Give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day. Give a man a hybrid supercow with the udders of a heifer and the ruggedness of Masai cattle, and he will eat cheese for a lifetime. Or a cow’s lifetime at least.
That is why Bill Gates is investing in British research to improve livestock health and yield — so cows can make more milk for longer. In particular, he is funding studies that will help to create cows with the genes for the bumper milk production of a northern European heifer but also an African cow’s ability to survive in the blistering sun.
[Appolinaire Djikeng, director of the Centre for Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health] said that their first goal was to pin down the parts of the genome on different breeds of cow that were responsible for their desirable traits. “We are looking for disease resistance. Some locally adapted breeds do well with infestation. We are also looking at animals with the ability to have a high rate of feed conversion, and others that tolerate extreme variations of temperatures,” he said.
Their intention is not to create a genetically modified cow but to provide the genetic tools to breeders to make crossbreeding far more efficient — by, for instance, screening embryos that have the desired traits for a particular environment.
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