Willard Yeomans, who owns Oak Ridge Dairy located just north of Grand Ridge, discovered a very unique heifer calf in his calving pasture in early September. The calf was born with an extra set of legs protruding from a small mass behind her navel. Yeomans said, “I have been milking cows for 58 years and have never seen anything like this!”. Yeomans invited his County Agent, Doug Mayo, Jackson County Extension, to come out and see this strange calf. Mayo, said ” I have seen a calf with two front hooves, but never seen two extra limbs like this on a calf”.
Video News report: WJHG Channel 7 news story about this 6 legged calf.
Mayo contacted Beef Cattle experts at the University of Florida to try to find out what may have caused this strange birth defect. Dr. Owen Rae, DVM, University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, said “The condition is called polymelia or, an easier description, parasitic limbs. The cause is unknown. Some suggest it could be related to the failed development of a second fetus or it may be due to errant limb buds in the embryologic development of the fetus. It is unknown. These conditions are rare and are not likely heritable or likely to be repeated in future calves from the dam or the bull breeding. The calf may be able to live a reasonable but obstructive life.”
Dr. Maarten Drost, DVM, Professor Emeritus University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine also shared information about this type or rare birth defect. He said that “Polymelia is a descriptive term which literally means “many limbs” (poly=many and melos=limb, in Greek). Conjoined twins are relatively rare in the bovine as well as in other species. They are the result of an error during very early embryo development, during the first 7 to 8 days. The inner cell mass consists entirely of totipotent cells, each cell capable of developing into a complete individual. When one of more cells get pinched off they go on to develop into identical twins. During fission some stem cells may connect with other stem cells from the twin and develop into an incomplete twin that remains attached. These twins share one placenta. This is not a hereditary problem. Fraternal twins each have their own placenta.”
Yeomans knows this heifer will never become a productive dairy cow, so he is hoping someone might be interested in purchasing this unique animal. The heifer is almost 4 weeks old now and really enjoys being bottle fed. So far she is doing well, the strange legs don’t seem to bother her to much.