4 lambs arrive in unusual birth
STEPHENS CITY — A rare occurrence kept Debbie Fauble from having dinner out with her husband Wednesday night.
As she was heading home to the couple’s 70-acre farm on Middle Road shortly before 5 p.m., she checked in with her husband, Harry Sam Fauble, only to be told the date was off.
One of their 20 Suffolk-Hampshire cross ewes had just given birth to four lambs.
Twin births are normal and triplets come quite often. But four is fairly rare, according to Virginia Cooperative Extension agent Corey Childs, who also raises sheep.
The Suffolk-Hampshire breed is known for twins, Childs said. About 10 percent will produce triplets, but only 1 percent of ewes have quadruplets, he added.
“To have all four survive, that’s a rarity,” he said.
In 24 years of raising sheep, the Faubles have had three sets of quadruplets, Debbie said. But it’s seldom that all four will live.
Debbie has high hopes for this set, which she said look pretty healthy.
The two largest weigh about 6 pounds, she said, while the smallest is about 2 pounds and the other one close to 4 pounds.
Debbie said her husband had to help free the smaller two lambs from the birth sacks. Then he scooped them up and took them into the house to dry them off ... with Debbie’s hair dryer.
The two small lambs are alternating their time between their mother’s shelter near the barn and a dog cage on the side porch of Debbie’s more than 100-year-old house.
Debbie is bottle-feeding the little pair.
Childs said few meat breed ewes, like the Suffolks and Hampshires, would produce enough milk to feed four lambs.
She’ll be keeping that up for at least six weeks.
But every little while, she takes the two small siblings back to the sheep shed to stay with mom so she will not disown them as they get older.
And so far, the ewe has been OK with the every-few-hours reunions.
“She was licking all of them” the last time the young ones visited, Debbie said.
The Faubles got into sheep in the way many rural families acquire animals — their daughter Samantha wanted to raise something to show in 4-H.
“We started with two lambs,” Debbie said.
Samantha did well, winning championships and earning scholarship money.
She went on to study at Virginia Tech and now teaches agriculture at James Wood Middle School.
Samantha and her husband, Tim Stern, now have their own 27-acre farm in Shenandoah County, where they raise goats, llamas and alpacas. Samantha also has her own business, Holy Cow Delivery, which brings milk, meat and produce to a customer’s door.
“It’s a good life,” Debbie said of growing up on a farm. And although she and her husband both have jobs in town, they like their sheep operation.
“We raise them for 4-Hers,” Debbie said. Youngsters like their daughter still learn a lot from raising an animal and then marketing it.
But they also raise their sheep for meat, which they sell through their daughter’s business.
“I like delivering them and petting them,” Debbie said. She also likes lamb as a meal.
“We had such a good time, with the ones we took to the fair,” she added.
She can still picture the family all pitching in to march young lambs up and down the driveway, teaching them to lead for the local and state fair classes.
“It looked like a parade,” she said.
— Contact Val Van Meter at firstname.lastname@example.org