St Keverne farmer John Tripconey always knows his is going to have his hands full at lambing time – but even he was surprised when one of his sheep gave birth to quadruplets last week.

Quad lambs are very rare – farming experts believe they occur in fewer than one in a hundred births.

John, 34, farms 450 acres at Trelan, near St Keverne. With 160 sheep and 350 cattle on his traditional mixed farm, he thought he had seen it all – until last week’s “lambing explosion” when nearly all of his pregnant ewes gave birth in the space of a few days.

“I thought she might be going to have triplets,” said John, “because she was so huge, and she is one of our older sheep – nearly nine years old.

“She usually lambs outdoors, but we brought her into the lambing shed and she gave birth to two of them right away. I left her for a bit and then she had another one. I checked on her again a bit later and could see another head sticking out – that was the only one she needed any help with. The whole thing was over in half an hour.”

John’s flock, serviced by just four rams, gave birth to nearly 100 lambs in only three days.

“I’ve been farming since I was 16, my family has farmed here for generations, and I have never seen anything like this before,” said John. “Usually lambing is spaced out over a few weeks, but this year they all came at once.”

John’s rams are all Texels and the ewes Suffolk-Texel cross. Only one of the four lambs is likely to stay on the farm – the female.

Her three brothers will be sent to slaughter, later in the year.

“I’m afraid I can’t keep them all,” said John.