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Influence of suckler cow genotypes on calving

The annual meeting of the European Federation of Animal Science took place in Belfast recently. Chris McCullough reports.

One of the sessions at the EAAP conference looked at whether suckler cow genotypes had much of an influence on how easily the cow calved, and mothering ability post-calving.


Dr Denise Lowe from Agri-food and Biosciences Institute detailed a three-year study which compared two suckler cow genotypes – Limousin cross Holstein (LH) and Stabilisers – in terms of performance at calving.


Both dam genotypes were bred to a Stabiliser sire and at calving time cows were scored for calving difficulty, cow temperament, mothering ability and milk supply.

Milk composition

In addition, a sample of colostrum was collected as soon after birth as possible in years one and two and analysed for milk composition.


The study found there was no significant effect of dam genotype on concentrations of casein, lactose, protein or urea nitrogen in colostrum.


However, colostrum from LH dams had a numerically higher fat concentration in both years, but it only approached significance in year two.


Average concentrations of 13.1g/kg were recorded in the Stabiliser breed and 48.8g/kg in the LH.


The study also found dam genotype had no significant effect on incidence of calving difficulty. There was no significant effect of dam genotype on cow temperament scores in year one and two, but Stabiliser cows tended to have a better temperament score in year three than LH cows.


When the three years of data was combined, dam genotype had no significant effect on cow temperament or mothering ability scores. There was also no significant effect of dam genotype on vitality score of calves.


There was a trend for a higher proportion of LH cows to have a plentiful supply of milk compared to Stabiliser cows when the three years of data were combined.

Use of genetically modified livestock

The first transgenic livestock – livestock which contains genetic material transferred from another organism – emerged in 1985 via microinjection of foreign DNA into zygotic pronuclei.


Microinjection is the use of a glass micropipette to inject a liquid substance at a microscopic or borderline macroscopic level.


This technology has been the method of choice for more than 20 years, but has recently been replaced by more efficient protocols based on somatic cell nuclear transfer which are compatible with targeted genetic modifications.


Dr Heiner Niemann from the Institute of Farm Animal Genetics in Germany delivered a presentation looking at genetic modification livestock in agriculture and biomedicine.


He said: “Although the efficiency of transgenic animal production by microinjection technology is low, farm animals with agriculturally important transgenic traits were produced.


“Typical agricultural applications included improved carcase composition, improved lactation performance and wool production, enhanced disease resistance and reduced environmental impact.


“As the genome sequencing projects for various farm animal species near completion, it has become increasingly practical to target the removal or modification of individual genes or even single base pairs with the aid of gene editing tools.


“It is anticipated this approach to animal breeding will be instrumental in meeting global challenges in agricultural production in the future and might ultimately contribute to satisfying the increasing demand for valuable animal derived proteins for an ever-increasing global human population and will also open new horizons in biomedicine.”

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