December 1, 2015

Twin calves – boon or bane?

In the last five years, I’ve had four sets of twin calves born in my small herd of Brangus cattle, two sets in 2009. All have been fraternal (I understand only 10% of twin calves born are identical), a bull calf and a heifer calf.

Although the twin calves certainly help my calving percentage, they sometimes present more problems than that advantage is worth. The first problem – knowing the cow has twins. In my experience, the cow is likely to accept one of the calves and reject the other. She will usually keep one calf with her and abandon the other. Case in point: The first set of twins born to one of my cows – I could hear a baby calf bawling frantically in a pasture across the creek from my house. When I went over to the pasture, I discovered a newborn (she had apparently nursed her mamma once) frantically searching for “mamma” and milk. She was running from one cow to the next and getting some good kicks in the process.

As I searched the pasture, I found the mother cow, with another new calf (bull), a distance away, and after checking the rest of the cows, decided that cow was the mother of both calves. Picking up the heifer calf and taking her to the mother, the baby calf was very happy to find “Momma,” but Momma wasn’t happy with her, kicking her off as she tried to nurse.

Long story short, the cow and two calves were moved to a pen and kept there several days, trying to get the mother to accept the little heifer calf. Meanwhile, I was having to bottle feed the heifer some to keep it alive. And, after four or five days and trying a number of different ways to get the mother to accept the calf, I gave up and ended up bottle-feeding the calf.

Two of the four sets of twins (all different mother cows) have ended up with one of the set being bottle fed to weaning time. I have been successful in getting two out of the four mothers to accept both calves. But, the two calves nursing their mother take a toll on the mother’s body condition and they don’t gain as well as single calves.

The other disadvantage is that the mother cow doesn’t breed back as rapidly as normal, so it makes the next calf later than normal.

But, the last set of twin calves sold weighed a total of 1017 pounds and brought over $950. So, to look at the cow’s production and income brought in, that makes her look pretty good!

At the moment, I’m ambivalent on twins. I like the production and income, but it sure increases the work! What’s your experience with twins?

Comments from other readers...

  1. Marjorie Wirebaugh says:

    I have had twin calfs also and it is just as you have said . The mother excepted one calf and let the other one for me to take care of. It is a lot of work esp. if when you have more then one bottle fed calf. They sure are cute though and the grandkids have a great experience feeding them.

    • Yvonne Smith says:

      We just had a baby born. I found it this morning. Didn’t even know which heifer it belonged too. it looks like both cows are still pregnant. How long in between births is normal?

      • Ryan Jackson says:

        I am having the same problem. My cow just gave irth early this morning and still looks big enough to have another! What was your experience with your cow? I have been sayig for the last month or so that I thought she looked big enough to have twins, but so far she has had just the one calf (a bull calf) that seemes very small compared to other new borns i have seen and looks like it weighs just under 50lbs or so, and the mother still doesn’t look amy smaller than she was before birth. It sounds like you amd I have had very similar conditions with our cows, and I would really love to hear how your story ended up! Cheers!

  2. One of the ways we have had the best luck getting mom cow to accept the second calf is to take the first one away while she decides to accept the first. The cow will usually learn to count to two much quicker this way. Of course this means you have to have a place to get the cow and calves up ,and it also means more time spent with the cow. We sometimes have 2-3 sets of twins a year and have to prepare for this event. We normally keep the sets that are heifers, ( I always name them and they become pets) but they usually don’t continue on to have twins themselves.

  3. When we have had twins we place both with the cow in a small pen and turn a good CONTROLLABLE cow dog on the calf that was rejected. One or so bawls from the calf and the cow, seeing a dog trying to eat her formally rejected calf, makes her the best mother to both calves immediately. We have never had it fail

  4. We had a set of twins on the 26th. of march and bottle fed both one time and then the smaller one we bottle fed a couple more times. We finally put a set of hobbles on the cow so she could not kick the small one off any more. It change the cow attitude and she is now taking both.

  5. Lost Highway Ranch says:

    80 angus cross cows and five sets of twins this year. Have only five first calf heifers and 3 had twins. Never anything like this in the past. Maybe a set every couple of years. I had them on a high protein supplement a month before breeding season. I wonder if that makes a difference?

  6. Hi,

    Thanks for your comment on the “Twins” article on

    I have been unable to find anything which says a high protein supplement contributes to a high twinning rate. The only thing found in the research was that there is increased twinning in cows bred between August and October.


  7. Our Angus cow (bred with our Galloway bull) gave birth to twin heifer calves Monday. She cares for them both extremely well. Our angus/holstein heifer gave birth to one heifer calf on Wednesday. We put the two cows together, and Thursday, the twins also were nursing on the angus/holstein cow. They mostly nurse on their natural mother, but will also nurse off the other cow when given the opportunity. All the calves look very good, and are already filling out. I don’t know if this is common, but this seems to work very well for all. I don’t have to worry about the twins not getting enough milk from just one cow, and I think the angus/holstein cow has plenty to share.

    • Jeannie,

      Thanks for your information concerning your twin heifer calves and the two cows sharing the nursing duties. I had an interesting experience with my last set of twins (a bull and heifer calf-Brangus) recently. They were up to about 500 lbs and still nursing their mother. The mother initially had a hard time accepting the heifer calf, but I finally was able to get her to accept the heifer baby within a week of the time they were born. I noticed a couple of weeks ago one of my first-calf heifers with about a month old calf and she had a big calf and a small calf nursing her. Took a closer look, and the big calf nursing was the twin heifer. The first-calf heifer had apparently accepted her and was letting her nurse alongside the new baby! Needless to say, I sold the twin calves the next week to keep the heifer from stealing the new baby’s milk!

  8. Just a quick question. We purchased a 6-7 yrs old Holstein back in the fall and she recently (in the last week) birthed a bull calf. We saw something on the internet that warned us the cow would give too much milk to the calf and it might die. So then we purchased a jersey bull calf @ the local sale barn and made sure it had colostrum. We are atempting to put the jersey on the holstein cow and wanted to know of any tricks to doing this as the holstein cow has about an 18″ – 24″ milk bag in diameter and is having trouble walking. I am not a born to be farmer and have never milked a cow, but it seems like she needs some relief. Any help in the matter would be GREATLY appreciated!

    • Hi Tammy,

      Sounds like you’ve got a real milk cow there! If she’s accepted the jersey calf, along with her own, they should begin to drain that milk from the cow and reduce the size of her bag and teats.

      If the teats are so big the calves can’t nurse them, then you might attempt to milk the cow a little. If you’ve had no experience at milking, that might be a difficult task, especially if she’s not a trained milk cow. In my long-time beef cattle experience, I’ve only had to milk a couple of cows right after the birth of their calves. I’ve put them into the chute, secured them in the head gate, let down the right side of the bottom of the chute to give access to the teats (growing up, we milked cows and you always milked from the right side).

      Carefully reach in to one of the front teats (watch for a kick) and first, just touch and stroke a little to get her used to your touching her. When she calms down enough, you may want to put some warm water on the teats, then begin trying to squeeze the milk out. If the teat hasn’t been sucked, it might take a little while to get milk to come out.

      Hope this helps you out.

  9. Something we’ve noticed with our cows when they have twins is that in the beginning they’ll take one and leave the other. It appears as if one calf is abandoned but instead they have a “day shift calf” and a “night shift calf”. The “night shift calf” appears to be abandoned because you never see it with the mother in daylight hours and it lies in the same place all day. We’ve taken these calfs to mom thinking they were rejected and the moms will often totally ignore them when she has the other calf. We’ve bottle fed some of these apparently rejected calfs in the past and now I wonder if we should have waited a little longer and just kept an eye on the seemingly abandoned calf. Now that we have more twinning experience we watch for the changing of the shifts and check the calfs belly to make sure they’re fed.

    • Jan,

      Thanks for your comments on Twin calves. Your observation is very good. I don’t know that I have ever noticed that about cows with twins. I’ll be more observant from here on out to see if they have the “day calf” and “night calf.”

  10. We have a 3 week old calf twin that was rejected by mom. She is eating very well but has a fever and a limp. We gave antibiotic and b-complex shots to no avail. Cannot get fever down until yesterday we gave her tylenol with her feeding. She also is limping on hind leg and walks on the leg like she is tip-toeing. Does anyone have some words of wisdom or information to share?

  11. Hi Dawn,

    Sounds like you have run into one of the problems with twin calves – one always seems to have some sort of problem or multiple problems. I have never had much luck in treating baby calves and getting them over their problems, especially a “bad” leg. In my experience, you just have to try to let them get over it on their own. It may take awhile, but, if the calf is taking food and continuing to get stronger, eventually, the limp may go away and hopefully she will get over whatever is causing the fever.

    I once had one of the twins which was blind at birth. I bottle fed her and for about 60 days her blindness continued, but one day I saw her avoid one of my dogs and figured out she now had some sight. As she got older, it seemed her blindness had completely gone away.

    So, my theory is, sometimes it’s best to let babies (calves) heal on their own.

  12. Can a first calf holstein cow manage on her own with her calf? Will she produce too much milk and need to also be milked by hand? Will she produce adequate milk supply for her calf? Will she produce little milk and the calf will need to be given supplemental milk?

  13. Hello Good Folks —
    I am writing a novel about a mama cow (Mama Red) with twins. And like you all are saying, she abandons one (heifer) and accepts the male. Question: Do any of you know what the selection is all about? Is it based on gender or the size or something else? Any help would be greatly appreciated!! I want to understand this as much as I can. I grew up on a beef cattle farm in SC. Thanks! Bren

  14. If only cows could talk! I don’t know that anyone has ever figured out the selection process by the mama cow when she has twins. And, as you say, it’s usually the heifer that gets abandoned. I thought, with each set of twins, I knew why, but have decided there really is no pattern.

    So, to tell the truth, I certainly don’t know and I doubt if anyone could determine the reason for the selection/rejection. As I said at the beginning -if only cows could talk, we could probably find out!

  15. GARY NOLTING says:

    My experience with twins. If you keep mother cow pinned in nursery for birthing both calves she will likely accept both calves. However if she’s free to roam, she will likely lick on the first calf, then when she starts to deliver the second one she’ll move, forget about the first one and hardly ever accept it.

  16. I have a 8 yr old cow that just had her 6th baby on x-mas eve. She is the most protective mother to 1 thru 5 but now she doesn’t want number 6!!! Does any one have any idea what the problem could be????

  17. Karen,

    It sounds as if you have a similar problem to what I had this fall. I had a cow have her third calf and the first few days everything was fine. Then, one day she “parked” the calf near the pens and went out to graze. I decided that would be an opportune time to put the ID tag in the calf’s ear.

    I went out, caught the calf, brought it into the pen and tagged it. When I tried to take it back where he was, he took off and finally settled in a different spot. The cow came back, looking for the calf. When she didn’t find it in the spot where she left it, she began “bawling” frantically, the calf jumped up and ran to her, she smelled it, decided it wasn’t her calf and wouldn’t let it suckle.

    I then put the cow and calf into a small pen, thinking I would force her to understand that was her calf. She continued to kick him off. I resorted to giving him a bottle feeding a couple of days. After giving the calf a little milk from the bottle, he would frantically and persistently try to suckle his mother, but she continued to kick him off.

    Next, I decided to try something a friend who had been in the dairy business told me they would use to get a cow to accept a calf that wasn’t her own. I put the cow in the chute and rubbed Vicks on her nose. I smeared Vicks all over the calf. Turned the cow out, gave the calf a little milk from the bottle, he ran to momma when he finished and began to persistently try to suckle. She turned, smelled the calf, settled down and allowed the calf to nurse. She and the calf bonded and it is now growing as it should with momma taking good care of him.

  18. We hate twin calves. Mostly if it is a bull and a heifer calf, because the heifer will then be a Queen and not fertile.

  19. Ah twins…got to love them! We pen the mom and twins until we know for sure she loves them both making sure each is getting fed. Sometimes we have to put mom in a squeeze and let one suck on each side so she gets use to seeing one on each side at once. Not sure but kind of like a horse that you have to train on each side of brain. The calves seem to pick their side and always go back to it. Another trick that works wonders to bond any calf to a cow, is to put them in a stall, sprinkle water then grain on calf, then turn out the lights for the night. By daylight, the cow will have licked calf clean and think I love this calf:) We have used this trick many times to put a twin on a cow that lost a calf so that each twin has 1 mom.

  20. This has been most helpful. We have just had our first set of twins, both males. We think the momma took to the first but not the second born. Yesterday we fed him a bottle of colostrum and had him in the back yard. He seemed fine and healthy. Last night he wouldn’t take another bottle and this morning he won’t eat again. He is no longer getting up and walking around like he did yesterday. I have him in the house with me now because it is raining and getting cold outside. Any ideas about why he seems to be going downhill?

  21. Mary Ann Nilson says:

    I love Lynne’s trick: “…Another trick that works wonders to bond any calf to a cow, is to put them in a stall, sprinkle water then grain on calf, then turn out the lights for the night. By daylight, the cow will have licked calf clean and think I love this calf :)”

    I have heard about the Vicks trick: “I put the cow in the chute and rubbed Vicks on her nose. I smeared Vicks all over the calf. Turned the cow out, gave the calf a little milk from the bottle, he ran to momma when he finished and began to persistently try to suckle. She turned, smelled the calf, settled down and allowed the calf to nurse. She and the calf bonded and it is now growing, as it should with momma taking good care of him.”

    My story: We had a cow on a high protein supplement two months ahead of breeding. The Brangus Cow had been letting others (cows and calves) suck on her along with her calf. We had to separate the cow and the calf from the herd. We added the supplement to help the cow maintain and gain some weight. (Note: We have an Angus Bull, his off spring are small calves). Eventually a neighbor bought the calf.

    When we released the cow back into the herd, she bred quickly and produced heifer twins Christmas Eve 2010. We watched the cow her leave one heifer on one side of a fence, go to the other side and nurse, then rotate back to the other for two days. When both calves joined mama, we separated all three from the herd to give mama supplements and free will high-grade hay all day. The cow has readily accepted both heifer-calf twins. All are doing well.

  22. Mary McNamara says:

    I have an interesting question….We had a cow die a few weeks back after calving and were bottle feeding her calf(heifer) until one of our heifers calved. The heifer has accepted this calf along with her calf (also a little heifer). There is a week age difference between the calves and they both seem to be doing good. Does this cow have enough milk for both of these little girls?? She’s angus and a big cow and her bag seems big. I’m just not sure if we should pull the orphan off of her or let them be a little family. Any ideas?

  23. Hi Mary,

    If the cow has accepted both calves and they seem to be healthy, I wouldn’t worry about pulling one off and putting on another cow. I’ve had several mother cows raise two calves and even though they may not gain quite as fast as a single calf, they have all been healthy and learned to forage for themselves pretty quickly.


  24. We have found a no fail way of getting momma to accept her calf or to put an orphaned calf with a non biological mom.. Milk the mother cow by hand and rub her own milk on whatever calf you want her to accept.. Never fails, or at least not for us..
    We have also recently had a set of twins and momma loves them both but I fear she just doesn’t have enough milk to sustain both of them.. We have been supplimenting both calves in hopes to give momma a little bit of rest.

  25. i have a question. We had a cow that gave birth to twin heifers. She raised both of them and was a wonderful mother. They are now almost 18 months old. Does anyone know if it is true that twins don’t reproduce?
    Would love your thoughts on this.

  26. Twin heifers will reproduce. A heifer of twins that are one of each is called a Free Martin and will not reproduce. Hope this helps:)

  27. Thank you Lynne!!!
    I love my twins and want to keep them but only if they reproduce.

  28. Hi Dianne

    If both are heifers, they will reproduce. If the twins are a bul & heifer, the heifer will not be fertile and will not reproduce

  29. Thank you so much Rob,
    That is exactly what I wanted to know. Yeah!! I get to keep the twins!!! Thanks!!

  30. Mary Ann says:

    My Christmas Eve heifer twins are now five months old. Great question from Dianne: so, 10% of TWINS ARE BOTH HEIFERS and those WILL REPRODUCE; 90% of twins (Free Martin) that are a heifer and a bull calf explain why so many ranchers will say twins will not reproduce. I am also keeping my twin heifers. Dianne, please post when your twin heifers are bred and when they give birth – I wonder if “they’ll” have twins also? I enjoy this site and information shared, Thanks to all of you.

  31. Dianne/ Mary Ann

    Also keep in mind that if both are males, the males will also be fertile,


  32. pamward says:

    At our farm we had a cow that had twins, we did not know until the next day,so it went that whole night and the next day until we seen it. Of course the mother rejected it, we bottle fed it, it was so weak, would not take a bottle well, then we tried to tube feed it, it was just to weak and did not make it.

  33. Rochelle says:

    I have been reading past experiences from people and now wondering if we did the right thing! The 1st year heifer had twin and has rejected the bull calf and took the baby heifer and now we have taken the bull calf home, got some colostrom and milk replace. It has been appoximately 20 hours since she gave birth. While he was still with his mother she would move around anytime he’d try to suck and then would sort of charge him with her head. Hope we did the right thing bring him back to the barn with us!

  34. Rochelle,

    You probably shortcut a lot of hassle by going ahead and bringing the bull calf to the barn and starting to bottle feed him. Sometimes, by putting the cow and calves in a confined area, you can get the cow to eventually accept the second calf, but it doesn’t always work.

    I’ve tried nearly every “trick” known to get a cow to accept a calf – some worked, some didn’t. One trick a dairyman told me was to rub Vicks on the calf and then rub the Vicks on the cow’s nose. This worked for one cow who rejected her calf.

    Another suggestion was to rub the afterbirth over the calf so the cow will “know” the calf is hers. This worked one time when I was grafting a calf to a cow who had lost her calf at birth.

    I even had a neighbor who had a “twins halter” I used to try to get the cow to accept both calves. The halter latched the calves together and when the accepted one suckled, the other was right there with it. That didn’t work too well because she just kicked both of them off!

    As I said in the original article – sometimes twins are a blessing and sometimes they’re not. In any case, they’re a lot of work!


  35. … if she’s free to roam, she will likely lick on the first calf, then when she starts to deliver the second one she’ll move, forget about the first one and hardly ever accept it.

    This was exactly my experience this spring. Galloway twin bull calves were born early morning. First calf – the bigger stronger one – rejected throughout the day. Isolated them in the barnyard overnight and hoped the mother would accept both calves. She did not. Rejected calf was noticeably weaker in the morning. Got an initial colostrum feeding in him and thought we were in the clear. We were not. Subsequent feedings went poorly. Resorted to force feedings through that day and night. Next morning the calf seemed stronger and fed well. Rubbing the back of the upper palette very useful in stimulating nursing. Calf that I and my 30 year dairyman friend thought dead for sure the previous day made a specacular comeback. 2 weeks after calving and he’s doing great. Mother has never accepted him as her calf. Some of these tricks might have worked but not with her. She is extremely protective for the first couple of weeks after calving. She will charge you if you get too near. Yet her calves have the sweetest temperment of the whole herd. Glad we managed to save this one – so far. I’ll feel a lot better at a month about his continued survival.

  36. i have a problam.we have an orphan calf and it is weaned and we have a cow with a calf that lets it suck but her bag is small (not a big anouf for both). want to get it a weaning ring with the spikes.But im scard that the cow will not let its real baby suck because of the other what do you think.

    • Nathan Boles says:

      Well, if the orphan is nursing another cow, it’s not really weaned, I’d think. But, my suggestion would be to pen the orphan for a couple of weeks and feed it to really get it weaned. That way you can keep it away from the surrogate cow that’s letting it nurse. I agree with you that the mother cow might start “kicking off” her real calf if you put the weaning ring on the orphan.

  37. Hi Everybody;

    Im looking for a kind of cow whihc is giving twin or more calves in every born. Do you know any kind of cow like this? Maybe I can import my country…

  38. John Bonds says:

    I will do anything not to bottle feed! I have several sets of twins each year. Before I started here they were sold for $100 right away. When I asked why I was told that they would be abandoned or just not grow. So I now keep all of them, its free money right? I put them in a small pen . I put the stronger one (the one that eats freely ) on the outside while the other tries to eat. If the mother wont allow it I put her in the chute open the side and nurse the calf. Usually after about 3 -5 days the cow starts to let the calf nurse on its own. If that doesnt work, I try to use a cow that the calf was born dead. (if I have one) I put her in the chute. and nurse the calf. I put that cows pee, poop, after birth (if its still there) on the calf and it almost always works. Once the cow gets used to the smell of the baby. I usually have 4 or more sets of twins a year. So far it has worked out really well. 5 days uf nursing the calves on the cow beats bottle feeding any day. Especiall if you use milk replacer. Not worth it. I dont know everything but you can email me anytime.

  39. I was told that twin cows can’t have children.. Is this true?? please help

  40. i am seeing that we were very fortunate with our twins. The mom accepted both and raised both with no problem. It did take a toll on her but she was an exception to the rule. We had twin heifers and they are still with us. We wanted to see if both would calf. The verdict is still out. They should have calves by March.

  41. Dianne

    Yes it is true that if they are male & female, the female will not be fertile, but the male will be fertile. But, if they are both females the will both be fertile, and if they are both males, both will be fertile.


  42. Hi Everyone. this is just great reading about the twin calves, we have been very lucky with them, the mother has always taken the second calf so far ( shouldn’t talk to load ,will back fire one day, now after reading all the troubles out there) only thing we see is, yes the mother doesn’t seem to have enough milk, so on the last pair we had, gave both calves a bottle, then they would turn around and go right to the mother and suck, they are cute. Once they got out on green grass, the mother had enough milk for both. All depends on the cow, had another, we fed the one calf, yes hieter calf on the side till weaning. The comment on them not catching right away, haven’t had that, the twins mother were right on schudule……. Oh, here’s one more thing, had one cow have twins two years in a row, there the poor girl had to work hard and the the third year she was open, but she was old then too and think a bit wore out.
    Will try some of the grafting tricks on the first time heifer’s that give us trouble.

  43. Everyone’s tricks for getting cows to accept their twin calves are great! From experience, I know that some tricks work for certain cows and the ones that don’t work will work on other cows. It is important to remember that each circumstance is different than the last, and not to get frustrated too easily and try-try-again.

    For those of you who find it works best by using grain or afterbirth from the other twin or dead calf on the grafted calf, you should try O-No-More, made by Springer Magrath ( Put it on the calf when still wet from birth or dampen the calf with a wet towel and apply. It’s ingredients smell good to cattle and also encourage cows and heifers to clean their calves.

    In the spring of 2011 we had a terrible time with the Central Missouri weather in the spring with deep snow and extremely cold temperatures, and the cows were not wanting to clean their calves completely or even claim them. The claiming part could be due to that we were calving out large numbers of cows in a small area. Once I discovered the O-No-More and got our first shipment in we started using it right away. It was a complete turn around with both problems. Calves were licked clean and dry…thus preventing them from freezing due to still being wet in awful weather. And mothers were claiming babies. :)

  44. My cow just had twins on Tuesday in Webuye Kenyan East Africa it accepted the second and not the first.

  45. Hello ,
    I want talk everyones story about cows born sometime twins happen good prefect but ,
    Before My cow had born first time ONE female calf , than later next bred back to red augus bull was bred my cow have twins one bull and one female (SEX). So I wonder I would keep one her female will be raise for grow and breeding for her born future for twins butcher ? So I wonder I will selling bull baby , one baby girl keep or what will you explain me about it ?

    Because VET say sometime say one bull and one girl not same sex must selling , if same sex twins will keep and more born future for meat butcher .. But I think werid.. I have asking to you who farm know rasie true story ? please email me at

    thankyou .
    Sincerely Sonya
    AAA Redcloud Ranch

  46. Carolyn in Idaho says:

    Our Reg. cow has had twins every other year, has accepted both and they always
    were the same height & weight. This year she did have twin heifers.

    I wonder if these heifers are more likely to also birth twins.

  47. Lynnette Barney says:

    We just had a set of twin heifer calves. They are black angus. The first day the cow took care of both calves well, the second evening I couldn’t find one calf. The next morning she still wasn’t with the mother. I hunted and found her under a bush at my line fence. I carried her across two fields and two creeks to try to get mom to take her. fMom smelled her and went right on with the other calf. I now that the calf in the barn bucket feeding her. She is a pet now and my grandson will be showing her in 4-H for the next few years. This is my first set of twins ever. I have bred black angus for the past five years, so I was very surprised to find two calves when we went to check on them.

    Thank you for this article. I learned a few things. My cow may have been doing the shift mom as one other comment said, because the calf wasn’t in bad shape when I found it. I just figured it would be better for the cow and calf if I took her.


  48. Yes, Carolyn in Idaho, when twins are bred to twins they have a higher rate of twinning. It’s a genetic trait.

  49. New to the game and my black angus just had twins. The first was a bull and then I saw hoofs coming she had the second fast and it was not moving tried everything but to no luck. Once a cow has had twins does she always have twins and any hints what I could have done.

  50. A cow that has had twins will have a greater chance of producing additional twins but will not always have twins. When the ovum bursts from the ovary, hormones are produced which shuts down the development of the remaining ova. Sometimes the shutdown isn’t fast enough and 2 ova are released resulting in twins. This may or may not happen again. Depends on the cow.

  51. Barbara says:

    Hi there,
    We live in Australia and my husband and I have a small herd of angus bred cows.
    I had a cow that produced twin bull calves one year.
    In another year the same cow produced a heifer.
    Subsequently as an adult cow she had twin heifers.
    One of these twins then had twins herself.
    It’s fair to say that this is a strong twin line.
    Also this year including today we have had a total of 4 sets of twins out of 48 cows.
    Two sets of heifer calves and two sets of bull and heifer sets.
    Fortunately our cows do have a good milk supply and we also put these cows into seperate paddocks for a short time for two reasons.
    1. Is to give the cow a chance to care for both her calves without loosing one or leaving it behind. We check the cow every day and make sure that if the cow is with one calf that it is not the same calf. Sometimes the calves feed at completely different times of the day so one is sleeping and the other is with the cow
    2. We endevour to assist the cow to get better or more feed to maintain body condition, hence getting these cows back in calf together with the rest of the herd.
    We have never had our cows reject their second calf but I have seen it happen many times in other peoples herds. Ther is no rhym or reason for this behaviour but I suspect that sometimes cows work to nature and decide somehow that perhaps they cannot raise two calves because of the season.
    We looked after a property that calved 220 cows a year and on two occasions we have seen cows reject a single calf to such a degree that they have almost killed the calf. These cows were not bred again and culled.
    We also had an incidence of a cow that rejected her calf every year for 3 years but we were unaware of it being the same cow until I took over the records. On the last two occasions she was the last cow to calve for the season and had the calf pulled both years so there was no mistake that the calf was hers.
    We often go above and beyond during calving as ultimately every live calf is a profit and if the cow doesn’t have sufficient milk then we either foster or hand raise it.

  52. Last year ,( 2011) we had 3 sets of twins, first set, lost bull calf, think other cattle stepped on him in pile of hay. Had 2 more out of BWF (put her up about 2 wks as cold & rain) and Angus cow, they both raised calves. This year we have had 3 sets so far, lost 1 each on first 2 ( 1 a first calf heifer) and now have Angus cow up with babies, she is taking both. We’ll keep her up a couple weeks til they can keep up good. Don’t know why so many, last years out of Horned Hereford Bull, this year we had a Brangus and Limousin, still have about 10 cows to calve. We run 35-40 cows, so a large %. But think would rather have singles.

  53. Jack Lassise says:

    On June 10, 2012 we had a cow (black angus), that had twins, a bull and a heifer. The heifer was having problems from the beginning and was too weak to suckle on the cow. We took the heifer to the vet and left her there for colostrum and antibiotics to kick start her immune system. When she got back the mother rejected her, with force and we had to bottle feed the heifer. At first we thought this was going to be a lot of work. What actually happens is this heifer is a joy to feed and by observation the heifer has been able to adjust to contact with humans. Trusting us for her daily nourishment was suprising and she now actually is waiting by the horse stall at feeding time, and after feeding, returning to the herd and playing with the other calves. The feeding schedule is the only difference, along with our close relationship with this heifer. The herd accepts this heifer as part of the herd, the only difference is she takes milk from the bottle. She will be off the bottle after 5 weeks and will drink from a bucket and start on calf starter, using the same familiar horse stall she is now being feed in.

  54. I just gotten angus twin bull cavles, with the help from the vet, bacuse I thought the heifer might have trouble ,Will the bull cavles be ok to use as breeding other heifers or cows, A heifer and a bull, a person should sell, right

  55. Nanette says:

    We have just recently purchased a 2 year old Red Angus bull that is a twin. I am curious as to the likely hood of twins with his breeding.

  56. I have 2, 3 y.o. Murray grey cows. Last year they were in calf to a black Angus bull. The bigger cow long her calf during birth. She proceeded to feed the other cows calf whilst her mother fed her as well. The next year I put both the cows to a Hereford bull. Both had live calves and they are great mothers. My daughter came across a Hereford calf that had been rejected by it’s mother and asked “did I want it”? So I took it , by chance I put the big (very maternal) cow in the round yard with her 3 week old calf and this new 1 week old orphan calf. She is feeding them both. I am supplementing her feeds to try to keep her milk up. My questions are 1. How long should I keep them penned in round yard? ( just worried if I let them out in the big paddock mum might stop feeding the new calf) 2. Is there a good feed particularly good for milk production? With thanks Kerrie, Australia.

    • sandi clisham says:

      Hi Kerrie – Just wondering how things worked out – are they both healthy. I live in Maryland,, USA, and have the same set for circumstances. I’m so worried the mom won’t be able to support both, but the first one I’ve been feeding, I let in with the mother of another new born and she is accepting them both. Milk production is a worry though. The one I’d been feeding will not take any more milk from me, and I’m having a hard time separating her from the others. Thanks, Sandi (Is there anything I should be watching for??)

  57. Yesterday we had our second set of twins. Two years ago we had two bulls, the mother accepted both , they grew into healthy adults. This year we got a bull and a heifer, the heifer is much smalller and at first was rejected by the cow. We brought the heifer to her and it attemped to suckle but she kicked it several times. When I handled the calf and it cried she suddenly decided it was hers after all and began to wash it. Afer that cleaning she let it nurse. I put the trio into a small paddock and they’re doing fine. They are Angus cows.

  58. I have a small heard of black angus . Out of the 12 cows,I usually get one set of twins each year. So far all have been a bull and a hefier. They are about the same size at birth but of course the bull out growes the hefier by sale time. I have never tried to keep any of the twins. Right now I have a set of twins born on the 20th of September.Doing well so far. All the mothers were older cows, No twins born befor the 3rd calving.

  59. We had twins. Both female. We had heard they would never produce and then we heard they would. We did our own experiment and found out they did produce. Both had cutest little Brangus heifers. We also heard their Mom would reject one calf. We were lucky because when Sugar and Spice were born their Mom took both of them and raised them. It was really hard on her. The twins have remained so close. Even having their calves 1 week apart. Seems like they are always together. We love our twins and would never separate them.

  60. Well, MARC says twins are a bane for the beef industry. (Consider that they made this pronouncement after they spent $thousands and years developing a bull, MARC Twinners, whose daughters were likely to throw twins.)

    After all that money and time, they told us what most commercial producers already knew:

    Cows are more likely to refuse one of the calves.
    Cows are more likely to lose condition nursing two calves.
    Cows are less likely to bred back.
    They encountered twice as much calving difficulty with twins than singles.

    Twinning is definitely a heritable trait. In addition, a heifer born with a bull twin is generally a freemartin and will not breed. That is discourging if you are trying to build your herd by keeping heifers.

  61. Thanks to all of you for sharing you observations and research on twin calves. We had twins for the first time (alive, that is) this past summer (3 sets actually). On of the twin calves was born dead. The rest did fine, a couple taking longer to get started than the others. One of the sets were bull/heifer twins. I have read before that the heifer in these bull/heifer twins are not always infertile and will sometimes be perfectly okay for breeding. Is this true?
    Also, we have had problems before with calves seemingly having a hard time finding the udder. Instead, they go to their mother’s brisket or flank and start suckling. Has anyone else observed this odd behavior before? In our two or three cases, we ended up bottle feeding them for weeks before they finally figured out how to nurse correctly. This occurred in two of our older cows. Thanks in advance for your answers.

    • I know this is an older posting but thought I’d address the suckling problem.
      Almost all calves will naturally mouth all over the cow during their first attempt at suckling, until they finally find the groceries. However, I have noticed an increased incidence of “dummy” calves these past two springs. The spring of 2013 was a wreck of a calving season. Three of the eight calves I had in the house to be rewarmed simply could not find the cows’ udder. They would suck on a front leg or a nearby cattle panel all day, and never find the teat. Two of them I had to pen the cows up, not once, but twice, to locate the udder for the calf. The third had me convinced that he was nursing when he was actually sucking the cows upper udder, not the teat, and starved to death.
      I am inclined to blame it on the breed of bulls. I used Gelbvieh sires for 2013 and 2011 and in between used Angus. Got dummies and ‘froze’ calves in spring of 2011, some that just never seemed to do any good despite being warmed and fed. 2012 had a near 100% calf crop, vigorous mean little black calves. 2013 was a wreck of epic proportion. I’ve bred to Angus, Red Angus, Simmental, and Charolais over the years and never had a third of the problems I did with those Gelbvieh-sired calves. A shame since they were great to feed out.

  62. We had a set of Black Angus twin calves born in April 2007. The mother was excellent, taking the twins in 12-hour shifts until they were strong enough to join the herd. When the twins were five months old, the cow died suddenly. The heifer made the adjustment fine, as they were both well-weaned. The bull-calf (now steer) continued to attempt to nurse on other cows – who would actually allow him. For nearly two years, we were afraid they were actually dwarfed as their growth was well behind others their age. They will celebrate their sixth birthday in April of this year, 2013, and they are now more than a foot taller than the rest of the herd, and several hundred pounds heavier. They are true oxen at this point. We’re thinnking we have the largest, oldest Black Angus twins on record, but how would we verify that? We’re very, very proud of them, and would love to show them off!

  63. I am a student away at university who grew up on a Red Angus cattle farm in Canada. A few years ago my parents sold 95% of their herd, only keeping the yearling heifers. Fast forward to this year and we have 4 cows to calve in late January/early February.
    Last Wednesday I called home to talk to my Mom and she said she couldn’t talk because a cow was calving but the calf was backwards so they had to pull it. A few hours later I called back and she said the calf was born butt first and stuck, they had to push the calf back in before they could grab its back legs to pull it out. Unfortunately the calf died. Oddly enough 25% of our calf crop was already dead.
    When I called back tonight I asked if they had had any more calves born in the past week. This is what she told me:
    The cow that had lost her calf last Wednesday was pregnant with twins, when they went back out a few hours later they found a second calf. Due to the long difficult birth, both twins were born dead. The second cow to calve also had twins, both alive. My dad separated one of the second twins from its mother and as soon as it started bawling the first cow to calve, who lost her babies, immediately rushed to mother the second calf. She just really wanted something to mother, regardless of whose calf it was. My father was more worried about the calf accepting its new mom than mom accepting baby. Usually when we put one calf on a cow that lost her calf we skin the dead calf and wrap the skin around the live calf and tie it until mom accepts the calf (gross, I know, but it works and because we calve in the winter in Canada the cow usually accepts the new calf long before the skin starts to rot in the cold weather). Anyway the third cow calved soon after that and also had twins. As far as I know she has accepted both calves.
    So this year 75% of the herd was pregnant with twins. I almost hope the last cow has twins too because it is so weird. So 3 cows, 4 live calves and 2 dead calves so far this year. The twins were 2 heifers and 1 bull and 1 heifer. we will probably end up eating the heifer because she will most likely be sterile I believe they are 5 or 6 year old cows. It is just so odd that this happened.

  64. Mike had twins last spring. Was lucky cow accepted both did stress cow,weaned calfs a month early.all are doing well, cow is due in march bred to same bull, should i expect twins?

  65. Hershel Pearson says:

    One of my cows had a set of twins last year and same cow another set today.last year she kinda ignored one so I put them up in a corral.Today I went to check sex of each.I went to one and mamma shook her head at me so I backed off I went to the other one laying 10′ from the first one mamma shook her head and started toward me so I high tailed it out of there so I guess she going to claim both this time.I guess she got used to two last time around,

  66. We had a set of twin heifers yesterday. The mom rejected one but was nursing the other one. We had a cow that lost her twins four days ago. We brought the cow in the headgate and put the calf in there to nurse. The cow let the calf nurse without any tricks. We put them back in the pen together and the calf was still nursing she accepted it right away. When we checked this morning the real mom had lost her calf we found it dead. She was not near it at all. It appeared to be pretty healthy. We are wondering if we need to put her other calf the one she rejected back on her or keep it with the cow it is currently nursing ?

  67. Cindy Chandler says:

    We just had twin bulls born to one of our heifers 10 days apart. The mama is nursing both but not producing enough milk. We are bottle feeding some. The first calf, now 12 days old is eating grass. Is this normal?

    • Nathan Boles says:

      Yes, it is normal for a baby calf to begin grazing when it is just a few days old. Doesn’t take them long the learn what they need to do to survive!

  68. Robyn,
    I was wondering if all of the heifers were sired by the same bull. I’m looking to know if the Dam or Sire is the carrier of the twin gene.

    • All calves were out of the same bull. All the Dams are probably related in some way as well. They are all the same age so they are either out of one or two bulls. Plus we had the herd for 15+ years and we didn’t buy any replacement heifers so almost all the cows were closely related. last year we used the same bull and no twins. I think it was a bit of a fluke.

  69. stephanie says:

    hey guys,
    we have a little herd of herfurds, we just started not too long ago, and we just had our firsth calf about a week ago, we had no problems with that one, and yesterday we had a heifer that still birthed twin bulls, she was about 11 days late. she went into labor sunday night, so yesterday we checked her, and the first cow was breach, we pulled him out and was he was still the next came out still too. i believe they had gone too long inside the mama cow, they drowned. i was wondering if anyone could give me some suggestions on what we should have done, and what we can do next time.

  70. We have just had twin heifers born 4 days ago, out of a Murray Grey cow and by a Speckle Park Bull. The first born was up and feeding, had a rest and was up running about, while the second born was still lying covered in membranes. The mother was so distracted by the lively first calf that she was unable to concentrate on the second. After a little while the decision was made to dry off the calf and give it a vigorous rubbing and get it to its feet as it was very cold. We were able eventually to get the mother to let the calf suck, but on the second day noticed her kicking it away every time. We then put a collar on each calf, joined by 1 foot of chain and swivel joint, and despite a couple of tantrums initially, the calves are now happily feeding on mother and have learned to run around the paddock together. The mother has learned that they come as a pair, even though she only likes the smell of one. The rejected twin is now also getting the warmth and contact of the mother by default. In a couple of days we will take the collars off and see if the mother will accept both calves. The rejected twin will eventually learn to feed from behind when she sees the other one feeding. I have not tried the collars before, but it was recommended by someone who has had a lot of success using collars with twins.

    • Donna Locke says:

      I have been told not to breed a twin heifer as you will have problems. Do you know anything about that as I have a twin heifer and bull set and I will keep her if I can breed her but I have been told to sell her off and not bother. Do you know the answer.

      • Nathan Boles says:


        Heifers from a heifer/bull twin set are “usually” sterile for some reason. Although I have known of people keeping and breeding a twin heifer successfully, I generally do not try to keep the heifer for breeding purposes. They’re known as freemartins.

        If you look up the definition of a freemartin in Wikipedia, it says, “A freemartin or free-martin (sometimes martin heifer) is an infertile female mammal which has masculinized behavior and non-functioning ovaries.[1] Genetically the animal is chimeric: karyotyping of a sample of cells shows XX/XY chromosomes. [The animal originates as a female (XX), but acquires the male (XY) component in utero by exchange of some cellular material from a male twin, via vascular connections between placentas.] Externally, the animal appears female, but various aspects of female reproductive development are altered due to acquisition of anti-Müllerian hormone from the male twin.[2] Freemartinism is the normal outcome of mixed-sex twins in all cattle species that have been studied, and it also occurs occasionally in other mammals including sheep, goats and pigs.


  71. We just had a set of twin heifers today, 93 degrees out. We have had over the past few years at least 25 sets of twins, we have one registered Angus cow that has had three sets, always accepts them. The heifers born today are big, both the same size and very frisky. We have found if we find them right after they are born and put them in a pen where the cow can’t take off with one of them the chances of her claiming both is very good. We will keep this cow and calves by themselves so we can feed the cow extra, we will also wait till next spring to breed her back, twins take a lot out of a cow.

    • Hi I”M from South Africa and the lucky owner of a small Farm situated in the Parys area and have 2cows giving me twins and both are Heifers. I do Farm with Bonsmara cattle who”s been breed specialy by Prof BONSMA years ago for SOUTH AFRICA. The cows do look very well after the calves and have no problems not wanting them . I do give the cows extra food for milk production.

      • Mogomotsi says:

        Hi. I m from South Africa, north west mahikeng town. One of my bonsmara cows gave birth to two female twins. The cow looks ok but I want to give extra feed, any advice on type of feed and supplements to give?

  72. Terry Hobbs says:

    I have a 3 year old cow this is her second calf she had her Friday night. Saturday am I saw some of the after birth hanging out but gone by Saturday PM. Today Sunday about 3 PM checked on her and saw what looks like mucus hanging out of her. Would this be after birth or could there be a second calf in her? If anyone has had this happen or knows the answer to this question would you please let me know.

  73. Hershel L. Pearson says:

    I have a cow that had twins 2 years in a row and I hope she has 3rd set in 3 yrs.First set was born feb.2012 second set born feb. 2013. First set was bull and heifer, 2nd set both bulls .Each time I put the cow and twins up in the corral.She didn’t want one calf to suck so I put her in the squeeze chute dropped the side lower panels for the calf to suck for a few days then she accepted both.First set brought $1663.50 at auction.and 2nd set now in weaning pens.I kept the cow and twins up for one month each time giving the cow plenty of feed to increase her milk production.

  74. We have a first calf heifer (hereford/angus cross) who just had twin bull calves 4 days ago. She birthed them both by herself without assistance and totally surprised us. We were not expecting twins! They are very small but seem to be healthy. We bottle fed one the first day because when we found him we weren’t sure who the Mama was but she came up bawling when she heard him bawl and has now accepted him with the other one. Problem we are having is that since he has been with her he now refuses to suck the supplement bottles. We are concerned that she won’t be able to make enough milk for both calves and want to do everything we can to help them. Any tips on how to get supplement to the calves and how to supplement her. We have them in a separate small pen close to the house so can watch them closely. So far they are doing well. We did do a tube feeding a couple of times on the smaller one because he seemed a little dehydrated. Never had twins before so would appreciate any advice. P.S. We are a very small operation and have plenty of time to do whatever is needed.

  75. I had a young heifer give birth, this was her first time. But it has been a year and she hasn’t gave birth since and she’s not pregnant. Can anybody tell me why she’s not having calves or not even pregnant.

  76. I am a city girl from America who has been on a beef cattle farm in Australia for 22 years. Our stud Droughtmaster cow produced twins in February. We were there right after she finished. Both bull and heifer got up without trouble and nursed. We check on the three of them EVERY day and all appears to be well. However, the bull is not thriving but the heifer is. We see her feeding both. Any ideas?

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