Observed frequency of monozygotic twinning in Holstein dairy cattle

Noelia Silva Del Rio, B. W. Kirkpatrick, P. M. Fricke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Bonnier's equation is used to mathematically estimate the frequency of monozygotic (MZ) twinning in epidemiologic studies of twinning in dairy cattle; however, no empirical determination of MZ twinning has been reported in the literature. Our objectives were to empirically determine the frequency of MZ twinning in lactating Holstein cows and to compare this result with published estimates predicted using Bonnier's equation. Ear biopsies were collected from 107 sets of Holstein twins from six Wisconsin dairies resulting in 40 opposite-sex twins, 29 same-sex male twins, and 38 same-sex female twins. To empirically determine the frequency of MZ twinning, DNA extracted from ear biopsies collected from the 67 same-sex twins was PCR amplified using primers for a minimum of 5 polymorphic microsatellite DNA markers. Opposite-sex twins were classified as dizygotic (DZ) as well as same-sex twins differing in at least one microsatellite DNA marker. Same-sex twins were classified as MZ when all genotypes for a minimum of five markers were identical. Of the 67 same-sex twins, 62 were classified as DZ and 5 MZ resulting in a MZ twinning frequency of 7.5% of same-sex twins and 4.7% of all twins. The estimated frequency of MZ twinning in this population of twin calves using Bonnier's equation was 39.5% of same-sex twins and 24.7% of all twins. We concluded that MZ twinning occurred infrequently in Holstein cattle and perhaps less frequently than that reported in studies using Bonnier's equation to estimate MZ twinning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1292-1299
Number of pages8
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 15 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Bonnier's equation
  • Cattle
  • Holstein twinning
  • Monozygotic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Small Animals
  • Food Animals
  • Equine
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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