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Twin calves

Last post Wed, Apr 13 2011 22:26 by Cider Ted. 27 replies.
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  • Mon, Feb 28 2011 21:05

    Twin calves

    Over the last two weeks we've had five sets of twins born in a row from our continental suckle herd. The calves are to the same Limousin stock bull we've been using for the last few years and we've never had more than one or two sets a year from our 80 cow suckler herd. Has anyone had this problem before or know why this might be happening?
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  • Mon, Feb 28 2011 21:53 In reply to

    Re: Twin calves

    turkey toes:
    Has anyone had this problem before or know why this might be happening?

     

    Why do you see it as a problem ? Just give the cow a bit of cake and she should be able to rear two. Two will be better than one when it comes to selling ?

    As for why it happens, I don't know. Were the cows in exceptionally good condition at bulling ? We have more twins some years than others but have never been able to figure out why.

    http://www.holidaycambriancoast.co.uk/

  • Mon, Feb 28 2011 22:12 In reply to

    • old mcdonald
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    Re: Twin calves

    Have to agree with w'n'w. I do not profess to having bred "thousands" of calves, but have never had a set of twins. Plenty of twins in sheep and goats, and two smaller ones are always worth more than one big one. Just be aware of freemartins (does not happen with goats, but an "intersex", ie neither one nor t'other, is a possibility).

    www.oldmcdonaldsolives.com
  • Tue, Mar 1 2011 0:34 In reply to

    Re: Twin calves

    old mcdonald:
    Just be aware of freemartins (does not happen with goats, but an "intersex", ie neither one nor t'other, is a possibility).

     

    We have successfully kept 'freemartins' for breeding. In fact most most of them are fertile, though not all. As for "intersex" we call them Will-Jill's. I'm sure every area will have a different name for them.

     

    http://www.holidaycambriancoast.co.uk/

  • Tue, Mar 1 2011 20:38 In reply to

    • old mcdonald
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    Re: Twin calves

    w'n'w. Intersex is not a farmers' term. The powers that be in animal sciences began to call them that a few years ago instead of hermaphrodite. This was done because most of the affected goats are not, in fact, true hermaphrodites.

    The only reason I know this is because I have done a fair bit of research of other peoples' research. I thought I had solved the problem (we had quite a few in our first couple of years here) but I had one last year that I thought was a good female. She has become rather butch in the last couple of months and is definitely showing masculine tendencies. I had another one born last month - unrelated does but the same buck, and twins this time, and an obvious "Will-Jill". Apparently (in goats) it only occurs in conceived twins of opposite sexes and it is what would have been the female that is always affected. Sometimes the male has been aborted and so only the female is born. This is what must have happened last year as it was a single birth. It also only happens in a mating of two polled animals. Hopefully an easy fix is to use only horned bucks, which suits me anyway - they cannot put their heads through square mesh fences and so do not push them.

    Your breeding from freemartins is interesting. I read a fair bit about them too. Some information suggested up to 90% were infertile. I did not particularly look, but I did not see any mention that a cow could have two embryos that did not share the same placenta. The same idea as a woman having two children that are not twins. If this did happen, then a female calf would not be a freemartin. Is such a double pregnancy possible in cattle? 

    www.oldmcdonaldsolives.com
  • Tue, Mar 1 2011 21:19 In reply to

    • EP90
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    Re: Twin calves

    Only female-male twins are freemartin. female-female twins are fine. The Male isnt affected unless-  I have seen some Twins were the male is smaller,the female twin will almost always breed,but the male twin either dies a few days after birth or lives and becomes heifer like. But when the male is bigger at birth,the Female is "butch" and generally only for beef.

    The thing is that the strongest calf gives the weaker one its hormones. So a smaller male twin will be heifer like as its taken hormones from the larger female, and twins with the male being bigger will give the female its hormones.

    Simple really!

  • Wed, Mar 2 2011 7:59 In reply to

    • Kol
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    Re: Twin calves

    In a male-female pair of cattle twins, something like 19 out of 20 females will be freemartins and cannot breed. They may have varying degrees of being non-female, and some you can see the difference externally. The males should normally be OK. But if you keep for breeding there is the slight chance you will pass on the gene for creating twins (whether male-female or both the same sex). There is an organisation somewhere that has been trying to breed for twins for about 40 years and they have succeeded. Their cattle will produce twins about 50% of the time if I remember rightly. The just kept on breeding and kept any twin bulls that were born.
  • Wed, Mar 2 2011 9:35 In reply to

    Re: Twin calves

    Kol:
    There is an organisation somewhere that has been trying to breed for twins for about 40 years and they have succeeded. Their cattle will produce twins about 50% of the time if I remember rightly.

     

    Seems like a good idea ! Ewes rearing two lambs is the norm nowadays, so why not cows ? The cost of keeping a suckler cow for a whole year just to produce one calf is astronomical. If you kept heifers out of male+female twins for breeding and they weren't freemartins then surely eventually there would be a possibility of breeding out the problem. This is something that the likes of ADAS may have done in the past.

    http://www.holidaycambriancoast.co.uk/

  • Wed, Mar 2 2011 20:31 In reply to

    • old mcdonald
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    Re: Twin calves

    EP90, Many people who have conducted research and published will disagree with you. I have only read what they have published, and agree with Kol's summarisation - although I feel there is some "informed guesswork" at the percentage of females that will fail to breed.

    Further to Kol's and wnw's posts - why not keep all twin-born calves and try them for breeding?  The goat research suggests that the male's libido may be reduced, and perhaps his fertility. W'n'w's conjecture of breeding out the problem makes logical sense. Except of course, if the female breeds then there is no problem! In either case it has to lead to more twins capable of breeding.

    I have bred a lot more sheep than cattle, but do not recall similar problems in my own, other people's or reported experiences. Does it happen? If so, polled or horned breeds. Do you get freemartins in horned cattle, or are they like goats and (probably) immune?

    www.oldmcdonaldsolives.com
  • Wed, Mar 2 2011 21:56 In reply to

    • EP90
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    Re: Twin calves

    old mcdonald:

    EP90, Many people who have conducted research and published will disagree with you. I have only read what they have published.

    And I dissagree with all of them!! I have worked with more cattle than they will ever know,and still I'm still learning everyday.

    I still maintain female-female twins are 100% fine to breed,As their hormones are identical. Male-Male twins are also 100% fine for the same reason. Its the male-female thats rubbish,Because they have opposite hormones. That are 50-50 shared between both calves. Thats all it is, Nothing else to learn about that. The male will never grow to the same size or conformation as a "proper" bull calf (either single or twin) and a twin to male heifer will not be worth keeping, as it will look like a bull and will be a pain, as they are cronic bullers jumping on some in-heat cows,that then wont stand to a bull until next heat. We sell them as soon as possible Ideally with the cow. I disagree with keeping twins,end of. All twins will be smaller and of less value than a single large calf. Same with sheep, One big lamb is cheaper to keep,and its worth more than 2 twins at the end of the day. Plus,You have a longer living cow & longer living ewes. Its all very well breeding to get twins born to each cow and each ewe,But then you get triplets & quads!!! The feeding required to keep their mothers in good condition is horrific. It doesnt make financial sense. Plus you are going to get probelms with milk fever,twin lamb disease ect..

    Beeding for twins is going against everything I have been taughtHmm  And I was taught by some seasoned cattle & sheep men! 

  • Wed, Mar 2 2011 22:01 In reply to

    • BrownCow
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    Re: Twin calves

    old mcdonald:
    Some information suggested up to 90% were infertile. I did not particularly look, but I did not see any mention that a cow could have two embryos that did not share the same placenta. The same idea as a woman having two children that are not twins. If this did happen, then a female calf would not be a freemartin. Is such a double pregnancy possible in cattle? 

    I'm expecting to get shot down in flames here but here goes anyway.

    The placenta is developed by the embryo and does not grow out from the uterus so it would stand to reason that mixed sex twins would have separate placenta as they are obviously not identical.  In humans identical twins occur as a result of the embryo dividing before embedding.  Non-identical are two ova successfully fertilizing and so each have a placenta. 

    I have no reason to think this butI two calves on one placenta is asking alot and the size of the umbilical blood vessels would possibly be a restricting factor.  The last three sets of twins here were two male pairs and one mixed, all with separate placenta.  Happened to have the vet check the freemartin today and his opinion was that she was lacking a uterus and ovaries.  The big question is why can sheep produce sexually viable mixed sex twins and not cows? 

    Do as you would be done by.
  • Wed, Mar 2 2011 22:14 In reply to

    Re: Twin calves

    EP90:
    I still maintain female-female twins are 100% fine to breed,As their hormones are identical. Male-Male twins are also 100% fine for the same reason.

    That is the only bit of your very opinionated post that I agree with EP90.

    As I said before, we have had M+F twins and have managed to breed from the female (not all fertile though). They are both very often normal calves in every  respect, though I concede that sometimes they're a bit smaller.

    As far as your statement that one good calf/lamb is worth more than two smaller I would have to strongly disagree. In most cases ( unless you farm on top of a mountain ) two calves/lambs will always be better than one.

    I admit there will be extra costs such as extra feed etc. but the extra income from the sale of a second calf or lamb should easily outweigh this.

     

    http://www.holidaycambriancoast.co.uk/

  • Wed, Mar 2 2011 22:34 In reply to

    • EP90
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    Re: Twin calves

    What is an opinon if it isnt opinionatedStick out tongue

     We sell beef for £1300-£1400+ a head. They get no feed during the first 10 months,Cows get no feed aprt from silage in winter. Our sheep (9000 ewe flock) gets no feed at all. Weres the loss in that?

     If we had twins with everything, We would have to buy-in upwards of 100,000 tons of concentrates,We would have to spend more time tagging,dehorning,tailing,ect.. Our cows and ewes would go into winter in poor condition due to the extra strain of twins even with feeding,We would probably loose up to 40% of them anyway from predators or bad weather (As twins are not as tough) We would also need to spend more on transport and build more cattle housing,Probably need 2 or 3 extra full-time workers to handle the workload. The costs outweigh returns in our case!!

  • Wed, Mar 2 2011 22:54 In reply to

    • old mcdonald
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    Re: Twin calves

    EDIT: This post was typed whilst the two preceding posts were being made, therfore prior to reading them. 

    Brown Cow, A quick response. I totally agree with your second paragraph. I do not know enough to comment much on your third/final paragraph, but, foetuses and placenta size are relative to the dam's size. A Shetland mare will give birth to a foal sired by a Clydesdale. The problem in goats (possibly researched more because there are more) is that mixed sex twins that share one placenta have their umbilical cords in the same placenta. Consequently there is a mix of blood between them.

    Your last sentence echoes my own questions in my previous post. It is generally accepted, in goats, with a little doubt, that one or both parents carrying (born with) horns, will not produce an intersex. I would like to know whether it is the same in sheep and cattle.

    EP90, You make some very bold statements. This is a friendly site, and I like to keep it that way. How do you know you have worked with more cattle than other people? I do note that you are prepared to admit you are still learning. So are we all. Nobody disputes f/f twins have no problems. Your 50/50 sharing of hormones is not correct either. W'n'w, who I would guess has perhaps a wee bit more experience than yourself, has already told us he has bred from heifers in mixed sex pairs, and is quite happy to do so. I have had many sets of twin lambs and twin kids, and always, and I mean always, the combined value of the pair has exceeded that of any single - commercial, not stud, values. At the same time, the twins born by the Sydney Royal Supreme Champion Angora Buck that I owned brought a lot more individually than singles by him, because the buyers wanted twin bearers in their future breeding.

    How much longer do you reckon a cow or ewe will live if it only has singles instead of twins? How many offspring are you going to sell from that animal? Value your singles, and value the twins. Add on any additional feed you deem necessary for twin bearers. What is the difference? I have had a fair supply of triplets in my time too (never quads) and the additional care and attention has been little in financial terms. It does make financial sense. I have never, ever, had a case of milk fever or twin lamb disease. Why do you think that is?

    I do not know who taught you, but breeding for twins, especially in sheep, has been advocated by better men. Yes, I am prepared to say that. I will start with and name only Professor McGregor-Cooper, who did not teach me, but who I knew.

    You can read on my profile what I have done, and where I have been. From memory w'n'w gives a bit of information about himself too. Would you care to tell us, purely for comparative purposes, how much experience you have of running your own place, and the stock you have had? If you match us, then I am prepared to accept the sort of blunt statements you make and then debate them. Failing that, it might be better if you modified things slightly and put forward opinions. Everybody has opinions. We are all allowed to have them. Give some reasons why you think something is so, and you will probably find that people on this forum agree with you. Perhpas not in totality, but at least in part. That way we all learn.

    ALSO EDIT: EP90, Your last post, responding to w'niw, and part of the questions I have put above, is an effort to justify a stance you have already taken. Please xplain your figures in sufficient detail that readers can assess how much per head you are cliaming it costs to have twins rather than singles, and why you would have breeders in poor condition. Also why you would lose 40% of youngstock. What are your predators and where are you farming?

    www.oldmcdonaldsolives.com
  • Thu, Mar 3 2011 7:52 In reply to

    • Kol
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    Re: Twin calves

    Don't agree with you EP90 about twin lambs. I keep all my records and twins go to market almost at the same time as singles in my flock, very little difference in my system. The first load to market will indeed have a slightly higher percentage of singles but there will be loads of twins and even the odd triple in there as well. Mine catch up. Only had two sets of cattle twins, female-female, and male-female. They were all small but the female-female's bred fine and looked normal if small. The male from the male-female twins was a real weed.
  • Sat, Mar 5 2011 18:49 In reply to

    Re: Twin calves

    turkey toes to answer your question it sounds to me like your cows were in good condition and on a very good plain of nutrition last year when they were bulled resulting in more eggs being released and then also fertilised. its exatcly the reason why sheep are flushed before going to the ram.

    i also seem to agree with you about twins being a problem, ok good twins may be fine but one good bull calve will be much better than a pair of runts

  • Sat, Mar 5 2011 22:42 In reply to

    • old mcdonald
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    Re: Twin calves

    multi-power, Since EP90 has decided to ignore questions, I ask you the same thing - why should you have a pair of runts? They will almost certainly be born smaller than a single, that is usual, but would you not feed a twin bearer (assuming she is rearing them herself) at a slightly better rate than a cow/ewe/doe with a single? If you did, then as Kol points out, they will sell as quick, or almost so, as a single, and given the experience of those of us posting, who think two are worth more than one, please give us some figures to show you are right and we are wrong.

    www.oldmcdonaldsolives.com
  • Sun, Mar 6 2011 7:47 In reply to

    Re: Twin calves

    As far as my sheep flock goes twins are far more profitable than singles.

  • Sun, Mar 6 2011 8:49 In reply to

    • henarar
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    • zumerzet

    Re: Twin calves

    We find with are suk cows that if they have twins one will become a thief and get some milk where it can just make sure they are not with any that dont have much milk for there own calf or are poor and they will be ok, we dont treat the cows with twins any diferent than the rest

    Most of are cows are to fat anywaySmile allthough we dont feed any grains at all just plenty of grass in the summer and plenty of silage in the winter a few minerals and give them a good bed

  • Sun, Mar 6 2011 19:47 In reply to

    • Kol
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    Re: Twin calves

    farmerbill:

    As far as my sheep flock goes twins are far more profitable than singles.

    About three times as profitable at a guess. Two lambs / one ewe is very nearly almost double the money but not much more cost, unless you're having to creep them etc. Twins on a cow I would think wouldn't be much different as long as the cow is plenty milky etc.
  • Sun, Mar 6 2011 20:19 In reply to

    • old mcdonald
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    Re: Twin calves

    Kol, It took me a minute or two to get my head around your three times as profitable, I had been thinking twice - but in the absence of anyone's figures, you could weel be right if we assume (and these are just numbers) the following:-

    Cost of keeping the dam 4; Sale of one offspring 6; sale of two offspring 11 (less than twice a single); 25% extra cost for additional feed etc if dam has twins gives a cost of keeping the twins' dam 5.

    6-4=2  11-5=6. And that is three times as much as the difference with a single. It would be interesting to see some real figures.

     

    www.oldmcdonaldsolives.com
  • Mon, Mar 7 2011 8:06 In reply to

    • Kol
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    Re: Twin calves

    As I see it, basically, the ewe is your main fixed cost, and she accounts for a huge part (most I would say) of the costs over the year. The lambs are your output and if you grass-feed, then they don't cost very much. I initially trained as a management accountant, and this is called Marginal Costing, or at least it was 45 years ago! On the basis of marginal costing, i.e. taking into account your own fixed costs (the farm and you etc as well as the ewe) then the NET PROFIT on twins will almost certainly be higher than three times, in fact I think it would be incomparable. Put it like this, two farms next door to each other, "A" produces only singles, and "B" only twins. I'd say that farm A will run at a big loss and farm B will run at a profit. Obviously, if your breed or system produces rubbish twins, then the figures aren't worth a penny, but certainly my twins are not that much different to singles, and even triples aren't that far behind ether.
  • Mon, Mar 7 2011 9:17 In reply to

    Re: Twin calves

    Kol, I totally agree. Put in very simple leyman's terms, if an ewe has twins and you spend the value of the first lamb on your costs, the second lamb will still all be profit. As you say, it's a no brainer !

    http://www.holidaycambriancoast.co.uk/

  • Mon, Mar 7 2011 10:38 In reply to

    Re: Twin calves

    ok a deacent pair of twins will be fine, the point a really wanted to make is that one good calve will be better than two poor calves. a good pair of twins will be fine. some examples to support my opinions.a once seen a cow with triplets, a good british fresian type cow in good condition, result 3 dead calves and 1 dead cow. years ago i used to keep a couple of sows. my "worst" litter was 7 piglets. my "best" was 13. a sold weaners at about 30kgs, i think. anyway they were ment to be around 12 weeks old. the fact is 7 pigs were my most profitable, i sold them 2 weeks ahead of target. £301 they sold for. compared to 13 piglets, they consumed twice per head the amount of creep feed,had to be kept 2 weeks longer, the sow was thin despite ad lib feeding, cant remember exact price but was around £300 for that litter.

    please dont get me wrong i was still at school when i was keeping pigsn it was not a strictly comercial operation n a do agree output is what you get paid for , just not always worth chasing.something any low input dairy farmer will tell you.

    i dont have experience with sheep n i dont think if all ewes just had single lambs it would be worth keeping sheep but i do suspect one good lamb may be better than 3 poor lambs, but if 3 good lambs can be reared at little extra cost than a single or twins then well thats just a no brainer

     

  • Mon, Mar 7 2011 18:03 In reply to

    • Kol
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    Re: Twin calves

    Yea, not sure about cattle. Only had two pairs of twins. The first pair were just a bit smaller so I'd say the two of them were a lot better than one good one, but the second pair were weeds; don't know how they'll turn out because I sold them in a batch.
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