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Triplet calves born for Parkston farmer

Andrew, at left, and his brother, Miles, Semmler pose with triplet calves born on April 3 on their dad, Tom Semmler's, farm southwest of Parkston. (Photo courtesy of Tom Semmler)

PARKSTON -- No one can tell Tom Semmler he was wrong about one of his cows having triplets.

The Parkston-area farmer said some of his friends and neighbors have teased him about mistakenly believing the rare occurrence happened in his herd. But he knows better.

"I pulled all three of them out of the same cow," Semmler told The Daily Republic.

Russ Daly, an extension veterinarian who specializes in cattle at South Dakota State University in Brookings, says the number most often associated with a cow having triplet calves comes from a 1920 study that says it is a 1 in 105,000 chance. In March, triplet calves were born in southern Sanborn County -- but that doesn't make it less special for Semmler.

"You very seldom get twins," Semmler said. "Triplets is once in a lifetime, as far as I'm concerned."

Semmler, who farms southwest of Parkston, said the calves were born April 3. He had several of his cows in the barn, in anticipation of a blizzard forecast.

"It's a good thing that was one of the cows in the barn," he said.

Not only did having the cow close at hand make it easier to keep an eye on it, there was no second-guessing whether all three calves came from the same mother -- Semmler pulled all three himself.

"It's a good thing I did, because they probably would have been dead otherwise," he said. "I would have never guessed she was having more than a calf."

He had his children get a bathroom scale, and he weighed the two bulls and one heifer calf; they totaled 213 pounds. A normal calf typically tips the scales at around 80 pounds, he said.

The cow and the calves are all "absolutely perfect," Semmler said, adding that he kept the two bull calves and sold the heifer calf.

"You don't leave triplets on a cow, he said. "I'm not bottle-feeding a calf, so I sold one."