Three-of-a-kind makes full house for Severance, Colo., teen
Tom Petersen got a surprise recently when his daughter Ashley’s cow had two calves in a span of a few hours.
But it was nothing like the surprise the family got the following morning.
“I went out the next morning to check on them and there was one calf that was still wet. So I put a towel over it and my jacket, since it was warm from my body heat. Then momma got up and there was another calf under her. It was then I realized there were three and I like, freaked out,” Ashley, 13, said.
She had been ill and was on the way to the doctor with her mother, Chris, when her cow started giving birth the afternoon before. Her dad said the cow’s water broke as his wife and youngest daughter were leaving for the doctor’s office, so he was checking on the cow out in a pasture near the house. Later that evening he went out to check on the cow and calf and discovered she was delivering her second calf.
But the real shock came the following morning when Ashley, still not feeling well and not sure if she was going to go back to classes at Severance Middle School, went out to check on her cow and what she thought at the time, were twin calves.
“When I came back in the house and told mom there were three calves I think she thought I was messing around with her,” Ashley said. But when they went back out, there was the new momma and her three calves – two heifers and bull.
It was the first time the cow had delivered, although she had lost a calf about a year earlier.
Ashley, a member of the Severance 4-H Club, had been one of three 4-H members who won $1,200 each from the Cattle for Kids program, which is part of the breeding beef show at the Weld County Fair, in 2007. It is financed by county cattle producers and other sponsors.
She used the money to buy a registered Limousin heifer from Magness Land and Cattle Company of Platteville, Colo. The heifer was first bred with an Angus bull, but lost that calf, so last December she was bred to Thor, the family’s purebred Limousin bull.
The rest, as the saying goes, is history.
One of the heifers, Chris said, weighed about 40 pounds, while her brother and sister checked in at about 50 pounds each. The normal birth weight of a beef calf is around 80 pounds, said Bill Angell, director and livestock agent with the Weld office of Colorado State University Extension.
“They are kind of hard to weigh because they wiggle so much,” Chris said.
Realizing the momma could not nurse all three by herself, the Petersens contacted the Hirsh Dairy north of Severance right after the calves were born. They are all in the same 4-H club, Chris said.
The dairy provided colostrum from their cows. Colostrum is the first milk produced following birth of a calf and is a milk that is low in fat and high in carbohydrates, protein, and antibodies. They started bottle feeding the three calves to supplement what they got while nursing from momma, and are now continuing that twice a day with raw milk they get from Hirsh.
“They have just been great,” Chris said of the dairy.
The downside of the birth is that the heifers will probably be sterile, so Ashley said she plans to show them as market heifers and will keep the bull. In addition to breeding beef, she also has 4-H projects in horses, sewing, clothing construction and decorate your duds. She won a reserve championship on a dress she made for the 2010 Weld County Fair.
Tom said he did some research on triplets born to beef cows and found that the odds are once in 105,000 times, but then there’s only a 25 percent chance that all three calves will live. The fact the family was right there when the calves were born and got them on colostrum right away probably contributed to all three living.
“I grew up with my dad’s 120-head commercial cow operation and we never had triplets,” he said.