In early 2009 New Zealand scientists played a key role in genetic research that is predicted to transform cattle breeding techniques worldwide and lead to more efficient milk and beef production.
AgResearch scientists and Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) were part of a major international collaboration to map the cow. The results of the research were recently published in the journal Science
The scientists mapped 2,870 billionbuilding blocks that provide the code for the a cow's 22,000 genes (about 14,000 of which are common to all mammals, including humans).
John McEwan from AgResearch says, in return for our contribution to the study, New Zealand was allowed early access to data and influence in the decision to prioritise the cow genome over other.
“New Zealand will benefit greatly from this research due to its economic dependence on products from,” he says. Last year, around 38% of the $43 billion of New Zealand exports was derived from dairy, sheep and beef products.
One of the benefits of this research has been development of ‘SNP chips’, which are used to survey the genetic variability of the bovinepool. SNPs are single polymorphisms, or unusual variances in DNA.
Variants discovered as part of the associatedhave already been adapted by both of New Zealand’s leading breeding companies, LIC and CRV Ambreed, to speed up genetic progress in improving dairy production.