Three heads better than one
Cow number 1218 on the Luke and Marla Moorse cattle farm was like any other Red Angus cow. That was, until April 13. The Moorses farm, which also includes son Dallas, have around 1,600 beef cows. Generally, they will have a few sets of twin calves born each year from the 350 stock cows.
More often than not, though, the second calf is born breach, or bottom first, and the survival rate is low. But the Red Angus 1218 mother not only had triplets, which, according to the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, is a 1 in 105,000 chance, but all three calves were heifers.
The odds of having triplets of the same gender is over 1 in 400,000. Even more remarkable is the fact that all three calves survived, which is less than a 25 percent chance, and weighed 60-65 pounds when born, within a normal range for even a single-born calf.
Washington State University’s odds of a cow birthing healthy triplet heifer calves is an astronomical 1 in 8 million.
“I’ve never seen or heard about it before,” said Luke.
“And I was on the Cattle Association and I never heard anyone talk about it.” Cow 1218 did not appear any larger or more uncomfortable than the other pregnant mothers in the herd despite having 12 legs, instead of four, kicking inside her.
“I’ve seen some cows that only had one calf that was bigger than she was,” Marla noted. “Sometimes when you see the mother bigger than normal, you figure they are having twins. But I never even thought this cow was having twins.”
Marla was the first to find the triplets when she went into the barn on April 13 to check if any of the cows had given birth.
“When I first looked from a distance, I thought I saw two calves by her,” she said about 1218. “So I went down to look.”
“As I got closer, I thought I saw three, but I figured one was from another cow that had wandered over there. But I was surprised when I found out they were triplets and the mother was licking them off.”
Marla texted Luke and told him to come to the barn, but didn’t tell him why. “I wanted to see his reaction when he saw them,” she told.
“He was pretty surprised.”
This is the sixth year that Cow 2018 has given birth; the first five years she had single calves. But the extra workload this year didn’t seem to bother her, although she had to get used to having three calves nursing at the same time.
Generally, at least one of the surviving triplets will be smaller or have different markings from the others. But 1218-1, 1218-2 and 1218-3 calves, as their ear tags indicate, are virtually the same size and have the same markings, right down to the dark tip on their tails.
“I am very shocked all three are alive,” said Luke.
“And they are all doing just fine.” The calves will stay with the mother until November. “I still can’t believe it,” said Luke, shaking his head.
“I’ll probably never see this again in my lifetime.”
Might be time for the Moorses to buy a lottery ticket.