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Journal of Applied Genetics 43(1), 2002, pp. 55-68

Genetic aspects of twinning in cattle


Abstract: Twinning in cattle ranges from about 1% for beef breeds to about 4% for dairy breeds. The incidence of double births may have both positive and negative effects, which mainly depends on the purpose for which the cattle are raised. Because of freemartinism, as well as management problems connected e.g. with a greater risk of dystocia and retained placenta, it is an undesirable trait in dairy herds. In beef cattle, however, twinning can considerably increase the efficiency of production. Low heritability, a long generation interval for progeny testing, sex-limited expression and an unfavourable correlation with milk yield make twinning difficult to control by selection. Hence, it is the type of trait for which the identification of the genetic marker - quantitative trait loci (QTL) linkage and the implementation of marker-assisted selection in breeding strategies are expected to be especially beneficial. Searching for QTL influencing the reproductive rate in cattle was performed mainly in the US Meat Animal Research Center twinning herd and in the commercial Norwegian cattle population. Among several genome regions that appear to control twinning and ovulation rates, the most interesting seem to be chromosomes 5, 7, 19 and 23.

Key words: cattle, ovulation rate, quantitative trait loci, twinning rate.

Correspondence: J. Komisarek, Department of Cattle Breeding, Agricultural University of Poznan, ul. Wojska Polskiego 71A, 60-625 Poznan, Poland, e-mail:

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