Ralph Biehle will turn 80 years old soon. He's turned the farming over to other family members, but he still keeps an eye on thing. And he became real excited earlier this fall when something happened on his farm that has never happened before. One of the beef cows in their 110-cow herd had not just twins, but triplets.
"That's the first time we've ever had a set here," he says. "We had several twins, especially lately, but not triplets."
In fact, Biehle kept the mother of the triplets and another cow with twins up to show them to us last week. Five calves around two cows is a lot of beef, and it takes a lot to feed five hungry mouths.
The Biehle's haven't done anything special to promote multiple births, Ralph notes. They operate a crossbred herd, using it to take advantage of rough, rolling pasture land. Their farm borders the Crosley Fish and Wildlife area in Jennings County, located along Indiana highway 3 south of Vernon, near Commiskey.
When Ralph's father moved to the farm, there were five tillable acres. The rest was brush and ground that couldn't even be pastured. His dad started clearing, and Ralph finished it. He also built a pond at one of the highest point son the farm, and struck a vein of water in the process. The pond has never went dry, even during the driest of summers. Because of the fall of the land,, it supplies water to other pastures and even the barns by gravity. And it never freezes, not even during very cold weather.
Today, they've got enough land to keep their beef herd going. The cattle are divided into groups kept on three different farms.
The miracle triplets arrived August 27. What makes the story even more interesting is that one of the three is blind. He was born without eyes. That hasn't stopped him from growing. Smaller at birth, he's still smaller, but he's learned how to nurse, even without eyesight.
"We also feed him on the bottle just to make sure he gets enough to eat," Ralph notes. "The other two don't need that anymore. They do just fine, getting all they need from the cow."
If you search literature and past research, you'll find that twins, while still not the norm for cattle, are relatively common. Triplets, however, are rare. They're not an everyday occurrence in most herds.
Ralph isn't sure where the blind triplet will wind up yet. It's possible he'll be sold off early. But for now, he's as energetic as any calf would be at that age.