ATHENS, Ga. – Researchers at the University of Georgia have developed a technique which may dramatically improve the success rate of cattle cloning. Eight cloned cattle, ranging in age from two months to four months, were displayed as evidence of their success.
As little as two years ago, the highest rate of success for cloning attempts was one in 20; this technique has a success rate of one in seven, almost three times as high.
“To produce offspring and develop methods to improve the efficiency of the cloning process has been our goal,” said Steve Stice, who directed the research.
The calves will help pave the way for improved cloning technology, say experts with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
The improved technology, scientists say, will allow the livestock industry to efficiently meet consumers’ growing demand for consistent, quality meat products.
About 200 cloned embryos are produced in Stice’s lab each day. Only 10 percent to 20 percent of those embryos make it through the first seven days to be then transferred into recipient cows, he said.
But with the development of the eight full-term, healthy calves, Stice said, “We’ve shown significant improvement in the process.”
The calves are clones of a cow that had grown too old to reproduce, but had desirable traits worth preserving, he said.
The cloning process doesn’t change the genetic makeup. It repeats it, just like an identical twin in nature.
“Improvement in the efficiency of cloning will allow us to reproduce those individuals, bulls or cows, that have lost the ability to reproduce because of age or accident,” said Larry Benyshek, CAES animal and dairy science department head.
“If we can spread improved genetics at a faster rate,” Benyshek said, “this will be a great benefit for producers. That has ramifications for consumers and the public in general.”
Established breeding programs lead to the genetic traits farmers want, such as consistent meat and better breeding and nurturing characteristics, Stice said.
Just the beginning.
Cloning allows a way to more easily duplicate those traits. But there are still improvements to be made.
“The next step is to take it further and make additional jumps in pregnancy rates,” Stice said.