Scientists from the Roslin Institute and the Centre for Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health (CTLGH) discovered that domestication has had ‘comparable effects’ on regions of the genetic makeup of cattle and water buffalo, associated with production traits such as milk yield, disease resistance and birth weight.
This is important because, if genetic sequences linked to beneficial traits can be found in different species, gene-editing techniques may help improve the productivity and health of agricultural animals.
“Cattle and water buffalo have been selectively bred for similar traits. For example, body size and milk production. Such traits will most likely be the easiest to compare and therefore benefit from these kinds of comparisons across species,” Dr James Prendergast, Senior Research Fellow at the Roslin Institute, told FoodNavigator.
“By better understanding the genetics of domestication across cattle and water buffalo we can use the knowledge we have gained about one species and apply it to another, to further improve animal health and productivity.”
Moreover, this new understanding of the genetic crossover between water buffalo and cattle unlocks the door to breading healthier livestock, the scientist continued.
“Cattle and water buffalo are susceptible to many of the same diseases, for example tropical theileriosis which productive European cattle are particularly susceptible to, reducing their use in endemic areas. These diseases can therefore be a major barrier to increasing livestock production. By understanding the genetics of tolerance to diseases in one species will potentially allow us to improve the tolerance of the other.”