A South Australian merino farmer got “a major surprise” when one of his stud’s merino ewes gave birth to six lambs.

Ian Rowett, who runs a poll merino stud in Marrabel, in the state’s Mid North, originally thought one of his ewes had given birth to three lambs on Friday. 

“A workman was topping the feed up and called me and said, ‘There’s another one’,” the farmer said.

“A while later he rang me [again] and said, ‘I’ve seen another one born’ … and about an hour later, the sixth one came out.

“It’s not that unusual to have multiples, but to have six is amazing.

“I didn’t think it was possible.”

‘No doubt they came from the same ewe’

Mr Rowett uses artificial insemination as part of his shed lambing program and said due to the high cost, each ewe is kept in an individual pen.

“There’s no doubt they came from the same ewe, they can’t get through to the next pen,” he said.

For authentication purposes, Mr Rowett will conduct a DNA test on the lambs.

Stud farmer Ian Rowett says he was surprised all the lambs were able to stand.(Supplied: Ian Rowett)

“One of them, unfortunately, didn’t make it, he only lasted for about a day and a half,” he said.

“We’re supplementary feeding them of course, we’re lucky to have another ewe that lost her lambs so we’re milking milk out of her.”

The total combined weight of the three ram and three ewe lambs was 14.8 kilograms.

“Mum’s amazing, she’s very placid, and is lapping it up,” Mr Rowett said.

How rare is this?

Earlier this year another ewe, also in South Australia, gave birth to six lambs in the state’s south-east.

Senior veterinarian at Clare Valley Veterinary Services Sophie Brown said “it is incredibly rare” for a stud merino ewe to give birth to six lambs.

“A lot of studs use artificial insemination and drugs to sync up their ewes … they might have two or three, but six is just unheard of,” she said.

Dr Brown said giving birth to six lambs could impact their survivability rate, as ewes only have two teats.

“Feeding six is a lot of extra work. A lot of [people] will take two or three and pen raise them, just so they have a better chance,” she said.

“These [lambs] were born at a pretty substantial size, which definitely does help with their chances of survivability.

“In a year like this where the conditions have been very dry, to have healthy, good-sized lambs is a testament to what good nutrition can do for flocks.”