MADISON COUNTY — A 10-year old cow gave birth to Triplets on Scott Wood’s Farm in Madison County, just east of Newdale, on Jan. 26. This will be the cow’s eighth set of calves.
The cow and triplets belong to Luke Wood, of Teton. LuAnn Wood, Luke’s mother, said that on that Saturday morning they were “surprised with a set of triplets!”
Last January, the cow, named number 0-51, gave birth to a set of twins that both died during birth, a month before the due date.
Luke Wood said that 0-51 is a Red Angus cow and each of her naturally born triplets were given the same number of 0-51. The three young calves include two males and one female. They were born naturally without any help from the Wood’s.
“So we had other cows that were calving at the time and she [the mother] hadn’t started calving yet but when other cows calf they have a tendency when they’re going into labor, to mother up to other calves,” Luke Wood said. “So we had two other cows that were calving and she was trying to mother up to those babies.”
Luke Wood said that he went to bed that Friday night and woke up Saturday morning with a call from his dad.
“My dad gives me a call in the morning and says ‘hey, you better get out here. Your cow is havin’ twins.’ I’m like ‘yeah we knew she might,’” Luke Wood said. “So we drug the one in, she’d already had. And I hurried out of bed and jetted out there, and he said ‘oh, she already had the second one you’re OK.’”
So Luke Wood went back home and decided it was time for breakfast.
“Well we came back out an hour later and there was three calves out in the pen,” he said.
Luke Wood said that the calves were born without any help from him or his dad and that all three survived and are “happy and healthy.”
Kerry Powell, faculty member at the Department of Animal Science at Brigham Young University of Idaho, confirmed that this is an uncommon occurrence.
He said that according to studies, for a cow to have triplets is about an one in 100,000 chance, with a 60 percent chance that they will all survive.
“It doesn’t happen every day,” Powell said.
The one female out of the triplets, Powell says, has a high chance of being sterile. He said that she has an estimated 95 percent chance of being infertile. Powell said that this doesn’t happen in pigs, sheep or humans. But in this instance, the male hormones from the female cow’s brothers penetrated the placenta and could’ve left her unable to reproduce and possibly unable to be a dairy cow.
He said that the fact that the calves were born naturally and that they all lived does add to the occurrence being more unusual.
But this cow wasn’t the only one on the farm to give birth. Luke Wood said that he had two other cows who gave birth but lost their calves, Cow Number 2-90 and 2-94. Both cows had calves but theirs didn’t survive.
Luke Wood said that 2-90 gave birth in a snow drift not knowing that it was too cold.
“We had a cow [2-90] that calved out in the field, again,” Luke Wood said. “And it calved in a snow drift. See, cows don’t know ‘oh I need to birth them in a bundle of straw.’ She went where it was soft in the snow, this other one did, and she had it in the snow and the calf froze to death.”
Another cow, 2-94, was giving birth when the calf breached tail first so they pushed it back in to turn it around and pull it out by its front legs but it was already dead.
Because 2-90 and 2-94 lost their calves and 0-51 had three, they gave the other two a calf each.
For 2-90, they skinned the calf she had that froze and draped the skin on the hide on one of the triplets so that 2-90 would recognize it as her own. They didn’t need to do that for 2-94 because she had never smelled her calf. Luke Wood said that they immediately took one of 0-51’s calves and gave it to 2-94.
“You drape that skin over the hide of the calf that you’re gonna give to that cow,” Luke Wood said. “They’re instinct is ‘hey this is my calf.’”
He said that this practice is pretty common for ranchers in the area.
Concerning 0-51, the triplets’ biological mother, she still has the dominant calf to herself.
Luke Wood said that when a cow has twins, there will be one that is dominant. He said that it doesn’t happen all the time but sometimes the dominant calf won’t suckle on another cow and the biological mother won’t let another cow suckle her dominant calf.
Luke Wood said that the biological mama cow can bellow and get upset when one of their calves are taken but “as long as they have one, they’re OK,” he said.
Luke Wood said that they separated the triplets when they were first born in order to attach them to a different cow. But now, they keep the triplets separated because if they were kept in the same pin they might revert back to being attached to their biological mother.
Luke Wood said that each of the three cows now have one calf to themselves and the three calves are all very happy.