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Three-of-a-kind means full house at Albarado's

TOWN OF ISABELLE--Farmers are often considered gamblers because they depend on factors out of their control for their livelihoods, primarily the weather.

In 1997, Bruce Albarado gambled by bringing cows back to a dairy farm in the Town of Isabelle that had been idle for 20 years.

"People told me I was crazy," Albarado said Friday, explaining he turned to farming after tiring of his former job at the tannery in Red Wing.

In true gambling spirit, the local native has now had to ask what the odds are of a development like the one that happened in his barn one morning last week. The answer he's gotten from Pierce County Agriculture Agent Greg Andrews is somewhere between one in 7,000 and one in 10,000.

"I saw blood all over her back," he said about the condition he found one of his 38-cow herd in early Tuesday, a "fair" milker who'd been relegated to a separate part of the building.

Nearby, he saw two calves, confirming the birth he suspected had caused the blood. He said there's been a lot of twin calves around the farm.

"We've gotten two or three sets a year the last couple of years," he said, adding, "one year, we had eight."

Otherwise occupied, it wasn't until time came to go back out and get the newcomers into the main part of the barn that Albarado realized there were actually three. Triplet calves are the kind of unusual occurrence suggested by the numbers Andrews cited, a rarity also verified in a call to the farmer's veterinarian, who marveled all are heifers and all survived.

Even the odds the ag agent gave didn't impress the dairyman all that much at first, he said.

"Then I sat down with the calculator and figured it up," he said. "I'd have to milk the same number of cows for 263 years to make those odds."

The trio were born to "Chunks," a 1,500-to-1,600 pound cow that's seven-years-old, he said. They're smaller than his typical calf's average weight at an estimated 45 pounds, compared to the normal range of 100 to 110. Yet, they're healthy and active.

The triplets are named after Albarado and wife Fay's three children: Kristen, Kaitlin and Carley. Based on activity in the barn late last week, the youngsters, ages 10, eight and three, respectively, have "adopted" those animal namesakes for care and feeding purposes. The mother cow tends to be protective of them, too.

With the latest three, there's 29 heifer calves on the home farm, 80 acres the couple bought from his parents, Johnny and Judy, in 1995, he said. They rent more acreage to raise wheat, corn, soybeans and hay on a total of 240 acres. Their milk goes to the Ellsworth Co-op Creamery.

Ironically, just two months ago his spouse had encouraged him to ship Chunks to market, but he never did, Albarado said.

"I'm a procrastinator," he said, admitting he's also reluctant to let any of the cows go. When faced with the prospect, he'd likely sell them to someone else.

"That way, I don't have to do the dirty work," he said.

The entire family seems pleased with the special birth, surely their most memorable since oldest daughter Kristen was born in the back of an ambulance on the way to a hospital 10 years ago.