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?