Biltmore Jestress 124Y, a purebred black Angus cow, has produced good calves for Kevin Buchanan, but she topped herself Friday by giving birth to triplets.
That’s rare by itself, reportedly happening in about one birth in 100,500, but the triplets born in a field in Pulaski County were all bulls, and that’s off-the-charts rare.
When veterinarians helped deliver three bulls from a cow at Washington State University in 2009, the school said in an article that the estimated odds of it happening in beef cattle were one in 700,000 births.
“We were really excited and surprised this could even happen,” said Buchanan.
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The mom and babies are doing fine. Buchanan and his helpers will bottle-feed the calves if necessary to help the mother keep up with three hungry mouths, but so far the calves have needed little supplemental nutrition.
“They were up playing around so good we didn’t even feed them this morning,” Buchanan said Monday.
Each of the calves weighed 50 to 60 pounds at birth, Buchanan said.
Buchanan raises registered, purebred black Angus cattle and sells bulls and bred heifers. He has about 200 cattle at his Buchanan Registered Angus AdamLeigh Farm near Eubank, in northern Pulaski County, which he owns with his wife, Gina Good Buchanan.
Daniel Burkett, who works for Buchanan, said 124Y had given birth to the first calf when he went to check the cattle Friday evening, and he could see the foot of a second one sticking out.
The cow was doing fine, so he left her for a few minutes. When he came back, she’d delivered the second calf. Suddenly there was a rush of water and the third one “flew out,” Burkett said.
“She like to licked ’em to death” to get them clean, Burkett said.
Buchanan had another farm employee, Abraham Latko, stay in the field overnight with the cow and calves to protect against coyotes. Latko pulled a pickup truck close to them for the night.
The cow that gave birth to triplets is five years old and came from the herd at Biltmore Estate in North Carolina.
She was bred to a bull called TC Thunder through artificial insemination, said Kevin Armstrong, a sales representative for Select Sires, a Plain City, Ohio-based company that operates nationwide through farmer-owned cooperatives.
Armstrong said his father operated a dairy farm for more than 40 years and had only one set of triplets born. One of those died, as is usually what happens with triplets, Armstrong said.
“It’s very rare for all three of ’em to live and be healthy,” Armstrong said. “That is an amazing thing.”