Heifer's triple delivery a joyful rarity

KAY BLUNDELL
Last updated 05:00 11/08/2014
Ted Cobb's heifer triplets
KENT BLECHYNDEN/ Fairfax NZ
TRIPLE TREAT: Ted Cobb with the unexpected extra cattle on his farm. 

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Good things come in threes for an Otaki dairy farmer and his heifer. Ted Cobb was expecting his heavily-pregnant friesian to have twins, but the arrival of extremely rare triplets was a first for him and a highlight of his 60 years farming.

"We have had twins in cows before, but never triplets in a heifer. We couldn't believe it when we saw all these calves coming out," Cobb said.

"It's about the same odds as winning Lotto," his wife Jenny added.

Livestock Improvement Corporation said the incidence of triplets in cattle lies between one in 100,000 to one in 700,000 births. Most multiple births in cattle are twins, and the incidence of twins in friesians is about 3 per cent.

The triplets were born on a bitterly-cold wet afternoon nearly three weeks ago on the Cobbs' 600-head Hautere Cross Rd dairy farm. The 2 year-old heifer gave birth to the first two calves no trouble, Jenny Cobb said.

"We knew a third was coming, but it was breech so the farm boys helped it out. They were tiny but perfect."

Knowing their size meant they would not survive the freezing night ahead, the farm boys put the two newborn heifers and one bull, in a shed, cleaned them up and nestled them in a bed of straw.

"They milked the heifer out to give the calves their first colostrum milk," she said.

The heifer was sprightly after giving birth and returned to the herd while the newborns were started on a three-times-a-day bottle regime.

The Cobbs did not usually name their calves but because of the rarity of the triplets their grandchildren had named the bull "Bob" and would name the two heifers before taking them to Te Horo School's upcoming lamb and calf day.

Half the size of normal calves their age, the triplets are thriving, leaping and playing in their paddock. Nearby sheep stared at the feisty triplets which were roughly the same size as them, Jenny Cobb said.

Bob was shy at first but after human handling from such a young age had become very sociable. ‘They butt . . . kick like a little mule and run around like billy-o," Ted Cobb said.

Running free in a fenced paddock during the day, they are locked in a straw-filled shed overnight.

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