Freemartins?

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rodderz

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Hi all, I am a dairy farmer with a small herd of 170 cows. I had a curious occurrence with my replacement heifers this year. After pregnancy testing I found I have 3 empty heifers out of 31, all of them "freemartins" (that is to say that they had no or deformed sex organs) Now I am well aware that in a male/female set of twins, the female is very likely to be sterile. It has never been my practice to keep the female from a male/female set of twins. I accept that in the throes of seasonal calving it is entirely possible that I failed to correctly identify a female twin. But three! In my decade of dairy farming, I have never had a single one before.
Is there another cause for this mutation or is it just coincidence?

Rod
 

novaman

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I have heard that there are cases where a cow conceives twins but loses one sometime early on. If it were a heifer/bull twinning the heifer is likely sterile with no evidence of a twin at birth. I doubt it would happen 3 times in the same year but just something interesting I heard. I don't even know if it's true.
 

dun

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novaman":18pp911b said:
I have heard that there are cases where a cow conceives twins but loses one sometime early on. If it were a heifer/bull twinning the heifer is likely sterile with no evidence of a twin at birth. I doubt it would happen 3 times in the same year but just something interesting I heard. I don't even know if it's true.
In the case of single heifer births that's always been the reason I have been given.
 

hillsdown

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dun":26p8wu8q said:
novaman":26p8wu8q said:
I have heard that there are cases where a cow conceives twins but loses one sometime early on. If it were a heifer/bull twinning the heifer is likely sterile with no evidence of a twin at birth. I doubt it would happen 3 times in the same year but just something interesting I heard. I don't even know if it's true.
In the case of single heifer births that's always been the reason I have been given.

That is what I have heard as well ,but 3 out of 31 wow; that seems really unusual.

Sorry about your heifers Rod. If I were you I would buy a lottery ticket ,odds are you will win . ;-)
 

regolith

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Rodderz; I've heard my grazier give me the same story (about another line of heifers). Five were empty (I presume about 10%) and all were identified at PD as freemartins.

I take that information with a pretty big pinch of salt, myself. The vets aren't perfect. Uteri have been known to do vanishing acts, and sometimes cows have been identified MT and calved within a few months.

I've had one freemartin I didn't know about; and I was able to identify how the mix-up might have happened though one thing I'm sure of is that her bull twin was a different breed (several cows nine months previous were exposed to both the Angus bull and Jersey AI).
What nova says is the reason I've often heard also. Whether it would happen three times without precedent... what was your feed situation the previous autumn? Just a thought.

Welcome to the boards.
 
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rodderz

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novaman":1fjy5rw6 said:
I have heard that there are cases where a cow conceives twins but loses one sometime early on. If it were a heifer/bull twinning the heifer is likely sterile with no evidence of a twin at birth. I doubt it would happen 3 times in the same year but just something interesting I heard. I don't even know if it's true.

I have also heard of this happening, but I thought 3 out of 31 was a bit unlikely. Perhaps it is the most likely reason though.

regolith":1fjy5rw6 said:
Rodderz; I've heard my grazier give me the same story (about another line of heifers). Five were empty (I presume about 10%) and all were identified at PD as freemartins.

I take that information with a pretty big pinch of salt, myself. The vets aren't perfect. Uteri have been known to do vanishing acts, and sometimes cows have been identified MT and calved within a few months.

I've had one freemartin I didn't know about; and I was able to identify how the mix-up might have happened though one thing I'm sure of is that her bull twin was a different breed (several cows nine months previous were exposed to both the Angus bull and Jersey AI).
What nova says is the reason I've often heard also. Whether it would happen three times without precedent... what was your feed situation the previous autumn? Just a thought.

Welcome to the boards.

This is a very valid point. I'm sure a lot of graziers tell a few untruths to cover their butts. In this case however, the animals were grazed on our own property and I was present at the pregnancy test. The vet is very old school and thoroughly reliable, so I would tend to believe him.
My father also farms in the same area and runs a similar system. The young stock from both farms are grazed together on the same property. In a normal year, from my 30-odd heifers and his 40-odd, we would expect 1 or at the most 2 MT's. So this year I had no conventional empties but three Freemartins. My Dad had 1 empty and also 1 Freemartin! Dad has been farming for over 30 years and can't remember having one before. I don't believe too much in coincidence so I was a bit concerned that there may be another disease or condition that causes the same mutation.
Thanks for the replies folks. Maybe I will get a lotto ticket :lol:
 

dun

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I agree that 3 out of 31 is pretty improbable. Are they by any chance from the same bloodlines? My late mentor used a bull and a lot of his daughters were what he referred to as "functionally freemartins". Even as 2 year olds they still had under devloped reproductive organs.
 

hillsdown

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dun":3l4exbum said:
I agree that 3 out of 31 is pretty improbable. Are they by any chance from the same bloodlines? My late mentor used a bull and a lot of his daughters were what he referred to as "functionally freemartins". Even as 2 year olds they still had under devloped reproductive organs.

I have been mulling this over and think that might be the cause as well Dun. There have been a few Holstein bulls over the years that were notorious for fertility problems in daughters. I am trying to remember the bull in the mid 90's that was pulled off the AI sire list because of it and am drawing a blank right now . :?
 

dun

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hillsdown":2n2gp7md said:
dun":2n2gp7md said:
I agree that 3 out of 31 is pretty improbable. Are they by any chance from the same bloodlines? My late mentor used a bull and a lot of his daughters were what he referred to as "functionally freemartins". Even as 2 year olds they still had under devloped reproductive organs.

I have been mulling this over and think that might be the cause as well Dun. There have been a few Holstein bulls over the years that were notorious for fertility problems in daughters. I am trying to remember the bull in the mid 90's that was pulled off the AI sire list because of it and am drawing a blank right now . :?
The bull he had the issues with was in the mid 70s, could be the same family though
 
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rodderz

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dun":25al3umg said:
I agree that 3 out of 31 is pretty improbable. Are they by any chance from the same bloodlines? My late mentor used a bull and a lot of his daughters were what he referred to as "functionally freemartins". Even as 2 year olds they still had under devloped reproductive organs.

Two out of three are from the same bull. I might DNA test them out of interest. I have used this bull quite a bit and it is a very popular proven sire. Might be worth looking into, thanks.
 

regolith

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If you go to the trouble of DNA testing, have their freemartin status verified at the same time. You may need to draw bloods for that, and it took about 4 wks for LIC to return the results when I did one.

That at least will clear up whether they were twins or are infertile for other reasons.
 

dun

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regolith":320zkmhe said:
If you go to the trouble of DNA testing, have their freemartin status verified at the same time. You may need to draw bloods for that, and it took about 4 wks for LIC to return the results when I did one.

That at least will clear up whether they were twins or are infertile for other reasons.
Excellent suggestion.
 

GMN

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rodderz":ejorbz6v said:
Hi all, I am a dairy farmer with a small herd of 170 cows. I had a curious occurrence with my replacement heifers this year. After pregnancy testing I found I have 3 empty heifers out of 31, all of them "freemartins" (that is to say that they had no or deformed sex organs) Now I am well aware that in a male/female set of twins, the female is very likely to be sterile. It has never been my practice to keep the female from a male/female set of twins. I accept that in the throes of seasonal calving it is entirely possible that I failed to correctly identify a female twin. But three! In my decade of dairy farming, I have never had a single one before.
Is there another cause for this mutation or is it just coincidence?

Rod

I had 2 cows calf with twins-bull and heifer this year, and I haven't had a set of twins born in 5 years. Last set was twin heifers-I think sometimes freaky things just happen-
 

cow pollinater

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I'm at four sets on twelve registered cows that I bought last year. Only one of them has ever had twins before. The previous owner swears nothing was different when he bred them and I believe him.
Not that I'm a math wizard by any stretch of the imagination but twins are kind of a game of chance. They're a certain percentage of all births. Think of it as a role of the dice. You have a one in six chance of getting a one every time you roll but that is no indication that you'll get a one for every six rolls of the dice. Sometimes you'll get it every other time you roll and sometimes you'll get it every twenty rolls.
 

regolith

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Just had the first set the day the snow melted, stillborn, bull and heifer. I'd told the vet the previous day that there hadn't been any, so I think I might've given Sod's law a nudge.
I don't think I've ever seen more than 2% twins. We're at one set out of 120 calvings at this stage.
 

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