Farm Horizons, August 2011

Winsted native’s Holstein has triplet heifer calves

By Linda Scherer

Keith Fasching, a 2005 Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted graduate, has only been farming on his own since Jan. 1, but July 18 he witnessed something many dairy farmers will never see in a lifetime – the birth of Holstein triplets.

The odds for such a rare birth, with all three calves being the same sex, is one in 2 million, according to the website, Also, according to the website, there is only a 25 percent chance that all three calves would survive, which makes the Holstein babies’ birth even rarer, with odds of one in 8 million, and definitely an exciting event for a young farmer like Fasching.

Since taking over the dairy operation at the beginning of the year, Fasching’s dairy herd of 63 has delivered 30 calves. None of them had been multiple births, so delivering triplets wasn’t something that Fasching was expecting to have to do on that hot, humid day when he first realized his pregnant Holstein, nicknamed Shuffles, was calving out in the pasture.

“That was in July when the temperature was 95 degrees and the dew points were in the 80s,” Fasching said.

Shuffles was one of several dairy cows Fasching had purchased from Paul Schultz, owner of the farm near Silver Lake where he keeps his dairy animals. With Schultz’s help, the Holstein, soon-to-be-mom, was taken up to the barn so she would be out of the hot sun and more comfortable.

Around noon, without any complications, Shuffles delivered her first calf, weighing 55 to 60 pounds. Shuffles had some experience in birthing, having previously delivered three calves, all single births.

Just a few minutes later, the second calf was born, weighing about 45 pounds. Never even considering the possibility of a third calf, Fasching went to milk Shuffles and noticed that she was still pushing.

“That was when I found the third one. I pulled her out, and I did check for a fourth,” Fasching laughed, “although I have never heard of it.”

The third calf weighed approximately 45 pounds, too. The triplets haven’t been named yet, but will be soon.

“I give the calves names and numbers,” Fasching said, “but it takes me time to figure out names. I will probably try and associate their names with the heat we had that day.”

This is the second time that Fasching has seen triplet calves. When he was 13, they had triplets on his family’s farm near Winsted, but two of them didn’t make it.

“One of them didn’t even live four hours,” Fasching said. “But these guys were all perked up and ready to go right away. I was pretty sure they were going to be fine. They’re plenty spunky.”

Schultz, who has lived on what is his family’s farm his entire life, told Fasching when he was really young they might have had triplet calves, but Schultz’s mother, Dolores, said she didn’t think so, according to Fasching.

Keith is the son of Joel and JoEllen Fasching, originally from Winsted, but currently living near Cokato.

Farming has been something Keith has enjoyed since he was very young, working on the family farm. He remembers when he was in eighth grade, his grandfather, Joe Fasching of Winsted, decided he wasn’t going to milk cows at night during the winter months any longer. The family agreed Keith was old enough to take over the chore, and that was when he discovered he had an interest in the animals.

“I loved working with the cows, and feeding the calves. When I was younger, I thought driving the tractor was great, but by the time I was a senior in high school, I was avoiding the tractor as much as possible so I could do more with the animals,” Keith said. “With the animals, there is something new all of the time.”

Up until 2005, Keith had been living on the family farm, managed by Joel and Joel’s brother, Gerald Fasching, but the two decided to go their separate ways.

Keith wanted to continue farming, so he went to work for Butch, Faye, and Pat Bakeberg at Goldview Farm in Waverly, where he worked for five-and-a-half years.

“I had owned some cows already and I was able to build my herd while I worked there,” Keith said.

He had 15 cows and 13 heifers last fall, when he learned that Schultz was interested in selling his dairy cows. It seemed like a good time for Keith to make his next move, so he decided to buy Schultz’s cows, rent the barn, and buy feed from him.

With his love for animals, it’s no surprise that Keith has had a few favorite cows over the years. One was given to him as a calf when he was in ninth grade as part of an FFA project. She is 9 years old now and is called Chainy.

“Chainy was the first cow that I considered mine. She has been here a long time. She is a good milker and I have had some pretty good calves out of her,” Keith said.

Milking cows morning and evening doesn’t bother Keith, and he’s enjoying the moment.

“For right now, I am working to pay down the debt on the cows and eventually buy a farm and start getting machinery. I have one tractor, but it’s in pretty tough shape,” Keith said.

“Milk prices are really good right now,” he added. “Actually, as much as the heat hurt everybody, production-wise, it helped to keep the milk price up because everyone lost milk in July. Cows are like us; when it’s hot, they don’t produce.”

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