and elated because I’ve never had the like before in about 50 years of keeping sheep," Cooney told the Irish Examiner.
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Cooney said the birth of four lambs at once can occur from time to time but said the birth of quintuplets was a one-in-a-million chance.
"I felt privileged that before I might retire, I had one [a set of quintuplets]," Cooney told the Irish Examiner.
The Cork farmer said the lambs came at an "unmerciful rate" once they began arriving shortly after 9 pm on March 23. He said some of the lambs may not have survived if he had not stopped by to check on the ewe on the evening in question.
While Cooney's quints are certainly rare, they're hardly the first in Ireland. On Christmas Day 2018, the Vance family farm in Co Donegal welcomed five healthy lambs, while the Flanney family in Co Mayo welcomed another five lambs in January 2019. In February 2020, the Holland Sheep Farm in Co Cork welcomed its own set of quintuplets.
According to Teagasc, Ireland's Agriculture and Food Development Authority, sheep production is the fourth most important animal enterprise in Ireland, operating on both hill and lowland farms. Almost all lambs born in Ireland arrive in February and March. Ewes typically give birth to twin lambs but can occasionally give birth to singles and triples. On rare occasions, a lamb will give birth to quadruplets.
The chances of a ewe giving birth to quintuplet lambs are roughly one in 10,000.