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Holy Cow! Rare triplet calves born

Rarity occurs west of Marshalltown

February 23, 2011

What he thought was just his 7-year-old cow delivering twins became an unbelievable moment for Kenny Jensen on his farm in rural Marshalltown Sunday morning.

Just as he was getting ready to tend to the two newborn calves something amazing happened - a third calf came out.

"I just couldn't believe it," he said. "I was raised on a farm and have always been around cattle and I've never seen that."

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Triplet calves are very rare and said to occur in this White Park breed once in every 700,000 births.

He said they did not know ahead of time that Dottie was going to have triplets, though she was looking quite large prior to the births.

"She was as big as a barrel," Jensen said.

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Kenny and Janet Jensen pose with the triplet calves born on their farm in rural Marshalltown Sunday morning. A cow giving birth to triplets is very rare.

Kenny's wife, Janet Jensen, was out of town when she got the call from her husband that Dottie had triplet female calves.

"It was pretty exciting," she said. "The more I learn about it the more I think it's a big deal."

One of the calves was having trouble Sunday with the chills, so Kenny spent time warming her up with a hair dryer. The Jensens called Dr. Ralph Strother from Rivervale Veterinary Clinic in Union for his assistance for the shivering calf. Strother was able to put a feeding tube in the calf, and she seems fine now.

Strother said he has never seen triplet calves in his 40 years of experience as a veterinarian.

"It's very rare," Strother said.

Kenny Jensen said typical newborn calves weigh about 75 pounds each while these yet-to-be-named triplets are in the 50 pound range. With their small herd of 10, the Jensens farm as a hobby on their homestead west of Marshalltown.

The triplets are getting special attention inside a barn as they work up enough strength to join the small herd. Even if extra care is not needed for the calves, they are getting it anyway.

"They are so darn cute it's hard to stay away," Janet Jensen said.

Dottie won't have to feed all three calves herself as another cow on the farm will take over those duties for one of them.

Kenny Jensen said having triplets didn't seem to faze Dottie, who has had twins in the past.

"She didn't have a bit of trouble," he said. "They all came out right. I'm ecstatic that all of them are alive."


Contact Andrew Potter at 641-753-6611 or



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