Scientists at the Livestock Improvement Corporation believe they have found the gene responsible for a small number of unusually small calves appearing in dairy cow herds over at least four decades.
The discovery was made within the last two weeks, according to an LIC announcement.
The LIC says this is an interim statement. A detailed information pack will be available for farmers, dairy genetics companies and media tomorrow.
Dairy farms commonly lose between two and four percent of calves each year for a variety of reasons and this discovery was made as part of LIC’s ongoing research to understand whether there is a genetic basis to those losses. The gene variation discovered explains a small proportion of those losses.
LIC says it believes the variation has existed within the dairy cow population for at least 40 years. Its frequency is assessed to be 10 to 15% in the Holstein Friesian, and half that in the crossbred, populations.
Where both parents carry the variation there is a one in four chance that the progeny will be small.The discovery of the variation was accelerated due to LIC’s ongoing investment in DNA sequencing technology. The knowledge gained will enable the variation to be managed out of the population over time.