Ranching couple describe 'miracle' birth of triplet Angus calves

Steve Nash
Brownwood Bulletin
Charles and Pam Jenkins managed to herd Jackie and her triplet calves into the camera's view for a family photo.
Charles Jenkins carries one of the triplet calves toward the other triplets and the mama cow for a family photo.
Jackie stands near two of her three calves on Charles and Pam Jenkins' ranch.
Jackie stands near one of her three calves on Charles and Pam Jenkins' ranch.

“Just a triple miracle.”

That’s how Pam Jenkins described the April 13 births of triplet calves from a two-year-old Angus cow named Jackie.

Jackie is part of Pam and Charles Jenkins’ herd at their ranch between Early and Zephyr, and she gave birth to the three calves — Huey (male), Luey (female) and Suey (female) after being bred for the first time.

The three calves and their mama are doing well after dicey births that could have killed all four animals, Pam and Charles said while introducing the young family to a visitor.

But thanks to harrowing circumstances swinging in their favor — and with instructions taken from YouTube as Charles and Pam struggled to save a breeched calf — the mother and all three triplets survived. 

The odds of a cow giving birth to triplets are 1 in 100,000, and the odds of all three calves and the mama surviving are 1 in 400,000, Pam explained.

“My husband’s family has been ranching for over 100 years, and we’ve even gotten the state award for continuous ranching over 100 years. And we’ve never seen anything anything like this,” Pam said. “So this is just an unusual miracle. And they’re just as cute as could be. They jump around and they’re doing great. And the mama is so gentle.”

Charles and Pam are retired from other professions: Charles previously worked as the engineering manager at Superior Essex, and Pam taught math, physics and biology at Early High School.

In a fenced-in area of the ranch, Jackie and the three calves wandered about or simply stood and stared as Pam and Charles tried to herd the animals together for a family photo.

The four bovines did not seem to understand the idea.

Now that Jackie has given birth, she is not a large cow, with a weight of 700 to 750 pounds.

But as Jackie prepared to give birth to her first calf — make that, calves — Charles and Pam figured Jackie was pregnant with twins because of her abnormally large size. 

“She looked like a sack of watermelons,” Charles said. “She was bigger than normal.”

But they never imagined there were three calves.

Around 10 a.m. the morning of April 13, a Tuesday, Charles and Pam knew Jackie was going to give birth sometime that day. 

Charles started watching Jackie, but nothing was happening. So Charles walked to another part of the ranch to do some work.

Pam, meanwhile, went to a Bible study at Union Presbyterian Church.

She’d returned home by the time Charles went to check on Jackie — who was about to give birth to the first calf. Charles called out to Pam for help.

The first calf was born, still in its water sac, around 4 p.m. Charles broke the sac, preventing the calf from drowning. 

At 6 p.m., the second calf was born after Charles and Pam used chains and a come-along to pull the animal out of its mother.

Jackie was, at first, confused at having two calves to tend to.

Charles and Pam didn’t realize there was a third calf coming — until they saw a hoof protruding slightly.

“When we saw the third one, we thought, Ooh my gosh!’” Pam said. “We couldn’t believe it.”  

There was a big problem: this calf was breeched.

“We were about to panic,” Pam said.

Charles wasn’t "about" to panic: he was panicking.

Pam used her phone to find a YouTube video on birthing a breeched calf, and she relayed those instructions to her husband. Charles was able to turn the stranded calf inside its mother, and the calf was born around 8 p.m.

“We have pulled many calves because we raise our own heifers, so for 50 years we’ve been doing calves,” Pam said.

“We’ve never seen anything like this. And we had never done a breech. It was kind of a comedy of errors and about three or four miracles that had to happen.”