Triplet calves surprise Footville farmer
FOOTVILLE--The triplet Holstein calves arrived without warning.
The rare births Friday afternoon surprised Footville farmer Steve Case and his family on the Pine View Dairy farm.
The nameless pregnant cow—who goes by ear tag No. 1,150—had been acting strangely for a few weeks, Case said. She wasn't due until Aug. 10.
He was headed out to feed his cows when he heard bellowing from the barn.
“I just about fell over,” Case said when he found three calves next to their mother.
He quickly dried them off while the mother “did her job getting the first milk into them.”
“I've had a lot of twin calves on the farm, but I've been on my farm 33 years, and this is the first I've ever had triplets,” said Case, who runs the 320-head farm with his wife, Liz, and son Craig, with help from son Jeremy.
“I'm glad they're all alive,” he said. “It was a total surprise to me.”
“Triplets are rare to be born alive and healthy. A lot of times there's complications,” said Dr. Ray Pawlisch, whose specialty at Brodhead Veterinary is large animal/dairy cattle. He's only seen healthy triplets twice in his 30-plus years of practice.
He cited a 2006 study on multiple births in Holstein cattle by UW-Madison researcher Noel Silva Del Rio. She found just one-third of a percent of the bovine pregnancies that year resulted in triplets, according to the Wisconsin State Farmer, which detailed her study in a 2011 article about triplets born in West Bend.
Based on her numbers, the paper reported that's an average of one set of triplets born every day on a Wisconsin farm. Many, however, don't make it, and Pawlisch said the fact that Case's cow delivered triplets without human assistance makes it even more rare.
Case's brother Bill had a set of triplets on his farm in 1981.
The farm now is doing ultrasound testing of its cows.
“It's just something we would want to know,” Case said.
The calves are not identical, though they “certainly resemble each other,” Case said.
The calves—two heifers and a bull—are doing well, though the bull is a little weaker, he said. Normal calves weigh 80 to 120 pounds, and Case estimated the heifers at 40 to 50 pounds.
“This was a huge thing for the mother,” who was receiving extra calcium for milk fever, a condition where she can't produce calcium fast enough, Case said.
“She was filled out pretty good, but having triplets like that, she stood up and her sides just got sucked in,” he said. “Imagine about 150 pounds coming out of you.”