Minnesota Red Angus herd enjoying multiple deliveries

Farm Forum

Keith Sistad beat the odds again, though on a much smaller scale.

Last spring, one of the Fosston, Minn., cattleman’s Red Angus cows gave birth to an astonishing four calves. The chances of that happening were less than one in 650,000, according to one study. All four were female and born healthy, further skewing the odds.

This spring, the mother of the 2012 quads had twins. Typically, beef cows bear twins 3 to 7 percent of the time, with the rate depending on a number of factors.

Sistad’s cow bore a 90-pound bull calf and a 60-pound heifer calf this year.

“She was carrying 150 pounds of calf. She looked pretty big,” Sistad says.

The quad calves each weighed from 36 to 48 pounds, for a combined weight of 160 pounds, he notes.

Typically, a single newborn Red Angus calf weighs about 80 to 85 pounds.

This year’s heifer calf died after her mother inadvertently laid on her and killed her. The bull calf, her brother, is doing fine.

Last year, one of the quads died shortly after birth. Sistad isn’t sure what happened.

The three remaining quads are doing well. Sistad is keeping all three in his cow/calf operation; they’ve been bred artificially and should bear calves of their own in February.

A year ago, he initially gave milk to the three remaining quads to supplement what they received from their mother. But he quit because the calves got the additional milk they needed by nursing on other cows in his 50-cow herd.

“They’re survivors, I guess,” he says.

When the three remaining quads were weaned, they weighed roughly the same as his other calves born that spring, Sistad says.

“I was well satisfied (with their weaning weight). They did well,” he says.

Sistad’s cow showed no ill effects from carrying and bearing the quads. Her pregnancy with the twins went normally, he says.

Telling them apart

The three remaining quads “have good personalities. They’re calm, gentle and easy to work with,” he says.

Sistad has spent quite a bit of time with the three and has no trouble telling them apart.

“Two are similar, (though) one’s a little smaller. (The third) is a little darker red. She’s been my special one from the beginning. She has a little more spunk to her,” he says.

Sistad, an independent insurance agent, says his cattle operation, Rosebud Reds, has become more than a hobby farm.

His ranch, which is in Rosebud Township, raises registered Red Angus.

Drought has cut into his hay and pasture, though mid-May rains should boost pastures.

“It’s been a challenge,” he says of feeding his cattle. “I bought some hay last week. I don’t want to buy any more. It’s so expensive.”

But he won’t sell the three surviving quads, or their mother, no matter what happens, he says.

“As long as they’re alive, I’m keeping them,” he says.