Pictures: Could this be Ireland's smallest calf?

John Foley's Charlorais calf which he claims could be the smallest in Ireland
John Foley's Charlorais calf which he claims could be the smallest in Ireland
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

Good things come in small packages, or at least that's the case for one farmer who claims to be the owner of Ireland's smallest calf.

John Foley keeps eight cows at his farm in Wexford, while working in construction  and was shocked to find one of his Belgium Blue cows had given birth to a Charlorais bull calf 58cm (23 inches) in height on May 13.

While prematurity can sometimes be the reason for small calves, John told FarmIreland.that the bull calf was born close to its due date.

“It’s very rare and unusual. I’ve never seen the likes before and wasn’t expecting it,” he said.

John said that he keeps the calf with its mother and in the field with his other calves, but that he is worried about the calf’s health.

“It has no problem sucking off the mother but I am worried that one day I’ll go down in to the field and it’ll be dead  because even though it has grown it is still very small and I wouldn't say it is thriving,” John said.

John says he plans to rear the bull calf over the winter months and will hopefully sell it next summer.

Teagasc statistical geneticist Donagh Berry said that there are numerous reasons why a calf can be born small in size but that it is a "very rare" occurance.

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“The calf could be affected by a congenital disease called chondrodystrophy that would affect its size,” said Donagh.

“Sometimes it can be the case that a bull carries a gene defect that gives way to small calves and the cow could also have it and if they come together a small calf could be the result but there’s usually more than one reason and it doesn't happen often."

Donagh added that small calves should be taken extra care of and that they shouldn’t be kept in the same shed as normal or larger sized calves until they are fitter in stature.

The calf and its Belgium Blue mother
The calf and its Belgium Blue mother

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