TWINS - info on Freemartins

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Jeanne - Simme Valley

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Here's an article from Drovers CattleNetwork:

Estimates of the percentage of beef cattle births that produce twins vary. One estimate (Gilmore) puts the percentage at about 0.5% or 1 in every 200 births. Approximately one-half of the sets of twins should contain both a bull and a heifer calf. Make sure to write down these calf numbers of twin births while they are still nursing the cow. Be certain to not retain the heifer born twin to a bull as a replacement female.

Freemartinism is recognized as one of the most severe forms of sexual abnormality among cattle. This condition causes infertility in the female cattle born twin to a male. When a heifer twin shares the uterus with a bull fetus, they also share the placental membranes connecting the fetuses with the dam.

A joining of the placental membranes occurs at about the fortieth day of pregnancy, and thereafter, the fluids of the two fetuses are mixed. This causes exchange of blood and antigens carrying characteristics that are unique to each heifers and bulls. When these antigens mix, they affect each other in a way that causes each to develop with some characteristics of the other sex.

Although the male twin in this case is rarely affected by reduced fertility, in over ninety percent of the cases, the female twin is completely infertile. Because of a transfer of hormones or a transfer of cells, the heifer's reproductive tract is severely underdeveloped and sometimes even contains some elements of a bull's reproductive tract. A freemartin is genetically female, but has many characteristics of a male. The ovaries of the freemartin do not develop correctly, and they remain very small. Also, the ovaries of a freemartin do not produce the hormones necessary to induce the behavioral signs of heat. The external vulvar region can range from a very normal looking female to a female that appears to be male. Usually, the vulva is normal except that in some animals an enlarged clitoris and large tufts of vulvar hair exist.

Freemartinism cannot be prevented; however, it can be diagnosed in a number of ways ranging from simple examination of the placental membranes to chromosomal evaluation. The cattleman can predict the reproductive value of this heifer calf at birth and save the feed and development costs if he is aware of the high probability of freemartinism. (Source: “The Causes and Effects of Freemartinism in Cattle” by Laurie Ann Lyon.)

In some cases, there are few, if any, symptoms of freemartinism because the male twin may have been aborted at an earlier stage of gestation. Hidden “freemartins” are often difficult to identify if replacement heifers are purchased. Therefore this is another good reason to cull any open (non-pregnant) replacement heifer soon after her first breeding season.

Source: Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension Animal Scientist
 

regolith

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Considering that it's a condition that can express itself in a range of severity... what I wonder is whether anyone has ever had a heifer diagnosed as a freemartin that went on to breed.
The information I got in the vet letter when I had one tested and confirmed a freemartin was that they were unlikley to concieve and if they did, very unlikely to be able to maintain a pregancy.
Better not to get hopes up on a one in a million chance :roll:

A dairy herd I worked in years ago had a young cow in the herd who'd been twin to a bull - I didn't know it till I was looking through the calving book one day and there she was. Proably she was one of the 5 - 8% not a freemartin, as she'd bred twice at that stage.
 

cow pollinater

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yes, some of them will go on to breed. geneticly the calf that results has two sires and no dam. since the freemartin is an underdeveloped bull she is technically a male. breed her to a bull and the result is a calf with two sires.
 

ohiosteve

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An old dairyman who lives up the road from me taught me a trick. If you look at a freemartins vulva you can usually tell if they are breedable or not. If the vulva has extra hair on it they usually won't breed but if it looks normal there is a good chance they will. He told me he keeps about 1 out of 10 and has had excellent luck with them breeding back. He said the non-breeders also have a more masculine head.
 
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Jeanne - Simme Valley

Jeanne - Simme Valley

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If it is a freemartin, it is a non-breeder. If it is born twin to a bull and falls into that 5-8% range - she is NOT a freemartin.
Just because they "look" normal on the outside, does not mean they are normal on the inside. But, lots of times, they have visible signs.
 

suzorse

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If you really want to know, draw 2 cc blood put in a purple top tube and send to
http://biogeneticservices.com/
cost is 35.00 and you will know one way are the other as it is a genetic test for the Y chromosome, because a freemartin has an extra, I have tested 3 heifers I bought as calves and all tested normal
Suzanne
 

CKC1586

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suzorse":2iww6qkn said:
If you really want to know, draw 2 cc blood put in a purple top tube and send to
http://biogeneticservices.com/
cost is 35.00 and you will know one way are the other as it is a genetic test for the Y chromosome, because a freemartin has an extra, I have tested 3 heifers I bought as calves and all tested normal
Suzanne
Exactly, best way to KNOW. My Freemartin looked normal externally. There is a probe and she measured "on the line" , blood work was sent in and it confirmed her status.
 

Kathie in Thorp

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suzorse":b1oprd3f said:
If you really want to know, draw 2 cc blood put in a purple top tube and send to
http://biogeneticservices.com/
cost is 35.00 and you will know one way are the other as it is a genetic test for the Y chromosome, because a freemartin has an extra, I have tested 3 heifers I bought as calves and all tested normal
Suzanne
Thanks for that info, Suzanne. We only have one heifer here that we don't the "origin" of, and I've often wondered if she may have been a twin, since we don't often see beef-type bottle heifers in our area. We bought her at about 6 mos. old, and the people we bought her from were not too knowledgable and hadn't asked many questions when they got her.
 

Keren

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cow pollinater":1ubfgw92 said:
yes, some of them will go on to breed. geneticly the calf that results has two sires and no dam. since the freemartin is an underdeveloped bull she is technically a male. breed her to a bull and the result is a calf with two sires.

No she's not ... did you even read the article? :???:

The freemartin is genetically a female ... she is NOT technically a male nor is she an underdeveloped bull. She is a heifer whose placental membranes crossed with that of her twin brothers, and she recieved some of his hormones which made her reproductive tract cease development. So she is an underdeveloped heifer, not an underdeveloped bull.
 

vclavin

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We've had 2. One was not discovered until Doc tried to place a CIDR... it would not fit, evidently the cow had lost the bull fetus sometime during gestation. The other had heat cycles and doc just called her free-martin...I've always wondered about that one.
Valerie
 

fitz

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vclavin":2eu2mgkv said:
We've had 2. One was not discovered until Doc tried to place a CIDR... it would not fit, evidently the cow had lost the bull fetus sometime during gestation. The other had heat cycles and doc just called her free-martin...I've always wondered about that one.
Valerie

I hadn't thought about that. So I could have a single birth retained heifer that could turn out to be a free martin?
 
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Jeanne - Simme Valley

Jeanne - Simme Valley

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fitz":11clyoxa said:
vclavin":11clyoxa said:
We've had 2. One was not discovered until Doc tried to place a CIDR... it would not fit, evidently the cow had lost the bull fetus sometime during gestation. The other had heat cycles and doc just called her free-martin...I've always wondered about that one.
Valerie

I hadn't thought about that. So I could have a single birth retained heifer that could turn out to be a free martin?
ABSOLUTELY!!!
 

fitz

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Thanks for the reply. Certainly something to remember. I just keep learning from you good folks.

fitz
 

Nesikep

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Yep. I'm a little more knowledgeable now... That freemartin heifer we have this year I would say looks completely normal, definitely has a feminine head. Her brother was sluggish for the first few days after birth, she was raring to go. Good to know where to get the test done and that it doesn't break the bank.
 

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