September 19, 2014

Twin calves in cows

A few weeks ago a farmer in Queen’s Drive called me to check on a cow that had just had twins. This is a relatively rare phenomenon in cattle, but it happens every now and then. This is the second time one of his cows gave birth to twins.{{more}}

Due to the difficulty she encountered giving birth to two calves, she had developed an infection in the uterus that made her go off food and her milk production was decreasing, putting the calves at risk of dying, due to starvation.

She was successfully treated and the two beautiful calves are a sight to behold.

They are two bull calves, so the owner does not have to worry about one of them being sterile.

That is where the term ‘freemartins’ comes into play: Freemartins are sterile females, born twin to a male, in cattle with multiple conceptions. This happens because testosterone is present in order for the bull calf to develop properly. However, the blood vessels of the placentas of the twins usually share blood, so that the testosterone needed by the male interferes with the development of the female calf, causing her to be sterile in about 92 per cent of these cases.

The tubular genital organs in affected animals range from cordlike bands to near normal uterine horns. Freemartins have a short vagina that ends blind and does not communicate with the uterus. The cervix is absent. The ovaries usually fail to develop and remain small. Normal and freemartin cattle can be differentiated on the basis of the length of the vagina and the presence or absence of a cervix.

In this case the calves are both males; therefore the testosterone has no adverse effect on any of them.

In the case of two female calves, they are generally born with normal reproductive organs.

For further information, contact: Dr Collin Boyle
Unique Animal Care Co Ltd Tel: 456 4981