It was a normal day at J & J Toste Dairy in Turlock. The cows were eating, the dogs were running around and dairy workers were hard at work.
But when dairy owner John Toste went to go check on the cows, three newly born heifer calves were laying next to their three-year old Holstein mom. That day—Dec. 4—was a rare one indeed.
“It is very unusual for a cow to have triplets,” Toste said. “In the 50 years I have been in the dairy business, I have never seen triplets.”
According to the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, only about one in every 105,000 cattle births are triplets and they estimated the odds of a cow birthing triplets of a single sex is about one in 700,000.
Turlock must be the exception to the rule, however, as heifer triplets were born about a year ago right down the street from J & J Toste Dairy at the dairy of Jim Vieira.
A 5-year-old Holstein cow gave birth to three heifers on July 7 at the Vieira’s dairy. Vieira’s Holstein was bred naturally with a bull and was the cow’s third pregnancy at the time. His triplets were a little underweight and were having trouble walking at the time, but were expected to be strong and healthy.
Toste’s triplets are now two weeks old and they are already walking around, mooing and even sucking on fingers in search of some milk.
They are expected to be strong healthy heifers that will be good milking cows as they get older. Unfortunately, their mother didn’t survive the birthing process, dying a couple of days later. The dairy believes that giving birth to triplets was too much for the 3-year old mother who has only had one previous pregnancy, giving birth to one calf.
“It’s hard for cows to have three at a time,” Toste said.
The heifer triplets have already been named—Oreo, Snowflake and Oatmeal—and even though they have similar markings, dairy staff can tell them apart from their different dispositions.
Triplets are extremely rare in cows, but all three calves being the same sex is even rarer. Typically, the cow will have two calves the same sex and one the opposite sex. But Toste’s dairy got the best of both worlds with a rare triplet birth and even rarer same sex triplet birth.
“I’ve heard about triplets being born, but I have never seen it,” Toste said.
Prior to Toste’s 50 years on the dairy, his father had also never seen a triplet birth in his 50 years. “It’s like a once in a life time thing,” said Angel Toste, John Toste’s daughter-in-law.
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