Triplet surprise on Banbridge farm

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December 27th past saw the arrival of triplet calves on the Co Down dairy farm of George and Irene McKnight.

Nothing unique about that, I hear you say. However, the twist in the tale is the fact that the calves are of three different breeds: British Blue, Aberdeen Angus and Hereford.

George takes up the story: “The mother in question is a fourth calver. She was scanned to be carrying twins.

“But when I went into the calving shed on the night in question, the third calf was just about to hit the straw. I couldn’t believe that the cow had been able to deliver the new arrivals without any difficulty. What’s more, all the calves were of a decent size. The Blue and the Hereford crosses are bulls while the Angus calf is a heifer.”

George explained that he had used a straw of triple mixed beef semen from Ai Services on the cow.

“We have had cows giving birth to twin calves before. But to have triplets of this type born on the farm was an event that we could never have imagined happening.”

The McKnights own the 170-strong Cascum pedigree Holstein herd.

“The cows are currently averaging 9,700L,” said Irene. “We use AI on 90% of the cows with sexed semen used on the replacement heifers. This approach allows us to get the herd replacements we need from a smaller group of cows and heifers than would have previously been the case.

“In turn, this has opened up the opportunity to use more beef semen within the herd. High quality Hereford, Angus and Blue calves now represent a valuable income source for the farm.”

Ai Services’ Ben Mallon was a recent visitor to the McKnight farm.

“A very high number of AI Services’ customers are opting to use straws of triple mixed semen as a means of boosting fertility levels. And we are receiving almost universal response back from herdowners that this approach does work.

“In the case of the cow that gave birth to the McKnight triplets, she obviously shed three eggs with each then fertilised by sperm from a different bull.

“The straw in question contained semen from the British Blue bull Index, the Angus sire Rocket and the Hereford bull Hotspur. All three are highly proven breeding sires in their own right with their own specific straws also available from Ai Services.”