Wallowa County’s very own Imnaha rancher Gary Marks, like many local ranchers is in the midst of calving season.
Early on, Marks figured his pregnant 4-year-old cow might be having twins, considering how big she was all winter.
But triplets? The thought never even crossed his mind — even our most seasoned local ranchers catch a surprise from time to time.
By 8 p.m. on March 23, the Charolais-Angus cross had already given birth to one calf. Sure enough, three hours later there were two in the barn. When Marks and his wife, Vicky, returned at 3 a.m. to check on the babies, they were stunned to find a third.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” said Marks, 62, who runs a small family ranch up the Imnaha River in Wallowa County. “It’s never happened before to me.”
Indeed, triplets are a rare occurrence in cattle. The odds are about 1 in 105,000, according to the Iowa Beef Center at Iowa State University.
Marks said the calves weighed about 50 pounds at birth, but appear to be healthy and doing well. A typical calf weighs 85 pounds at birth.
Two of the calves had to be fed with stomach tubes right after they were born, Marks said, though they are now all nursing.
“They’re so little, I think they’re getting enough milk out of her now,” Marks said of the mother cow.
Marks said they plan to sell two of the calves after a week or so, since the mother likely cannot support more than one on her own.
“When they’re little like that right off the get-go, it’s hard to get them up to weight,” he said.