Triple the joy - twice

A western Victorian property has two sets of triplet calves


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THREE'S A CROWD: It's been third time the charm, with two sets of triplets being born at one Byaduk livestock property.

THREE'S A CROWD: It's been third time the charm, with two sets of triplets being born at one Byaduk livestock property.

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Twinners give birth to triplets - twice.

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While the birth of triplet cattle is quite rare on most farms, it's commonplace on one western Victorian property.

But Leo Cummin's Ivanhoe property, Bayduk North, has further beaten the odds this year, with two sets of triplets.

Mr Cummins said his western Victorian herd was based on the twinner selection line, developed in Nebraska by the United States Meat Animal Research Center.

"We typically see about 35 per cent multiple calves born, per calving, each year," Mr Cummins said.

"This usually includes one or two sets of triplets."

The beef twinners project started in 1981, with the centre selecting cattle based on their ability to produce twins.

This was based on selection on both twinning history and recorded ovulation rates over several cycles in heifers.

Bulls were selected which had high predicted breeding values for twinning, based on their daughters having twins and high ovulation rates.

These were mated to cows which had high predicted breeding values for twinning.

Breeds represented in the population include Holstein, Simmental, Charolais, Brown Swiss, Pinzgauer, Gelbvieh, Swedish Friesian, Norwegian Red, Shorthorn, Hereford, Angus, Swedish Red and White.

Mr Cummins said he looked up the rate of triplet births, among cattle, and found several sources claiming the odds in beef animals were about 1:105,000.

"In any case, it's clear triplet calves are quite rare in the normal cattle population."

Mr Cummins said this year's calving has seen the first 17 cows produce three singles, 12 sets of twins and the two sets of triplets.

"The number of multiples is higher than normal because we have downsized and moved the herd, using ultrasound to retain more cows with multiple pregnancies," Mr Cummins said.

Mr Cummins said he started importing twinners in 2004, running them on a commercial basis.

"They do require more supervision at calving time, but otherwise they are just like normal cattle," he said.

"The major benefit is that a cow with twins produces about 160 - 170per cent the weaning weight of a cow with a single.

"We have sold our steer calves in the Hamilton weaner sales where they seem to match other producers calves reasonably well."

He said mating the heifer calves at 15 months old saw twin born normal heifers get pregnant as successfully as the singles.

Steps to improve reproduction needed to differ, depending on the genetics and the environment.

"In better nutrition zones and where there are smaller herds and the ability for more intensive management over calving, twinning may be considered, so why settle for a goal of 90% when 135% is possible?" he said.

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