Diagnosis of freemartinism in cattle: The need for clinical and cytogenic evaluation

Tingqing Zhang From the Departments of Veterinary Diagnostic Medicine (Zhang, Ruth), PathoBiology (Buoen, Weber), and Clinical and Population Sciences (Seguin), College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota, 1988 Fitch Ave, St Paul, MN 55108.

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Lance C. Buoen From the Departments of Veterinary Diagnostic Medicine (Zhang, Ruth), PathoBiology (Buoen, Weber), and Clinical and Population Sciences (Seguin), College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota, 1988 Fitch Ave, St Paul, MN 55108.

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Bradley E. Seguin From the Departments of Veterinary Diagnostic Medicine (Zhang, Ruth), PathoBiology (Buoen, Weber), and Clinical and Population Sciences (Seguin), College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota, 1988 Fitch Ave, St Paul, MN 55108.

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George R. Ruth From the Departments of Veterinary Diagnostic Medicine (Zhang, Ruth), PathoBiology (Buoen, Weber), and Clinical and Population Sciences (Seguin), College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota, 1988 Fitch Ave, St Paul, MN 55108.

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Alvin F. Weber From the Departments of Veterinary Diagnostic Medicine (Zhang, Ruth), PathoBiology (Buoen, Weber), and Clinical and Population Sciences (Seguin), College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota, 1988 Fitch Ave, St Paul, MN 55108.

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Summary

A total of 727 blood samples from female calves born co-twin to male calves were examined cytogenetically for freemartinism between 1978 and 1992. Six hundred calves (82.5%) were determined to be freemartins, and 127 (17.5%) were determined not to be freemartins. The percentage of calves determined not to be freemartins was substantially higher than the 8% reported for an unselected population of female co-twins. We concluded that some obvious freemartins were eliminated prior to submission of samples for confirmatory cytogenetic diagnosis, and that only a small percentage of the estimated 93,000 female calves born co-twin to male calves annually are so examined. Therefore, probably a large number of female co-twins that are not truly freemartins are sold to slaughter every year. We propose that obvious freemartins be identified by use of the vaginal-length test and that the remaining clinically questionable calves be differentiated cytogenetically. This combination of procedures could prevent unnecessary economic losses and preserve important genetic material.

Three animals with chromosomal anomalies were found during examination of samples for freemartinism. Cytogenetic evaluation for freemartinism thus offers the added value of simultaneous surveillance for cytogenetic aberrations in male and female cells of a sample.

Summary

A total of 727 blood samples from female calves born co-twin to male calves were examined cytogenetically for freemartinism between 1978 and 1992. Six hundred calves (82.5%) were determined to be freemartins, and 127 (17.5%) were determined not to be freemartins. The percentage of calves determined not to be freemartins was substantially higher than the 8% reported for an unselected population of female co-twins. We concluded that some obvious freemartins were eliminated prior to submission of samples for confirmatory cytogenetic diagnosis, and that only a small percentage of the estimated 93,000 female calves born co-twin to male calves annually are so examined. Therefore, probably a large number of female co-twins that are not truly freemartins are sold to slaughter every year. We propose that obvious freemartins be identified by use of the vaginal-length test and that the remaining clinically questionable calves be differentiated cytogenetically. This combination of procedures could prevent unnecessary economic losses and preserve important genetic material.

Three animals with chromosomal anomalies were found during examination of samples for freemartinism. Cytogenetic evaluation for freemartinism thus offers the added value of simultaneous surveillance for cytogenetic aberrations in male and female cells of a sample.

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