Twin and single pregnancies were induced in two groups of oestrus-synchronised beef cows by using a combination of artificial insemination and the transfer of in vitro fertilised (IVF) embryos. Single IVF embryos transferred non-surgically to the uterine horn contralateral to the corpus luteum of 43 previously inseminated cows resulted in a calving rate of 72 per cent with a twinning rate of 38.7 per cent. In 45 cows, two IVF embryos were transferred non-surgically to one uterine horn resulting in a calving rate of 51.1 per cent with a twinning rate of 39.1 per cent. The median gestation length for cows bearing twins was 10 days shorter than that of cows bearing single calves (P < 0.001). The proportions of cows that received assistance at calving were similar for twin and single births (57 per cent vs 45 per cent, P > 0.05), but the incidence of retained fetal membranes was much higher after the birth of twins (62 per cent vs 3 per cent, P < 0.001). Nineteen per cent of twin calves were stillborn compared with 6 per cent of single calves (P > 0.05). The median birthweight of the twin calves was 32 kg (68 per cent of the median weight of single calves). The nutrition of twin-bearing cows in late pregnancy was adequate when assessed in terms of their plasma glucose, non-esterified fatty acid and beta-hydroxybutyrate concentrations. Serum immunoglobulin concentrations were similar in single and twin calves suggesting that the passive transfer of antibody was not compromised in the twin calves.
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