Almost every year I have a ewe or two that delivers an unplanned breeding. Either due to a ram breakout too early in the fall, or perhaps she lost a pregnancy early-on, and re-bred once all the rams were all together with the we group. Often I don’t care who the sire is, I just mark it down as “UNK” (unknown). Then, the lamb either goes to the slaughter channel, or I sell at a discount the mystery ewelambs as 50% recorded ewes.
This time, with those January triplets, I was interested in the parentage. The mother is a good ewe and I’d like to register them. So, I DNA tested them. I already had DNA banked on all my adult rams, and the cost is $18 per lamb to match them up with the appropriate sire. Er, sires.
As everyone probably knows, but doesn’t think about often, mammals can carry babies from multiple sires in the same pregnancy. (Yeah, even humans!) In this case, the ewe was in a whole pasture full of rams. I figured the adults wouldn’t have let the rookie ram lambs anywhere near her. I also guessed that the older ram might have driven away the three yearlings and would have sired all three lambs. I was right on the first count, wrong on the second! These three lambs each have a different father, all sired by (what were at the time) yearling rams. They sure do look different, although that isn’t unusual, even in single-sired sets.
Sometimes people do these kinds of matings on purpose, for various reasons, like preserving genetics in rare breeds. In NSIP, it’s referred to as a “syndicate mating.” (Doesn’t that sound collaborative? Like she was bred by a committee?) The database program into which we enter data would normally error-out on sibling lambs with different sires. So, I have learned, you have to remember to annotate them in the comment field with “DNA SIRE” to flag that they should be allowed through.
So, I have a “ram sampler” set. Every year, Mother Nature throws a curve ball or two!