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Saturday 20 January 2018

Nine-calf Friesian merits place in the record books

Alan Kirby and David Ryan help Ger, Ronan and Ruth Kirby hold this year's quadruplets
Alan Kirby and David Ryan help Ger, Ronan and Ruth Kirby hold this year's quadruplets
Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

A four-year old Co Limerick Friesian cow deserves a place in the Guinness Book of Records after she gave birth to nine calves in two calvings.

This is the view of leading breeding management consultant, Dr Dan Ryan, who describes as "extraordinary" the reproductive performance of the cow from the herd of Ger Kirby, Ballyneety, Co Limerick.

While getting your dairy cow to produce a calf as early as possible each spring is now the goal for efficient dairy systems, the Kirby cow is in a completely different league.

Not content to deliver a single calf, this particular dam has produced quadruplets and quintuplets in the last three years, with eight of the nine calves surviving.

On both occasions the cow went in calf naturally to an Angus bull and was not on any fertility treatment.

And just to please the old romantics in the farming business, this year's offering -- which included three bulls and a heifer -- made their arrival on the morning of February 14, St Valentine's Day.

"One of the calves even had a loveheart on his forehead," explains eight-year-old Ronan Kirby, Ger's son.

Ger knew there was something amiss when the cow began to lose condition during the last weeks of pregnancy and he was forced to put her on extra meals.

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He suspected that the cow might have a multiple pregnancy as she had given birth to quadruplets as a two-year old heifer.

While the cow was under some pressure in the week leading up to calving, she delivered the first two calves on her own. Two more healthy calves followed but unfortunately the fifth died.

Ger has no explanation for the multiple pregnancies. And while the whole business has been hard on the cow, he says the offspring have been as feisty as any Angus calves. In fact, he is in the process of finishing the original quadruplets from two years ago.

As for the plans for the latest crop, he is considering giving one each to his three children Ronan, Alan (7) and Ruth (3) and to his nephew David Ryan (13) who have all had a hand in rearing them.

According to leading breeding management consultant Dr Ryan, the frequency of twins in cattle ranges between 1pc and 6pc.

"Previous recordings of quintuplets in cattle date back to 1956 for an Angus cow in Canada, and a cow in southern France in 2009," explains Dr Ryan.

"What makes the Kirby cow so exceptional is the fact that she had quadruplets as a first calver. The incidence of twins in first calvers is less than 1pc. This cow should definitely enter the Guinness Book of Records based on her reproductive performance of nine calves in two calvings," maintains Dr Ryan.

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