Chinese scientists have successfully cloned three “super cows” that can make a lot of milk, according to state media. This is seen as a big step forward for China’s dairy industry, which will no longer have to rely on imported breeds.
Scientists from the Northwest University of Agricultural and Forestry Science and Technology raised the three calves, which were born in the Ningxia area in the weeks before the Lunar New Year on January 23. This was reported by the state-run Ningxia Daily.
They were made by cloning cows from the Holstein Friesian breed, which comes from the Netherlands and is known for being very productive. The chosen animals can make 18 tonnes of milk each year, or 100 tonnes of milk over the course of their lives.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, that is about 1.7 times as much milk as an average cow in the US would produce in 2021.
An official in the city of Wulin in Ningxia told the state-run Technology Daily that the first of the cloned calves was born on December 30 through a caesarean section because it was so big. It weighed 56.7 kilogrammes (120 pounds).
According to the Technology Daily, the scientists took cells from the ears of the most productive cows and used them to make 120 cloned embryos. They then put those embryos in cows that would act as surrogates.
In what is being called a “landmark” conservation project, Chinese scientists clone an Arctic wolf.
The project’s lead scientist, Jin Yaping, called the birth of the “super cows” a “breakthrough” that makes it possible for China to keep the best cows “in a way that makes economic sense,” according to the state-run newspaper Global Times.
In China, only five out of every 10,000 cows can produce 100 tonnes of milk over the course of their lives. This makes them a valuable resource for breeding. Jin said that it is hard to breed some cows that are very productive because they are not found until the end of their lives.
The Global Times says that as many as 70% of China’s dairy cows are brought in from other countries.
Jin told the newspaper, “We plan to take two to three years to build a herd of more than 1,000 super cows as a solid foundation to deal with China’s dependence on overseas dairy cows and the risk of being “choked” [by supply chain disruptions].”
Farmers in many countries, including the US, breed clones with regular animals to add desirable traits, like high milk production or resistance to disease, to the gene pool.
In the past few years, China has made a lot of progress in cloning animals.
The world’s first cloned Arctic wolf was made by a company in China that clones animals.
In 2017, Chinese scientists said they had made cloned cows that were less likely to get bovine tuberculosis, a disease that can harm cows in many countries.