Home Dairy Cows How many Babies do cows have?

How many Babies do cows have?


Dairy cows usually have only 1 calf, but can have more in certain cases

A normal dairy cow usually has only 1 baby at a time. Cows will rarely have twins or triplets, and when a cow does have more than one or two calves at a time, it is considered a rare, historic event. 

Having multiple calves is a rare event, here are the odds:

The odds of Quadruplets

The odds of a cow actually having multiple babies is pretty spectacular. According to the Veterinary Obstetrics and Genital Diseases, it was a 1 in 179,200,000 event!

  • The odds of having Quadruplets – 1:700,000
  • The odds of having all four calves born alive – 1:11.2 million
  • The odds of having all four born alive and the same sex – 1:179.2 million

A story of Holstein quadruplet calves 

In Dec 2011, A dairy cow in Orland, California gave birth to quadruplet heifers! It was quite an amazing story because cows normally don’t have quadruplets. In fact, cows rarely have triplets or twins. A normal dairy cow usually has only 1 baby at a time.

According to the veterinarian, the cow released 3 oocytes from her ovaries which were fertilized, one of which split, producing two calves that are genetically identical. Another amazing point to this story is that if there had been one bull born, the heifers would have been sterile. But because they were all heifers, they will all be able to have babies of their own.

You can read the news story about the quadruplet heifers here.

The odds of Triplets

Then about a month later, there was a dairy cow in Merced, California that gave birth to triplet heifers. Overshadowed by the story of the quadruplets, I don’t think many people paid much attention, but triplets are still quite rare event. The odds of triplets is still quite amazing. According to the article:

  • The odds of having triplet heifers – 1:2 million
  • The odds of having triplet heifers all born alive – 1:8 million

Interestingly, our dairy farm actually had triplets heifers a few years ago. One of the cows gave birth to 3 healthy heifer calves. All of them grew up healthy and strong. Not many dairies have the privilege to take care of triplets though!

Twins are more Common

Twins are a bit more common than triplets or quadruplets.

  • Typically 3% of cows give birth to twins

Twins on our Dairy

We recently had an interesting set of twins. One of the Jersey cows gave birth to twins that were different colors. Most Jerseys are solid brown, so at first we were confused that it might be a red Holstein. But it was actually a Jersey. While they are both different, they do look very similar if you ignore the color. You can easily tell that she’s a Jersey by her stylish, dark beaming eyes.


**The Jersey twins**

I also got some pictures of a pair off Holstein twins that were born not too long ago. Both are black and look pretty similar. My sister named them Pinky and Binky. So far they are doing very well, and growing very fast.


**The Holstein twins -Pinky and Binky**


**The Jersey twins love each other**


  1. Wow, I have never heard of a cow having quads before and how fab that they are all heifers. We have had 3 sets of twins so far this year – 2 sets were one male one female so of course, the heifer will be infertile and one had two tiny little heifer calves the other day. 3 more have scanned to have twins so we’ll wait and see.
    Love your blog and have just awarded you a liebster award – all the details are in this blog post, regards, Lorna

    • Ya, it was a pretty awesome story. The odds of it happening are are virtually nil! Twins are always fun to though haha

      Thanks for the Liebster award! So cool! I will be sure to pass it on 🙂

  2. Meant to say too – glad to see someone else is bucket feeding calves – we still do that too and so many are using the teat system now 🙂

    • Too bad the heifer will be infertile, but that still exciting! Congrats, triplets are still a very rare event!

  3. We can’t wait for Casey the Cow to arrive at your farm! Maybe she will see some babies! The kids hope she stays away from the roosters!

    Caren Etling, RN
    United Services for Children
    Dardenne Prairie, MO (outside of St. Louis)

  4. I have a question I have a cow who has had numerous sets of twins she had one twin on labor day how long til the other one comes usually she delivers within minutes

    • Yeah, that’s right. When cows have twins they generally will be delivered right after each other. Sometimes though, there may be complications while calving. If its not delivered right after the other, you would need to check if she does actually have another calf, and try to determine what the problem may be. You may want to consult with your veterinarian at that point. I hope she’s alright!

  5. n our country ethiopia wolaia,gununo local area thecow give birth to triplets yesterday at 12am and two of the calfs were female and the other one male, and all are alive and as vet article describes this probability is 1to200000000. and mostly the triplets sex identical.but herr different sexed

  6. The dairy industry should hang their heads in shame ripping babies away from their mum straight after birth and then enclosing them in a pen till slaughter or to become another statistic in the cruel dairy industry. And you all go on like there is nothing wrong with what you do it is funny when greed takes over the heart. Maybe one day your baby will be ripped out of your womb and taken away while you lay there screaming

    • No need to share your graphic C-section experience here.. But is trying to keep more babies alive and give them better care than they would have in nature wrong. Farmers try to reduce the harshness of nature and the elements. They try to give them the best care possible to give them a better life. How is that wrong

  7. Came across your site, and I must say, it’s interesting. Blog posts like this are what makes this site awesome. I really find this information very useful. Excited to read more similar contents from you in the future. Cheers!

  8. I have a question for which I can not find an answer and I thought that maybe you could help me. Can a Jersey Cow have a Holstein calf? I have never seen this. I grew up on a dairy farm but still don’t know the answer. Thank you in advance. 🙂
    By the way, I really enjoyed reading about all the babies. So cute!

    • Interestingly- kind of! We’ve had a few on our farm. You can mate a Jersey to a Holstein or visa versa and the offspring will have traits of both breed being 50-50. You get a bit of both worlds

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