3 times the luck
Triplet heifer calves arrive at two Wisconsin farms
Triplets are not typically an everyday occurrence on a dairy farm.
To have heifer calves, all born healthy and thriving, is an even more rare occurrence.
That is exactly what happened on two Wisconsin dairy farms in a 24-hour time period.
Triplet Brown Swiss heifers were born April 4 at the farm owned by Morgan and Sandy Long, where Nathan Campshure works as the herd manager, near Brillion, Wisconsin.
Campshure milks 105 cows in a tiestall barn with the Longs. Most of the herd consists of Holsteins.
Campshure and the Longs are in the planning stages of a farm transition. They purchased two Brown Swiss cows – including a cow named Skyler – from Campshure’s brother-in-law, Mitch Kappelman, who operates Meadow Brook Dairy in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, with his family.
“Skyler was my pick of Mitch’s 2-year-old group of Brown Swiss,” Campshure said. “He had her on shots to breed, so he bred her to Cozy Nook Doboy Tank before she came over to our place.”
That service led to the triplets that were born earlier this month at the Longs’ farm. Campshure said he had no idea Skyler was carrying triplets.
“A time or two, I wondered if she could be carrying twins, but triplets never crossed my mind,” Campshure said. “As she got closer, I started to doubt that, because she was actually three days overdue when she calved.”
Campshure said that as Skyler began the early stages of labor, he left to go feed steers at a second farm. When he came back, rear feet of the first calf had presented.
“I pulled that calf and checked to see if there was another,” Campshure said. “Sure enough, there was another set of rear feet coming, so I pulled that calf. I checked once more and found front feet of the third calf.”
The third calf presented correctly, but Campshure said he had to work with her to get her breathing well.
“I had to rub and stimulate her chest, but once she got going, she was great,” Campshure said. “She was actually the first one to get up on her feet.”
The triplets’ birth marks the beginning of Skyler’s second lactation, and Campshure said she has been doing well following the delivery.
“It took her a bit to clean, but she did,” he said. “When she calved, I gave her warm water with dextrose in it, and I gave her IVs, polypropylene glycol and some rumen pills for a couple of days and nursed her along with some calf grain. But, she’s doing great now.”
The calves – which Campshure named Eins, Zwei and Drei – are doing well too.
“They were all around 70 to 80 pounds each,” he said. “They were all in their own placenta. I think that is why they were all so big and healthy.”
Campshure said naming the calves One, Two and Three in German is a nod to the German dialect spoken in Switzerland, the native homeland of the Brown Swiss breed.
“I finally was able to attend World Dairy Expo for the first time last year,” Campshure said. “I went with Mitch, and we watched the Brown Swiss show, and I was so impressed with it and loved the yodelers.”
The next morning, as the Brown Swiss triplets were awakening to their second day of life, a set of polled Red and White triplets was entering the world at West Croix Holsteins and Jerseys on the other side of the state in St. Croix County near New Richmond, Wisconsin.
West Croix Holsteins and Jerseys is owned by Chris and Rikki Van Dyk and their family. The Van Dyks milk 70 cows in a tiestall barn that was rebuilt following a barn fire that the Van Dyks suffered in 2015.
“Our vet had confirmed that Nevalina was carrying twins,” said Chris Van Dyk. “I was a little surprised to find three calves, and even more so when I realized they were all three heifers.”
Van Dyk said Nevalina had the calves by herself and was up and licking them when they discovered she had calved.
“Both Nevalina and the babies are all doing well so far,” Van Dyk said. “I gave her an IV right away to help prevent any problems and babied her for a few days to help her recover. The calves all drank well right away. They are very active and spunky.”
Van Dyk called the calves Jersey-sized and said they weighed between 40 and 50 pounds each. He said there were at least two separate placentas.
Making the three little redheads – named Nellie, Nessie and Nettie – even more special was Van Dyk’s discovery that all three were polled.
The calves are sired by Avant-Garde-I Latenite. Nevalina is a VG-85 Siemers Oct Apple-Crisp-ET daughter. Her mother, A Newbeginning, was the first calf born in the new barn after the barn fire. The Van Dyk family has been working with that particular cow family for over 25 years.
In all his years dairy farming, Van Dyk said his family has never had triplets born much less triplet heifer calves.
“My vet said she has seen several sets, but there is almost always at least one bull calf in the mix,” Van Dyk said. “I don’t ever recall there even being twins in that particular cow family.”
Van Dyk said following the birth, he became interested in how often triplets are born to dairy cows.
“According to Google, only about one in every 105,000 bovine births are triplets,” Van Dyk said. “I feel pretty lucky, especially that all three are red, polled heifers, and that everyone is healthy and doing well.”