Three weeks ago, on a bright spring morning we at Mini Miracles Farm were blessed to welcome two lovely mini Jersey heifers into this world. We should have realized that the dam might be getting ready to have twins, her udder had swollen to twice the size it’s ever been before calving; but we were utterly surprised when, after drying off and feeding colostrum to the first heifer, another pair of tiny back feet appeared from the rear of the cow!
These heifers were the result of embryo transfer and we later learned that only 1 in 1,000 embryo transfers result in twins. And, although one of them has a small white spot on her forehead, they are identical. Both heifers presented in the breach (backwards with the sole of the hooves facing upward) position, which is not unusual with twins. What is somewhat unusual, is that they are both strong and healthy.
Twins present complications in your normal calving routine as well as in the ongoing care of these calves. First off, we always feed the dam’s colostrum to new calves preferably within the first 30 minutes after birth. This means that with twins, we need to milk out 2-3 quarts of colostrum to give the babies the amount of colostrum we want them to have. This isn’t much of a problem, except that the early swelling in the cow’s udder is not yet milk, so you have to be careful not to hurt her or over milk her as she lets her milk down. In this case, because of the size of the dam’s udder and the amount of milk she was going to produce, we were concerned about milk fever and were very, very careful the first 4 days to just milk out only the amount of milk the calves needed and no more.
Another concern is that the dam often struggles to care for twins – sometimes stepping on one while tending to the other, occasionally the dam of twins will reject one of them. Since we bottle feed our calves anyway, we opted to remove both calves from their dam immediately and bottle feed them with their dam’s milk.
For the first 2 weeks after birth we feed 3 feedings of the dam’s milk per day to the little heifers, but this isn’t the extent of the care these little ones need. If you watch a cow and her calf in the pasture, you’ll notice that the cow will lick her calf all over, paying special attention to ensuring that the calf defecates and that its bodily functions operate correctly. So, when we feed our babies for the first 2 weeks, we take a rag and wipe first their navel to promote healing, then their anus to assist the calves’ elimination process. It sounds kind of disgusting, but it helps the calves and I’ve found that my hands are infinitely washable! The reward for all your effort is wonderfully healthy and happy calves.
Enjoy your spring calving season. It is such a wonderful time, and all too soon these little Miniature Jersey calves grow up!
Have a joyful life little Melody and Harmony.