First draft of cattle genome mapped

Complete mapping of the cattle genome could lead to improved beef and dairy production.

More than 22,000 genes have been mapped and scientists now have a draft of the entire genome.

This research gives a unique insight into the biology and evolution of cattle and could lead to a revolution in cattle breeding, said Shirley Ellis, head of the Bovine Molecular Immunology Group at the Institute of Animal Health.

“Potentially, this could lead to increased milk production, disease resistance and meat quality, and animal welfare benefits.”

There are also significant implications for human health, as cattle are widely used as models for human reproductive biology and infectious diseases.

This achievement provides a firm basis on which to base future studies into genetic diversity in different cattle breeds and populations, said Dr Ellis.

“It is crucial that variation is maintained through appropriate breeding programmes. This will help maintain healthy cattle populations in both the UK and worldwide, able to cope with climate change and emerging diseases.”

The Livestock Immunogenetics group at The Roslin Institute, headed by Liz Glass, was involved in annotating the immune related genes. “Understanding these genes will provide new opportunities to select cattle more able to cope with the onslaught of infectious disease,” said Dr Glass.

Douglas Kell, chief executive of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council recognises the current global climate means there is increasing need to produce more food with fewer resources.

“We need to recognise the fact livestock play a key role in many people’s diets. Research such as the cattle genome project underpins the delivery of sustainable and nutritious meat with the highest possible standards of animal welfare.”