The good news is that our first batch of premmie twins – Ella and Bella – are absolutely thriving. The bad news is that we’ve now had four sets of twins out of 10 cows.
At first blush, you’d think I’d be overjoyed but lots of twins is not a cause for celebration on a dairy farm. Twins take their toll on the mother cow, who is more likely to have trouble calving, more likely to be sick afterwards and all this also affects her production and ability to get back in calf next season. The calves are also more likely to be unwell because they tend to be smaller and suffer more difficult births. The female twin of a male/female pair is nearly certain to be a freemartin, unable to breed.
One of our favourite cows, 771, gave birth to a small but gutsy heifer this morning and then we discovered another set of hoofs coming out. Sadly, Wayne had to give 771 help and, despite us acting immediately, the second little girl was stillborn. As I held the first little calf, Laura, while she had her first drink, I couldn’t help but feel a lump in my throat as I heard Wayne carry her dead twin away.
I wonder what’s causing this? I hope it’s just a run of bad luck but other farmers have reported increased twinning on their farms too this season. The research suggests that lots of great quality feed at breeding time might be the cause and, yes, nine months ago, the cows did have a wonderful diet. Maybe that’s the reason but it does leave a farmer scratching her head and crossing her fingers (if it’s possible to do both at once!).