IT was ‘all hands on deck’ when the Johns family of Seaview farm in Week St Mary were faced with a rare and challenging situation — triplet calves.

A heifer has only a one in 100,000 chance of giving birth to triplets according to the NFU.

Mr Peter Johns has been farming all his life and was shocked when his first-time heifer gave birth to three strong Aberdeen angus x calves on Friday, August 20. In all his years of farming he said he has never known three calves to be born to one mother and survive.

He was joined on the day by his daughter Lucinda Tilley, her husband and their two children. Everyone got involved as the veterinarian Sarah Phillpot from Penbode Vets in Holsworthy saw to the heifer in what quickly became a very complicated birth.

Lucinda explained: “Penbode Vets of Holsworthy practice were called to attend the heifer as the labour wasn’t progressing. Upon further examination the first calf was stuck in the birth canal with two extra feet. With careful manipulation and the benefit of some carefully administered drugs and negative concerns all round as to the well-being of the calf — much to everyone’s delight a bull calf was born fit and well and of a surprisingly good size. Very soon after a second calf was born and stood very soon after wanting to satisfy a keen appetite.”

Veterinarian Sarah, who has been practising for eight years and comes from a large dairy farm herself, was in complete shock by this point as a suspicion she couldn’t believe came true — there was a third calf.

Lucinda continued: “The vet was keen to check the well being of the heifer and then confirmed her suspicions of there being another set of feet. Calf number three was in a difficult position with its head to one side and had been squashed behind its siblings. The vet demonstrated her amazing skills and patience to deliver a third fit and well albeit with a stiff neck.”

Now a mother of three, the veterinarian turned her attention to the heifer while the family got to work caring for the triplets, who they named Martin, Mary and Tresco after a recent family trip to the Isles of Scilly.

The grandchildren pitched in and helped caress and rub the calves until the mother was able to care for them herself.

However, the mother’s milk didn’t come in straight away leaving three very hungry mouths to feed. Unfortunately fresh —spare — coloustrum is a rare commodity and the family were stunned once again by their luck and the generosity of the local community.

Lucinda said: “With the fantastic gift of three hungry calves and the heifer’s milk yet to come in we appealed for colostrum on Facebook and by phoning our neighbouring dairy farmers in the vain hope of sourcing some fresh coloustrum.

“Fresh colostroum is like liquid gold. We weren’t too optimistic but with some luck we were able to source some.

“However, the mother has done exceptionally well, as have the calves, because the next day they were feeding independently from their mother.”

The family are grateful to all those that supported them in caring for the miracle calves.

Lucinda added: “We cannot thank Sarah Phillpot, Derek and Josie Shepherd and Dave Mathers for their kindness and support throughout this surprising delivery.”