March 28, 2012

Seeing Double

Just a few hours old...
  Cows generally give birth to 1 calf every year.  Twins are fairly un-common and triplets are extremely un-common.  Most ranchers don't want cows to have multiple calves each year.  They are prone to more calving difficulty and death rate is higher due to a high risk of 1 or both of the calves not being able to turn into the proper birthing position (front feet first with the bottom of the feet pointing toward the cows feet and head laying on front legs) or both calves trying to be born at the same time.  Cows with twins tend to need a more help to give birth safely.  The calves are usually much smaller than calves that don't have a twin brother or sister.  The cows will often only want to care for 1 calf and will not let the other nurse or may not have enough milk to provide for both of the calves.  Many ranchers will remove 1 calf (either the calf the cow rejects or the smaller of the 2) and feed them with a bottle or bucket.  Because of the risk and extra work of multiple births some ranchers would just prefer not to have them at all.
We didn't have any twins last year and the year before we had 3 sets of twins.  Out of those 3 sets our survival rate was 50%. 1 set was born pre-mature and could not live outside the uterus, 1 set we lost the 2nd calf born because he was backwards and did not make it out fast enough, the last set we had 2 healthy bull calves that the cow took care of.  We will let the cow raise both calves if she will let both nurse and if she will produce enough milk to keep them both healthy.  If we have a cow that losses a calf we will give her 1 of the twins to raise so that both cows only have 1 calf to care for.  By letting another mother raise 1 of the twins the calf will not have to share milk with his brother/sister and will have a chance to gain more weight before weaning time.  If we leave both calves with the cow we separate her from the rest of the herd so that we can give her more feed as she will need it to provide milk for both calves.  We can also monitor the calves to make sure that they are both getting enough to eat, if they are not we can immediately take over and give some supplemental milk.  
Got them to the Pen by the barn..  They are
tiny.. 40-50 lbs each. 
We had our first set of twins for the year yesterday morning.  The cow had cleaned them both off, let them both nurse and when Mark tagged them the cow was very intent on keeping them together.  By noon she had misplaced 1 of the calves.  Mark brought that calf to the barn till I could get home to help get the rest of the family to the barn.  Once we got them re-united she remembered that there was 2 of them and was back to making sure they were both fed and together!  We will keep an eye on them in the small pen by the barn for a few days till the calves are big enough to keep up with her then move them to a bigger pen with our heifers.  

While walking them toward the hay in the bunk, she
turned around and gave me another photo opp!!

1 comment:

  1. We've only had one set of twins on the place! We were lucky and the mother was able to handle both and we didn't have to mess with them as bottle calves! Great photos, and info!