The black calves, 3 bulls and a heifer, were born to the cow owned by Dora Rumsey-Barling and her husband, Jimmy.
The cow, described by Dora as "just a run of the mill red cow," had been bred to an Angus bull, so all 4 of the calves are black.
“We didn't think she was due, even for one calf,” Dora says.
Buzzards spotted circling over their 100-acre property in the Hubbard community south of DeKalb early Monday afternoon prompted the retired couple to head to a spot about 500 yards from the house. That's where she says they found the cow had already given birth to 3 of the surprise calves.
“We thought that was it. We were excited about having 3!”
But this miracle bovine mother, identified by her #15 ear tag, wasn't done yet.
“She lay down and the fourth one started coming out and we watched the birth of the fourth one,” recalls Dora. “It was really exciting. The adrenaline was flowing with us!”
Twin births aren't all that unusual for cattle, but according to Veterinary Obstetrics and Genital Diseases, the odds of a cow having quadruplets are 1:700,000. The odds of having all four calves born alive are 1:11.2 million.
Neighbor and local veterinarian Michael Baird visited the cow after the birth to help her remove her afterbirth and give her antibiotics. He says he's delivered lots of calves in his 18 years as a mixed animal practitioner, including twins, multiples and even a few Siamese twins. But he has never seen anything like this. “This is truly an amazing event if you are into this sort of thing.”
“That's extremely extremely rare,” agrees Dr. Tim Page, a Professor of Animal Sciences at the LSU AgCenter in Baton Rouge. "If it's fully developed, it probably has a real good shot of making it."
"They seem well-developed," says Dora, although all 4 are "just a bit small." The female, Meenie, is the smallest at just 25 pounds. A healthy birth weight is around 75 pounds.
Dora says all 4 have struggled to stand, and while they look fully developed, they have not yet been examined for internal issues.
Two neighboring families are helping to raise 3 of the calves, including one with a Jersey cow who had a calf the same day and is able to provide plenty of milk.
The fourth remains with them and has begun to nurse by himself with his mother.
The Barlings are retired, and only keep about 20 head of cattle. "It's a hobby," says Dora, who grew up on a farm.
"We don't have pet dogs like people love and really dote over. Instead, we've got the cows."
Now, they have 4 more and an incredible story to tell.
"So far everything has gone well. It's really something unique. Never would I have imagined something like this!"