- Genetically modified cow will be same as other livestock minus the horns
- Scientists to use sophisticated gene-editing technique to add extra DNA
- Will mean farmers no longer have to burn off horn buds in young animals
By James Rush
PUBLISHED: 19:58 EST, 27 April 2013 | UPDATED: 20:06 EST, 27 April 2013
Scientists are genetically altering cows so they have no horns in a bid to make them safer.
The genetically modified dairy cow will be identical in every way to other livestock but without the horns, in order to cut the risk of injury to farmers, walkers and other animals.
The scientists are using gene-editing techniques to insert an extra DNA, which is known to halt horn growth in other breeds of cattle, into the geneome of holsteins, the world’s highest-production dairy animals.
Geoff Simm, professor of animal breeding who chairs the government’s Farm Animal Genetic Resources Committee, has championed the idea in a Defra report on livestock genetics, The Sunday Times has reported.
The idea is based on research at Scotland’s Rural College, near Edinburgh, which allows scientists to make precise changes to DNA.
Scientists at Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute are working with Scott Fahrenkrug, professor of genetics at the University of Minnesota, who is looking to create cows without horns by using the technique.
He has taken a strip of the DNA which suppresses horn growth and inserted it into cells from a holstein bull called Randy.
He told The Sunday Times: ‘We have already made millions of modified cells. Next we will use cloning technology to turn some of those cells into 40 embryos and implant them into a herd of surrogate mothers, in the Midwest of America, within weeks.’
The animals will be clones of Randy, minus the horns, while their offspring should also be hornless.
Fahrenkrug said: ‘Creating hornless dairy cows would decrease animal suffering, protect people and cut costs.’
Farmers have managed to breed out the ability to grow horns in beef cattle, such as Aberdeen Angus, but it has been found to be impossible in dairy breeds without affecting milk yields.
It has left many farmers having to burn off the horn buds when the animals are young, a painful procedure for the cows
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