Allen says his company uses these technologies to qualify donor cattle using high-density genomic chips, collect ova from juvenile donors, conduct in-vitro fertilization using sexed semen and gestate resulting embryos in recipient animals.
The company also engages in cloning of elite beef and dairy cattle through its Viagen division. Cloning, Allen says, can greatly expand the reproductive potential of top animals and preserve genes as insurance against unexpected injury or loss. He cites an example of an outstanding Holstein bull with the pedigree and genomic numbers to serve as an elite AI sire. The bull, however, suffered from severe respiratory disease as a calf, which limited its performance. Its clone, however, sold over 100,000 units of semen into the dairy market. In the United States, the FDA declared in 2008 that food from cloned animals is no different from that of other animals, but the European Union has adopted policy that bans cloning of farm animals, imports of cloned animals and marketing of food from cloned animals.
Biotechnology applications in livestock also hold tremendous promise for food production and medicine, Allen says. Transchromosomic cows, for example, can be designed to produce human polyclonal antibodies. Pigs can be modified for use as medical models, speeding research into critical human diseases and producing human organs for transplant. Scientists have made progress toward introducing mastitis resistance and even BSE resistance in cattle. Much of the work, however, and commercial introduction of these technologies have been slowed or stagnated due to an excess of caution on the part of activist groups and regulators.
“The Precautionary Principle,” Stotish say, “has become the weapon of choice to prevent innovation.”
See this article and features on trichomoniasis, organic dairy production, vitamin A deficiencies, electrolyte therapy and a new approach to bovine veterinary practice in our May/June issue.