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Published On: Sat, Jul 22nd, 2017

‘Holly cow’ births to twins

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It’s not every day that a cow gives birth to twins. One would expect to see multiple births in smaller animals as opposed to the imposing beasts.

So when The Sunday Mail Society got word of a cow giving birth to two healthy heifers at the Panganayi Boran Stud on June 21, in Wedza, it took note.Whether this was true or one of those usual young boys’ tales, I never managed to verify.

While colleagues claim this is nothing new, I have to concede that in my two decades experience with cattle, either herding the few that my father owned or as an owner myself, I have never seen this, the closest I came to it being when a schoolmate told me his father’s had delivered twins during my primary school days.

University of Zimbabwe Animal Science lecturer, Dr Edward Chikosi, confirmed twin births in cattle were, indeed, very rare if not next to non-existent.

“Twinning is very rare in cattle with probability anything between zero and 10 percent but very close to zero,” said Dr Chikosi.

“Ranchers and researchers have invested heavily in genetic selection and improvement but this is a trait which is very difficult to improve by selection because breed plays no part in this and heritability is between two and four percent,” he said.

So if breed selection is not a determinant then what does and how then can a farmer out there work hard to have his cows giving birth to twins, is the next question.

“I am happy you said the twins were born at a stud, that’s a sign the farmer there takes good care of his animals as is the case with all stud breeders,” explained Dr Chikosi.

“You see, what we have in animal husbandry is we have traits like growth rate which a farmer can improve by selection because its heredity is over 50 percent unlike twinning which is less than five. So the biggest determinant in this case will be good animal management.

“You also have to note the basic thing that twins are a result of double ovulation by a female and this is highly likely in later parity or in simple terms, older animals,” he said.

We tracked down Mr Mussolini Ganyo, owner of the twin mother, near Wedza whereupon not only the twins would welcome us but a thriving Boran Stud which is clear testimony of the success of Zimbabwe’s land reform programme.

The twins, according to Mr Ganyo, is the third set that he has had at the Stud, from different cows, since he started cattle ranching in 2006.

So why these twins cases?

“I am not an expert in that field so I probably would not be better placed to explain why we are having twins,” was Mr Ganyo’s honest opening remark.

“But what I can say is we take extremely good care of our animals so if you say experts have told you that it’s a product of good management then that makes a lot of sense.

“Another important issue that you might need to know is we only do the Boran breed at this Stud and you will be aware that the Boran is the breed that will give you the best results with the most minimum input from the farmer.

“If I put a Brahman here and or any other breeds together with the Boran, an onlooker will say the animals look the same in terms of final product but I guarantee you one spends much lesser on the Boran to get the same results,” he said.

Aptly named God’s gift to cattlemen, the Boran is rapidly growing to become the breed of choice for ranchers the world over and also thrives in Zimbabwean conditions.

Proponents of the breed, whose genetic composition is 24 percent European Bos Taurus breed, 64 percent Bos Indices and 12 percent African Bos Taurus has survived in Africa for over 1 300 years.

Referred to by some as the mothering cow of Africa, breeders say Boran cows have very good udders with well-formed teats which produce enough milk to wean calves that weigh more than 50 percent of dam’s weight at weaning.

They are also survivors which can go for up to 15 years in good health and still high on fertility.

According to Mr Ganyo, even under harsh conditions the Boran cow will continue to breed and rear calves and still maintain its excellent condition. With tick-borne diseases ravaging the cattle-rearing industry, choosing the Boran can come with high returns as its skin is not a favourite hunting ground for ticks. Carcass quality is also excellent in Borans with some local bulls fetching as high as 900 kg in live weight.-Sundaymail

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