Triplets make surprise appearance on Chatfield farm

By Janet Kubat Willette

Agri News

CHATFIELD, Minn. — Tom McCabe is keeping a close eye on the triplets born March 31 on his Chatfield farm.

They are the first set of triplets born on the farm in 37 years and the first set since he has been raising cattle.

McCabe has a newspaper clipping of his father, George, and his sister, Lisa, with three Herefords born in April 1970. Around the same time, triplets were born on the Alton Block farm in rural Winona, according to the Chatfield News article.


Experts vary on how often triplet births occur in beef cows, saying they occur as often as one in 10,000 to one in 100,000 births. A veterinarian was quoted in that article saying that triplets occur once in every 25,000 births.

McCabe put the triplets and their mother in a shed on the farmstead. The heifer calves are red. The sire was a Limousin, and the dam is a crossbred black Angus.

"I couldn’t believe she had triplets," McCabe said. His cows will birth about half a dozen sets of twins in a season, but never triplets.

The three calves were born in the cold rain on the morning of March 31, McCabe said.

It was miserable that day, he said. McCabe figured the 6-year-old cow was aborting because his cows weren’t due to begin calving until April 15. The Angus birthed three live calves by herself and accepted all three.

He put the calves in the tractor bucket and brought them into a shed. Then he rounded up ma by bellering like a calf to get her to come the 200 yards to the shed.

Ma and her calves have remained in the straw-bedded shed out of the rain and snow since then, allowing McCabe to keep a close eye on them and show them off.

He had no idea the cow was going to give birth to multiples. Previously, she had single calves.


"I thought she was maybe full of silage and hay," McCabe said.

The cow is getting plenty of silage and hay now, plus extra corn so she can milk better for her triplets.

McCabe figures the calves weigh about 50 pounds each, compared to 80 pounds to 90 pounds for a typical single calf.

George McCabe kept the three white-faced heifers born in 1970 for his herd, and Tom McCabe plans to do the same with the three heifers: 85, 86 and 87.

McCabe said he had to buy tags for the trio so he could tell them apart. The heifer calves are identical.

The McCabes have 160 beef cows on two farms.

Agri News is a weekly agricultural newspaper published by Post-Bulletin Company, LLC.

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