Mike Karle, DVM Mid-Valley Veterinary Hospital's Michael Karle, DVM, sent me an email last week about one of his Orland, Calif. dairies that experienced a quadruplet heifer birth.
Karle says that Zuppan Dairy owner John Zuppan had a cow that gave birth to live heifer quadruplets. The 4-year old cow had quadruplets on Dec. 6, 2011. All four heifer calves were born alive, healthy and at term without assistance.
"This is the cow's third time calving- the first two times she had single calves," Karle says. "The cow did not have any hormones before or after getting pregnant, and was artificially inseminated with non-sexed semen from a natural heat."
Karle explains that she likely released three oocytes from her ovaries which were fertilized, one of which then split, producing two calves out of the four which are identical genetically. Hair samples were taken from the cow and all four calves and sent to the Veterinary Genetics Lab at UC Davis and were confirmed to be all related.
Karle did the math and says odds of quadruplets in cattle are 1:700,000 (Veterinary Obstetrics and Genital Diseases, Roberts 1971 p. 84). The odds of quadruplets all born alive are 1:11.2 million, and the odds of quadruplets all alive, all one sex, are 1:179.2 million.
I chalk it up to the dairy having some great veterinarians!