Cow Delivers a Four-Toe Calf

Gideon Hangara has been farming for more than thirty years on the farm Otjitundu near Epukiro in the Omaheke region but recently witnessed something that he has never seen before: a new-born White Brahman calf with four toes – instead of two – on its right hind hoof.

Hangara says the calf was born in the morning. “I was in Windhoek at the time, and when I arrived at the farm on Saturday for the weekend, I immediately enquired about the pregnant White Brahman cow and whether she had given birth yet. My wife Ingrid said the cow was still in the pens near the house and she was under the impression that it had not calved yet. Yet, during the night, the cow was making crying noises and we suspected that she had calved earlier the day whilst in the veld.”

On Sunday morning, one of his workers let the cow out of the pens when he realised she had calved and followed the cow for about one kilometre where the calf was found. “The little bull calf seemed to be in good health and was running around and greeted its mother but then we saw that it had a funny gait and did not put its right hind leg down on the ground while running around. On closer inspection, we found that the calf was born with four prominent toes on the particular hoof.”

“Apart from the obvious defect, the calf behaved just like any other and drank from the mother. He looked fresh after the first few days and he had become the darling of everybody on the farm, and even some visiting neighbours who goes there just to see the big attraction. I will not use him for breeding in future as he might pass on the defect genes, but we will keep him and give him special treatment because he deserves it for being so brave,” Haugara???? says.

The “four-toe wonder”, as he has been dubbed for now, is kept in the pens close to the house where he is observed on a daily basis. “He gets spoil rotten and I don’t want to know how he is going to behave when he gets bigger and more confident. But we love him and we will deal with that comes the time,” he says.

Experts explain that additional toes on new-born calves (Polydactyly) is a condition that occurs in the developing foetus. Most often these conditions are caused by genetic factors. Polydactyly can be caused by the presence of an autosomal dominant trait. An autosomal dominant trait is a gene that is not related to the chromosome that determines gender therefore it affects males and females. Because the gene is dominant, when one parent has the gene, each of his or her off-springs has a 50 percent chance of having polydactyly . One or both front feet are usually affected but all four may have the outer dew claw develop into an extra toe. At least two sets of genes are involved in the inheritance of this trait.

Veterinarians spoken to say an animal with one undesirable recessive gene may also have thousands of very desirable genes. With carriers with superior genetics, strategically mate these animals to non-carriers in a terminal crossbreeding programme where all calves are marketed for beef production and not for breeding purposes. Alternately, a superior son could be produced for use as a herd sire that does not carry the defect. In most cases, defect carriers should not be used to produce breeding animals. “Therefore, do not keep replacement heifers that are defect carriers. When other cattle with similar or superior genetic merit that do not carry the defect can be utilised, systematically work carrier females out of the herd and replace them with cattle that do not carry the defect.

“Good monitoring and control measures by seed stock operations will help control the incidence of genetic defects in commercial cattle populations. Even with seed stock level management of genetic defects, commercial cattle producers may still need to cull carrier animals within their herds if the incidence rate of a genetic defect rises to a level where it becomes an economic problem. Yet in most cases, careful sire andor breed selection can be an effective approach for managing genetic defects in a commercial herd without the need for extensive cow herd culling, experts explain.

Source : New Era