Cow on Bentonville farm gives birth to rare triplets
By Joe Beck -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Don't have a cow, man. Have a heifer instead. In fact, have three heifers.
A blue roan in Shane Cook's herd heeded Bart Simpson's advice last Saturday.
Cook found the triplet calves and their mother in a chilly pasture after he went looking for her. The cow, one of a few blue roans that he keeps, had gone missing during the morning feeding.
The triplets are the latest additions to a herd of 180 beef cattle raised on 500 acres Cook rents and owns along Bentonville Road near Browntown.
"I couldn't believe it," Cook said as he watched the healthy triplets with their mother in a fenced barnyard. "I was in shock. I really was. I called my fiancee and the guy who helps me out. We'll probably never see this again."
He has good reason to be udderly surprised. An Associated Press account of triplets born to a black Angus cow in Montana reported the odds of a beef cow having triplets are one in 105,000 births, and even longer odds against all three surviving. The AP statistics came from the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine.
Robert Keller, Cook's veterinarian, said triplets have been a rarity in his Luray -based practice spanning 30 years.
"Only one time in my life did I have to deliver three, and that was 25 years ago," Keller said.
Keller said he has had no reason to look in on the triplets, but added that the first 10 days will be decisive in determining whether they survive.
So far, they appear to be doing just that.
Cook said each weighed about 30 pounds, no more than half the weight of an average newborn calf. Two appeared to be doing well when he found them, but the third was weak and needed immediate care, Cook said.
He loaded the faltering calf into his truck and took it from the pasture to the barn, where it began to rally and was soon on its way to gaining enough strength to be pronounced healthy.
Cook said he hasn't done much for the mother and her calves that differs from the care given other cattle and newborns in his herd. The only extras have been a few vitamin shots for the calves and alfalfa and hay to help the cow with her milk production.
Cook's only worry now is keeping an eye on the mother, who has been touchy about letting him or anyone else near her offspring. Visitors to her pen are met with a baleful stare, head bobbing and low mooing that sounds like the bovine equivalent of a growl.
"She's kind of hateful," Cook said with a chuckle. "The guy who helps me out, he won't go in where she's at."