Jim Vieira said that in nearly 50 years of dairy farming, he has never seen three calves of the same gender born to one cow at the same time. But that’s what happened on Tuesday when a 6-year-old dairy cow on Vieira’s dairy gave birth to three healthy heifers.
The mother cow is a 5-year-old Holstein that was bred naturally with a bull, without the use of artificial insemination. This is the cow’s third pregnancy, and the first time she has had multiples. Vieira said that he has seen triplets once before, but they were not all of the same gender. After the heifers were born, Vieira called his vet at Lander Veterinary Clinic.
“They told me that the odds of a cow having three heifers were about one in two million,” Vieira said. He added that his vet told him that one in 168,000 cow births was triplets, but the odds of three heifers were much smaller.
The heifers were all born unassisted, and bottle fed right after birth. Vieira said that they were small for Holsteins, but that they were healthy and would probably make good milk cows some day.
Vieira said that when heifers are born as twins or triplets to bulls they do not reproduce and can not give milk. He said it is better that they were all females because they can be used as milk cows. Although, he said that a cow is better off with one calf because multiple births are hard on the mother, and the calves are usually born small and are less likely to survive.
The three calves were separated from their mother shortly after birth because of a risk that she might step on or harm the small heifers. The mother cow will re-join the 600 other dairy cows on Jim Vieira Dairy. The new-born calves are still having trouble standing up on their own, but they are otherwise healthy and Vieira expects them all to develop normally.
“They are all hungry and healthy and they have no obvious deformities,” he said.
To contact Andrea Goodwin, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2003.