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J Dairy Sci. 2007 Mar;90(3):1255-64.

An observational analysis of twin births, calf sex ratio, and calf mortality in Holstein dairy cattle.

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Department of Dairy Science, University of Wisconsin, Madison 53706, USA.


A data set of Holstein calving records from January 1996 to September 2004 comprising 4,103 herds with 2,304,278 calving events representing 1,164,233 cows and 96,069 twin births was extracted from Minnesota Dairy Herd Improvement Association archives to assess reported twinning trends and calf mortality across time. Overall, the reported twinning rate was 4.2%, and twinning increased with parity [1.2% for nulliparous vs. 5.8% for multiparous cows; odds ratio (OR) = 4.9], and with time (3.4% in 1996 to 4.8% in 2004), with a parity by time interaction. Independent of parity, the greatest twinning rate was observed when conception occurred from August to October compared with other seasons (OR = 1.2). Calf mortality was greater after twin births, with 28.2% of twin calving events reporting one or both calves as dead, compared with 7.2% for singleton births (OR = 6.5). Calf mortality for primiparous and multiparous cows was 5.0% after a single birth and 25.5% after twin births, whereas for nulliparous heifers, mortality was 10.4% for singletons and 38.0% for twins (OR = 3.4). Calf sex ratio (male, M; female, F) was 53.3% M and 46.7% F for singleton calves, and 30.1% MM, 43.6% MF, and 26.3% FF for twin calves. Although specific factors cannot be implicated, the increase in twinning across time suggests a concurrent change in one or more causative factors associated with twinning during the 9-yr study period.

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