Farm Animals

Double Trouble

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In the United States millions of dairy and beef calves are born every year. For the most part each cow has a calf every year. It is rare, but sometimes a cow gives birth to twins. At first this may seem like a blessing to have two calves instead of one. Some blessings don’t always come without a bit of extra work. I had a visit at a Midwest farm with a twin calf and was able to see what happens when a cow has a rare twin birth.

Just outside Corsica, SD the fields are starting to sprout corn in tight rows. Hay bales are lined up, and prairie flowers sway to the currents of the wind. The rains of the season give an extra burst of green that starts to choke out the contrasting metal barb wire fencing bordering the fields. These are nothing uncommon to anyone driving through the rural Midwest this time of year.

After the work was done for the day, there was still a chore on one farm that was not common for every farm. This year at Bamberg Farms, a cow had given birth to twins. One of the calves was on their own, and given the name Rocky. In some cases a cow that doesn’t give birth to a calf could adopt it but there were no takers for Rocky. Calves born as twins are smaller and have more of a struggle to grow. The cow that birthed Rocky could only supply enough milk for one calf. Once in the morning and once in the evening every day Rocky had to be bottle fed.
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On this day we were able to step in and help with the evening feeding. Without constant watch from a caregiver, there is little chance for the twin that gets left out to survive on their own. Right after birth these calves need colostrum, this helps to prevent illnesses and diseases that could easily kill them. After that they drink normal calf milk formula until they are ready for oats and grains.

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Rocky may be a blessing, and a rare calf, but that doesn’t mean they’re not a lot of unexpected work. It may take a little longer, but with some extra attention, Rocky will continue to be a healthy calf and grow to a full size, South Dakota bovine.

Bamberg Farms. Interviewed Steven Bamberg 6/4/16 Corsica SD

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Eric Bender

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