Meet Thunder, Cookie and Bluegene -- the 700,000 to 1 calves
SHE had a better chance of winning the Lotto, but one farmer beat the odds when one of her cows gave birth to triplets.
And Marianne McConnon got an even bigger surprise when she discovered the calves were all the same sex -- female.
The odds of triplet calves all being the same sex are 700,000 to one.
"I couldn't believe it, it was like winning the Lotto because it meant so much to me," said Ms McConnon.
Along with her fiance Ronan Moore, she only began farming two years ago.
"I was a beautician before this," she said from their farm near Oldcastle, Co Meath.
According to Washington State University of Veterinary Medicine, the odds of triplet calves are around 100,000 to one -- but the chances of them all being of the same sex is 700,000 to one.
"There was a scan done and we were told there were twins, but the third one surprised us all," she said.
Mr Moore added: "We were delighted when the scan showed they were heifers (female) because it was the first heifer from this cow."
The triplets were six weeks premature and the first one had already arrived when Ronan heard a noise and checked the cow in the early hours of November 23. He helped to deliver the second calf, then jokingly said to Marianne: "Will I check for any more?"
When he did, he "nearly collapsed in the hay" to find there was a third on the way, she said.
Their neighbouring farmers helped them by giving them extra colostrum -- the important first milk -- for the calves to ensure they each had enough to drink.
The calves -- Thunder, Cookie and Bluegene -- are Belgian blues, and the couple said: "We will be holding onto them and to their mum."
The calves were conceived using artificial insemin-ation and this was done for the couple by Progressive Genetics. It said that the odds of same-sex triplets could even be "above" the odds of 700,000 to one.
"We realised how rare this was and to us winning the Lotto couldn't beat what we have in the shed," added Ms McConnon.