Holstein identical twins inseparable since birth

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer
Identical twin Holstein calves Brette and Bree have been inseparable since birth in 2015.

They say that twins often share a unique bond.

My grandmother was an identical twin and as a child I often confused the two of them. Not only did they share the same appearance, they sounded alike and continued to dress the same into adulthood.

The continued to call each other every day until my aunt died, leaving my grandmother behind to mourn the loss of "her other half." 

I often wondered about animals. I have two calico cats from the same litter that were separated when they were about six months old when my husband snuck one home one October day four years ago.

We decided we would bring her sister home from the farm the following spring. After a few sniffs the two were like two peas in a pod.

Sara Mikshowsky of Bangor, Wis., says she has often heard the cliche that twin animals have as special bond as twin humans do.

"After witnessing it myself with our Holstein twins, I believe it to be a fact," Mikshowsky says.

The twins Mikshowsky refers to are Brette and Bree that were born April 12, 2015, on their 60-cow dairy farm that she runs with husband, Randy in southwest Wisconsin. 

The Mikshowsky's were only expecting a single birth from the dam named Bliss and were surprised when a second heifer was born that spring.

"They looked very much alike so we didn't know for sure if they were identical," she said. 

The couple had been doing genomic testing on some of their better animals, so Mikshowsky pulled some tail hair from each twin and sent in the samples. When the results came back, all the numbers on the report were the same.

"I called the Holstein Association to ask if that meant they were identical twins and was told that was probably the case," she said. 

Almost all dairy cow twins are the result of double ovulation, meaning that the cow has released two eggs. If the eggs become fertilized and implant themselves in the uterus, they are considered dizygous twins, and in the case of humans would be referred to as fraternal twins.

Identical cattle twins are known as monozygous twins, which account for less than 10% of all twin pregnancies in dairy cattle, according to  Paul Fricke, a dairy reproduction specialist with the University of Wisconsin.

Mikshowsky said Brette and Bree were raised in calf pens next to each other and were moved to group housing when they were around 2 months old.

Owner Sara Mikshowsky says twins Brette and Bree are seldom seen apart on their small dairy in Bangor, Wis.

"I always noticed that you didn't see one without the other," she said. "Time and time again I would see the two of them standing together, laying together and would have to snap a picture of them. They rarely left each other's side."

The twins joined the milking herd about a month apart in the summer of 2017.  Mikshowsky admits she was "after" her husband to move the twins next to each other in adjoining stalls in the stanchion barn.

"(After the move), it was delightful to watch them greet each other again," she said of the now 4 year olds. 

The sisters are also turning in similar results in the area of milk production. Mikshowsky said Brette and Bree have always been within 1500 pounds of each other's 305 day milk production records.

"They averaged around 28,000 lbs. of milk their first and second lactations, and are on course to top that in their third lactation," she said.