Beef cow defies odds, gives birth to healthy bull triplets

Sherry Martell
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TATAMAGOUCHE - "Holy cow!" said Amy Schmidt, reeling from shock about the statistical oddity of a recent unexpected event at her Tatamagouche beef farm.
On Tuesday night a heifer gave birth to a set of healthy bull triplets.
Triplet births are so rare in beef cattle that scientists have very little information to compile statistical data but the odds of it happening are estimated to be about one in more than 100,000.
Even more rare is the chance they would all be the same sex and healthy, increasing the odds to less than one in 400,000 births.
"You are better off trying to win the lottery," said Dr. Dian Patterson, a professor in the animal science department at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College. "It's incredibly rare."
Schmidt and her husband Dean had been returning home from a trip to Cape Breton when their cow calved in their absence with a little help from Dean's father.
"It's farmer's luck," said Schmidt. "You go away and something happens."
The couple had purchased the Charolais at a cattle auction about two months ago in Truro, expecting it to calve in October, and were surprised to see signs she may have her calf early.
"We've been checking this cow everyday because we thought she was getting ready to calve," said the farmer.
The heifer gave birth to the first two calves unaided in a pastured area adjacent to the cattle barn, but Dean's father discovered her in distress trying to deliver the third.
"He saw the twins next to her and noticed the third one was on its way out, but she was so tired he had to grab hold of it and pull it out," said Schmidt.
The overwhelmed new mother began tending to her newborns, but within minutes of the calves' first attempts at nursing she began rejecting the last-born calf, butting it with her head and kicking it away from her udder.
For now "Big Mama" is keeping her two chosen children away from the rest of the farm's herd of about 28 cattle, while Schmidt's daughter, Tia, has taken over as the tiny bull's surrogate mother and has been bottle-feeding it to satisfy its big appetite.
All three calves are healthy and are about equal in size, which compares to that of a normal calf at birth.
Schmidt said it is very exciting to welcome the three miracle babies to their farm.
This is the second time this year triplet calves have been born in Colchester County. In January a Holstein heifer owned by Upper Stewiacke dairy farmer Derick Canning gave birth to triplets, two females and one male. All of them survived the birth, but the females were infertile, making them worthless on a dairy farm, so the trio was given to a hobby farmer in Noel where they died three months later.

smartell@trurodaily.com

Organizations: Nova Scotia Agricultural College

Geographic location: TATAMAGOUCHE, Cape Breton, Truro Colchester County Noel

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