If there were a lottery for cattle producers, Keith Sistad just won it.
One of the Red Angus beef cows on his ranch near Fosston, Minn., gave birth to four calves, all of which are healthy.
"I've never heard of quads before in cattle," Sistad said. "And to have all the calves doing well makes it so much better."
Quadruplets in beef cattle are extremely rare, although it's difficult to come up with a hard number. One study found that about one in 665,000 dairy cows have quads and that beef cattle are less likely than dairy cattle to have multiple births, said Doug Landblom, animal scientist with the North Dakota State University Extension Service in Dickinson, N.D. His main focus is on beef cattle.
He said he's heard of beef cows giving birth to quads, but that in those cases at least one of the calves died.
Here's how Sistad tells the story of the calves' birth on Feb. 11.
He had a cow that wasn't due to give birth until early March. But the animal was "acting up" and so he put her inside the barn on the night of Feb. 10.
"I went out and checked at 2:30 (a.m.) and she had a set of twin heifers on the ground," he said.
Sistad spent two hours with the three animals to make sure they were doing well and then went inside the house to grab a little sleep.
"I went back out to check at 6:30 (a.m.) and there was another set of twin heifers. There was only one cow in the barn and four sweet little Red Angus heifers," he said.
The mother accepted all four calves, and Sistad has seen all of them nursing on her at the same time.
Not surprisingly, he's providing the calves with extra milk to supplement what they receive from their mother.