Study has human implication
New research that explains what makes some cows taller than others could also help to provide the same answers about people.
A New Zealand study, led by dairy farmer co-op Livestock Improvement, has received international recognition for identifying which part of the cow’s genetic makeup has an effect on height.
Their findings were published in Nature Genetics, an accolade that scientists all over the world strive to achieve.
Livestock Improvement’s Dr Richard Spelman said it unlocked the potential for Livestock Improvement farmers to choose how tall and heavy they want their cows to be.
‘‘We’ll be able to breed cows to a certain size, up to 40kg heavier or lighter and it also provides insight into human height because their DNA makeup is very similar to a cow,’’ he said.
New Zealand’s predominant cow breeds are the small, brown Jerseys and the larger black and white Holstein-Friesian.
The study aimed to find out what made one breed larger than the other.
Cow size has a direct link to farm animal productivity as heavier cows require more feed for maintenance, he said.
The study’s findings allow Livestock Improvement to potentially reduce the variance in its KiwiCross breed, a combination of Jersey and HolsteinFriesian.
‘‘The findings are significant as was the 10-year process to get there.
‘‘We went through the DNA of 800 cows and each has more than three billion base pairs to be analysed.’’
The team found a signature on chromosome 14 for the shorter cows and were able to identify the ‘‘one or two’’ base pairs that affected height.
Dr Spelman said being published in Nature was a great achievement for the team and New Zealand scientists. ‘‘It’s a highly regarded publication.
‘‘Publishing the work is an acknowledgement of how highly regarded New Zealand scientists are on the world stage,’’ Dr Spelman said.
Too tall or too short: A New Zealand study, led by dairy farmer co-op Livestock Improvement, has received international recognition for identifying which part of the cow’s genetic makeup has an effect on how tall it will be.