RELATED:Efficient breeding goals at Blighty
TECHNOLOGY that allows producers to duplicate their prized animals is no longer the stuff of science fiction.
Cattle breedersin NSW are within months of having “clones” of their best genetic stock thanks to advances in the nuclear transferreproduction technique –the same technique which produced Dolly the sheep in the UK in 1996.
Blighty dairy farmer and British Friesian breederAndy Lostroh has selected his best cow and isawaiting the implantation of embryos which contain her DNA.
“The cow we’ve chosen to duplicate carries the A2 gene, has consistent milk supply, calves at regularintervals and has a good temperament,” Mr Lostroh said.
“A piece of her ear has been harvested, embryos have been made from that and now we’re arranging to implant the embryos.”
Bio-ConsultantDr Andrew French, Melbourne, is the scientist behind the scenes. He said the hard yakka takes place inthe laboratory.
Cloverton British Friesian stud owner Andy Lostroh, Blighty, is trialing a breeding technique which takes DNA from a skin tissue sample.
“The technique involves removing the DNA from an unfertilised egg and replacing it with DNA from a somatic cell or embryonic cell. Thisusually involves electrically fusing a skincell with the egg that has its DNA removed. Then, using a series of chemical steps, the new egg with DNA from the skin cell is activated (like the process of fertilisation, but no sperm) and cultured in the laboratory until it is ready for transfer into a surrogate,” Dr French said.
Dr French, whose commercial venture is called EmbyroGensis, hasbig plans for the technique’suse in Australian agriculture.
“The power of any technology has the potential to innovate and revolutionise the way farming is conducted.In our discussions with producers, and others, we are only just realising the innovative ways where this technology might be applied.”
The possibility of rapid mass production of elite animals could transform the seedstock industry.
“This technologyallows you to access the top oneto fiveper centof your herd and accelerate that breeding across a number of different lines in a much faster breeding platform.”
Le Martres Limousin stud principleLeon Martin, Albury, said the technique was cost efficient. Like Mr Lostroh, he’shad embryos from his best breeding stock harvested by Dr French. Mr Martinsaid for about$3000 he’ll havecalveson the ground at the start ofnext year.
“As a breeder you’reaiming for near perfection with yourindividuals.Uniformity is very important to us so this technique has opened upan enormous opportunity to achieve that,” Mr Martin said.
Dr French said any breedercould now “insure” the valuable genetics of their top animals, reducing the impacts of animal injuries or devastatingbushfires.
“We can now generate a cell line that can be stored in a liquid nitrogen tank that allows the producers to access those genetics at any time,” he said.
Farmers could soon duplicate their best working dogs, too.
“In Australia, we have started to collect and produce cell lines from dogs that have an exceptional sense of smell – think rescue dogs andcustom dogs.”
Local use of nuclear transplantation techniques is in step with global the take-up. Dr French has collaborated with a South Korean company that has produced more than 500 dogs by nuclear transfer.
Late last year The Land reported China was buildingthe world’s largestcommercial animal “cloning”factory.
The factory will be based inthe northern port city of Tianjinandwill breed animals including beef cattle,dogsand racehorses.
It will produce 100,000 cattle embryos a year initially, eventually increasing to onemillion.
Both Mr Martin and Mr Lostroh didn’texpect theirbreed societies to have any problems registering animals bred using the nuclear transfer technique.
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