Twin prevalent?

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Apr 5, 2004
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I was just wondering what the propensity is for cows having twins. Also, I was wondering if it was generally a successful event- i.e. do the calves usually make it and remain unstunted. Just curious as I talked to a guy the other day who said two of his 20 cows had twins this year. I, in my limited experience with a few cows, have never dealt with a twin scenario.


In my experience, twins are not that prevalent. We've only had twins once in the last 15+ years. Usually both calves make it, but they tend to be smaller. If you have 1 bull and 1 heifer, the bull will usually be sterile.
The propensity of an animal to have twins varies amongst breeds and indeed bloodlines. In Simmentals, it can run 14%, in "Beef Twinners" it runs higher than that. Most breeds are considerably less than that.

When I had Simmies, we had one bloodline in which every individual had twins at least once. My favourite cow was from this bloodline and had twin heifers unassisted two years in a row. (and they were only 11.5 months apart) She weaned off 90 % of her own bodyweight the first time, 110% the second time (she got pretty thin...)

And just to set the record straight, it is the HEIFER which can be sterile if twin to a male, 90% of the time. The bull twin has normal fertility. The condition is called freemartinism.
We had a hereford cow that had twins consistantly. We bred one of her bull calves to one of our other cows and she had twin heifers, kept one heifer and bred her, the same thing twins again.

One thing that they all seemed to do with their first set of twins was forget that they had another calf. It took about a day for them to get up to speed and then all was fine.
frenchie":6x1fafex said:
BEEF twinners :?:

A few years ago ABS carried semen for Twinners. These were bulls from multiple generations of twins. Their calves weren't twins but their daughters had a migher likelyhodd of twinning. There is a fram in Ohio, Iowa or somewhere up that direction that has selected for twinning. The last I read, severl years ago, was he was averaging 37% twins.

Per cent of all births which are twins ranges from about 0.5 for some beef breeds to 2.0 for dairy cattle. I do not have information for specific breeds. This information is old and the averages may be different now, but I "guestamate" this would be pretty close. Keep in mind that these percents are for all births. Certain individuals or families could certainly have different numbers.
95 per cent of the twins are fraternal and 5 per cent are identical, or monozygotic.

Any idea on the survival rate on those twins at the farm.To be honest I don,t want to see twins.

Had way too many problems with mothering up, cows aborting because the twins got tangled.

I would rather have one good calf , that I don,t have too mess around with. :)
It's only heifers that are twin to a bull. We had twins last year. They were both beautiful calves. She couldn't breed but she was a fine animal. We slaughtered her for ourselves. The bull was impressive enough that we left him intact and kept him, which is VERY rare with us.

TXBobcat":3tb03fs7 said:
Do twin heifers normally have sterilty problems, or is that only in bull/heifer twins?

Twin heifers would be perfectly normal.

In the case of bull/heifer twins, at a certain point in gestation the placentas join allowing an exchange of blood between the twins. The hormones of the male twin then affect the development of the female twin's reproductive organs.

Ann B
frenchie":w5nyy2fx said:

Any idea on the survival rate on those twins at the farm.To be honest I don,t want to see twins.

Had way too many problems with mothering up, cows aborting because the twins got tangled.

I would rather have one good calf , that I don,t have too mess around with. :)

I don't recall it being in the article. The thing is that since they're selecting for twins they probably manage them a lot different then those of use that are cursed with them occasioanlly. To them bottle feeding an abandoned calf is probably concerned a normal deal. Just my thoughts. I'm with you, I hate twins.

We had a Hereford cow years ago that had two sets of twins in 12 years of production.. both sets where heifers, which we kept. Out of the four heifers, three of the four also had twins themselves (we sold them all at 4 years old, so don't know what happened from there) and also had a single birth daughter that had a set of twins.. both heifers. Other than that we've had the odd set, but it was strange. Three years ago we had four sets of twins, and they were out of our older commercial cows that had never had twins before. Same bull, nothing else had changed that we could think of. It was odd!

If heifers give birth to twins you generally will have to bottle feed one, which is what we have done. However, with the older cows we've been able to leave them both on the cow. Depends on the cows milking ability. You may get to a point where the calves will need to be put on creep feed if they start dragging the cow down too much.

I'm with everyone else.. we don't think twins are a good thing!
If the cow or heifer can maintain herself and raise both calves without problems, let them all have twins! We have about a set a year. Usualy nature takes care of one in one way or another. Either the cow aborts one early or one got killed. That's been our luck with them the past 2 years. But we've had cows have a couple different sets of twins and raise both up to 600# and breed back fine.
We have an older cow that has had twins the past 3 years. Usually we give one away to a mom that lost her baby, this year we let her keep both, and they are smaller than the rest. It seems to take them a few days to figure out they have two. The calves both know who mom is, mom just forgets.
I know in humans that dizygotic twins can be a familial trait but monozygotic (identical) twins are just a fluke occurance as the ovum splits. Is this true in cattle?

We've only had one set of twins. We supplemented with a bottle feeding once daily for a while and they weaned bigger than our other calves that fall. Their mama has never produced another set. Couldn't tell whether they were fraternal or identical - kinda hard with a set of twin bull Angus calves!
2 or 3 years ago our county had a higher instance of twins than normal. The vets all concluded it was that years climate related not genetic related.

We've only had 3 sets of twins ever, and 2 were one year bought bred. Elevation related.

I can very well do without twins. In certain situations it is fine, but not when a warm and protective momma needs to shelter them 24/7 during the winter.

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