local | NW Life

Lamb Triplets Get Special Care At Imperial Stock Ranch

OPB | Oct. 30, 2013 midnight | Updated: Oct. 31, 2013 7:49 a.m.

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Producing for Oregon Field Guide usually involves tramping through the woods, hiking up a mountain or floating down a river — all of which can put you in the middle of some of Oregon’s most breathtaking scenes. But a recent shoot provided a different kind of scene — one of pure cuteness.

Meet Rambo, Wooliam, Rascal, Casper and tiny Charlotte Rose, the little princes and princess of the Imperial Stock Ranch.

Located near the ghost town of Shaniko, the Imperial has been raising sheep on Oregon’s high desert country for more than 140 years. Rancher Jeanne Carver, who introduced me to these little lambs, told me that this year, 15 sets of triplets were born at Imperial. (Domestic sheep typically give birth to one or two lambs in a season, but occasionally there are triplets.)

The 15 sets of lamb triplets left Carver with 15 little problems to solve.

Jeanne Carver with lambs from Imperial Stock Ranch

Jeanne Carver with lambs from Imperial Stock Ranch

Nick Fisher / OPB

“Because [the ewe]’s bag has two teats, they have great milk to raise two quality lambs, but if they have three lambs, they’re going to have to compete for that milk.”

Carver’s strategy begins with taking the smallest of the triplets off its birth mother and adopting it out to another ewe, a practice known as “grafting.”

“We graft a lamb to a mama that only has one, so that each ewe then has two,” Carver explains.

Wooliam, one of the lambs born on Imperial Stock Ranch

Wooliam, one of the lambs born on Imperial Stock Ranch

Nick Fisher / OPB

Once successfully grafted, these additional lambs have a much better chance of growing to a normal weight and size. This year, there were only 10 ewes with single offspring, which left five orphaned lambs. But before you feel sorry for these neglected “bummers” as they’re called, know that Carver also runs an orphanage of sorts, where these foundlings are bottle-fed, cuddled, loved and even get names.

To learn more about Imperial Stock Ranch, tune in to Oregon Field Guide on Thursday, October 31 at 8:30 p.m. You can also tune in to Oregon Art Beat on Thursday, October 31 at 8 p.m. to see how Portland designer Anna Cohen creates patterns and garments using wool from Imperial Stock Ranch, which is also supplying wool to Ralph Lauren for Olympic uniforms.

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