One Co. Down farmer had the surprise of his life last Thursday night when his heifer gave birth to four calves – all without any assistance.

Born on March 7, John Fleming thought his heifer had done well to manage twins – but little did he know double trouble would soon turn in to the fab four.

The Limousin cross heifer gave birth to three bulls and a heifer, weighing between 20kg and 30kg. All four calves were born alive – with dam and calves said to be doing well.

John, who farms with his father Jim and mother Elizabeth in Ballynoe, Co. Down, said: “She was scanned with twins on December 20, but no one ever thought there were any more.

She started calving at around 9 o’clock and the last one appeared at 11. I looked through the door and that was it.

“I said nothing more about it because the vet was out in the yard with another animal and she seemed to be ok, so I went to help him and left her to it.”

The calves were sired by a home-bred Simmental stock bull, but twins may run in the maternal side of the family – the calves’ grand dam had twins several years ago.

Thanks to some help from his neighbours, John was able to get enough colostrum for all four calves.

He said he put calf coats on the quadruplets and put them under a heat lamp as the strong easterly winds had been running through the house.

She was the sixth cow to calf out of a batch of 40 this year.

Vet Maurice King from Downe Veterinary Clinic was among those to check on the calves, and of course since the word has got out many others – including the rest of the staff – have also had to visit.

Already, a BBC NI TV crew visited the farm as they happened to be in the area filming a series on veterinarians.

The odds of four live calves sit at one in 11 million, while four identical calves – as was the case in Co. Clare last year – are a billion to one.

But as for the odds of a TV crew happening to be in the area at the same time – well the bookies are out on that one!