Some cattle breeding improvement programmes particularly in continental Europe aim to reduce the costs of rearing calves by increasing the number suckled by each cow. This encourages the rearing of twins and an increase in the number of heifers born twin-to-bull. Many of these are offered in the market and bought on the assumption that they are single-born. A large proportion will be freemartins and therefore irremediably sterile. Theories of the aetiology of the freemartin condition are summarised. The anatomical, haematological and chromosomal characteristics are described. Diagnostic methods based on these characteristics are described and compared. The clinical method is recommended as reliable in all but a small proportion of cases. The clinical signs of the freemartin at age three to six weeks are the absence of the external os, and a vagina length of 5 inches (12 cm) or less. The veterinary surgeon is encouraged to make the diagnosis on these clinical signs alone.
- British Veterinary Association. All rights reserved.
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