Mapping of Bovine Genome Could Change Farming | Livestock

The unravelling of the Hereford Cow’s genome and the publication of its gene sequence could lead to serious transformation in future farming practices, scientists say. After a six year discovery, the cow genome has now joined the likes of humans, primates and rodents with all 22,000 genes being fully mapped. Proving to be far similar to the human genome than that of rodents, scientists are expecting genetics to take a major role in future bovine livestock breeding. And mapping the genome could have further benefits too. With their genome closer to us than lab rats, many of which have products tested upon them intended for the human market, human biology may also be learnt from this newly discovered sequence.Of the 22,000 genes, 14,000 are common to all mammals, the remaining 8,000 distinctly specialised to each species. By closely analysing the differences between varieties of stock, the functions of specific genes and gene groups can be clarified. Physical differences within cattle varieties can then be associated with certain genes and it is hoped that this process can lead to breeding better herds.Already in motion, a scientific team have begun to compare the genome of the Hereford cow to that of six other varieties. Using what they call a bovine “HapMap”, they can then track the variations within a cattle type to discover differences between breeds leading to differentiating milk and meat yields. Natural methods of livestock breeding may well continue, but with the genome knowledge, better stock pairings can be made, hopefully leading to healthier herds which produce more.And it certainly will lead to fast track improvement for dairy and meat livestock. Currently and for the most part, bulls are selected for breeding to create better cattle. It can take up to five years to determine a bull’s characteristics but with the genome knowledge and some genetic tests, essentially you can select your bulls at birth.In addition to thoughts of produce increase, immunity genes have also been discovered. Being ruminants, that is having four-chambered stomachs, leads to a very high population of bacteria within each individual. Though evolution has built some resilience to this, cattle are still vulnerable to disease, with high herd density increasing problems further. It is hoped that in addition to changes to breeding lineage, scientists will also be able to tackle disease resistance. This genome knowledge could also lead to breeding stock which has lower carbon footprint, particularly in respect to the production of greenhouse gases by the dairy and meat industries.

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