Can Cows Have Twins?

Cows can have twins, but they are pretty rare. Twins only happen in around 2% of all pregnancies.

Single births are far more common in cows, while twins might only happen in the case of altered genetics, split embryo during pregnancy, or double ovulation in female cows.

Cows can have twins, just as it is with the majority of mammals in the wild. Twins are still pretty rare – only about 2% of all pregnancies will result in the birth of twins, while some estimates put this number even lower. Cows that are raised and fed adequately are more likely to have twins than other cows.

Can Cows Have Twins

How Often Do Cows Have Twins?

Cow pregnancies will end in twins in about 0.5% and 2% of all pregnancies. It is thus not very common for cows to have twins, but it might still happen in some rare cases.

Twins are not very common in cows. But compared to human births, it is more common for cows to have twins than humans. In human pregnancies, twins only occur in 0,04% of all pregnancies, while with cows, this percentage is much higher. The highest estimate is at around 3% of all pregnancies.

In 1993, scientific research and statistics showed that twins happened in around 0,5% of all cow pregnancies. This was reported in Hoard’s Dairyman, which estimated that twins in cows happen in 1 in every 227 birth in cows, which results in about 0,5% of all pregnancies in cows. 

However, twin births might be even more common than 0,5%, according to veterinarian Bob Larson, who is a Kansas State University veterinarian expert who often deals with cattle births. According to his estimate, cow twins are more common than twins in humans and many other mammals.

For farmers and cattle owners, twin births are not very desirable. They often denote health problems in the cattle that are born as twins, so these types of births are not a reason to be happy. These health problems are quite common, but they do not always necessarily happen to cows that are born as twins.

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Why do Cows Deliver Twins?

Twin births might happen due to several reasons. The most common reasons are double ovulation, genetic reasons, cows with higher rates of fertility, as well as reduced progesterone levels in cows.

Most of these factors are caused by genetics, but some factors are caused by the farmer and other circumstances. 

For instance, the main reason for high progesterone levels has been because of higher food intake in the past 15 years in cows. The higher food intake reduces the blood flow through the liver of the cow, which also reduces the progesterone levels in cows significantly. This can cause the cow to have a higher chance of double ovulation.

And double ovulation in cows is one of the main reasons why they are more likely to deliver twins. Double ovulation is sometimes genetic and it cannot be impacted. But in many cases, it can be avoided by decreasing the food intake of cows that are likely to deliver in the next few months.

But that is sometimes hard to do since cows need food to produce adequate levels of milk, especially during pregnancy. This leads them to require more food, and double ovulation is thus more likely. To reduce the chances of this happening, farmers need to reduce the food intake of pregnant cows.

Other reasons for twinning in cows are mostly genetic and sometimes cannot be influenced. This might be because of the splitting of the embryo that happens naturally during pregnancy. In rare cases, it might be a sign of genetic deficiencies in cows, which might cause twins to die after they are born.

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Can Cow Twins Live Normally?

Cow twins are sometimes born as a result of a genetic deficiency. Most cow twins might have problems, while some of them might not even be alive when they are delivered.

The other twin might still survive, but will be more likely to have health problems down the line.

Twinning is not a desirable trait in cows. The reason for this is that cows that are born as twins are rarely healthy and some of them die early because they are born as twins.

This is why farmers want to reduce the chances of twinning in cows, which they can influence slightly by decreasing the food intake of pregnant cows.

Cows that are born as twins might not survive for long after birth. Some of them are also stillborn, but the other cow might still survive. However, even if the other cow from the pair survives, it is likely to have health problems down the line.

The reason for this is that twins don’t get ample nutrients during pregnancy and are thus more likely to be born weak or not to survive at all.

Many cows that are born as twins will survive pregnancy and birth but might not live long after the birth, or will survive but will not be as healthy as other cattle.

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Can Twins Get Rejected by the Mother?

The mother might reject the calves that are born as twins, especially if they are born weak or with deficiencies. The mother will prefer to save calves that are healthy and more likely to survive.

Twinning can also have consequences on the mother-calf relationship. For example, some mothers might reject their calves if they are born as twins, especially if they are weak or have some deficiencies. 

In such cases, the farmer would need to ensure that the rejected calf gets enough food to survive even though it has been discarded by the mother. Such calves can have normal lives provided they get ample food and proper treatment early on.

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Final Thoughts

Twinning can happen in cows, but it is rare. It will only happen in 0,5% to 2% of all pregnancies. It is not a desirable type of pregnancy because twins are more likely to be weak or have health problems.

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