Rare triplet heifer calves thriving on Taranaki farm
A special delivery has brightened up a miserable start to spring for farmer Gordon Stratton.
One of his cows gave birth to triplets, something neither he or his wife Marion had seen in 27 years of farming in Taranaki.
"It's been a really cold, sh***y wet spring but this has been a nice distraction. We've got triplets - I'll always remember this spring for them now," he said.
It's not uncommon for cows to produce twins, but triplets are rare. In the past the Livestock Improvement Corporation said the incidence of triplets in cattle lies between one in 100,000 to one in 700,000 births.
The fact that they are all female and survived pushes the odds up higher but quite how high is not so easy to answer.
"Someone quoted us one in eight million but I don't know if that's a fact or not," Stratton said.
The mother of the calves, which have not been named, is an eight-year-old cow who Stratton describes as just one of the herd.
He said the cow had been huge leading up to calving, but otherwise appeared normal.
The calves were born on July 28, about 12 days early.
At first he thought she had produced twins, but then he found a third calf that looked exactly like the other two.
"Two vets came and had a look. They said these should have good fertility for their mother to do that," Stratton said.
He decided on the vet's advice to rear the trio in the shed with the others.
Their mum was recovering well in a cosy cow cover, but would stay on once-a-day milking for the season, he said.
"They were only 25kg each, but that meant the cow had 75kgs of calves inside her," he said.
"Now they weigh in at 61kg. I'm pleased with the weight they've put on."
Despite being undersized, the triplets were feisty.
"They were very tiny compared to the other calves but they always fought for their places on the calfeteria, they just butted the others out of the way," Marion Stratton said.
The couple planned to keep the trio of calves as herd replacements, although it was likely they'd be given an extra year to grow before they began their milking careers, he said.
The couple are 50/50 sharemilkers for Jenny Clarke. They've lived on the farm near Ngaere for 22 years, starting as lower order sharemilkers and eventually buying Clarke's herd.
The calves' father was an LIC bull by the name of Beamer, he said.