subject: genetics

Dairy Farmers Prefer Healthy Manageable Cows

Dairy Farmers Prefer Healthy Manageable Cows

Reaping the rewards of the genomic revolution in selective breeding in of dairy cows requires an informed and engaged dairy farmer response. A study published in December 2016 from a Danish group of dairy scientists reports that farmers rank health and management qualities above production traits in their cows. However, this ranking differs depending on whether the farmer is classified as organic or conventional. Read More...

Tasmanian Devil Milk Provides Powerful Antibacterial Proteins

Tasmanian Devil Milk Provides Powerful Antibacterial Proteins

The Tasmanian devil is best known for being a swirling, growling, trouble-making cartoon character. But the marsupial mammal's reputation is about to get a complete makeover, thanks to new research on the function of proteins secreted in their milk and their skin. Read More...

Highlights of the 13th Annual IMGC Symposium

Highlights of the 13th Annual IMGC Symposium

The International Milk Genomics Consortium (IMGC) held its 13th annual conference this past September 27–29, 2016, at the University of California, Davis. With a focus this year on moving “From Milk to Microbes,” the conference included 31 talks, 21 posters, a group dinner at Mulvaney’s B&L in Sacramento, and plenty of networking. Here are some of the top highlights from this year’s IMGC Symposium: Read More...

The First Farmers: Where Did They Come From and Where Did They Go?

The First Farmers: Where Did They Come From and Where Did They Go?

Farming was a transformational technology that began the expansion of human populations and created settlements leading to the emergence of civilization. The origin of farming can be traced to the region known as the Fertile Crescent, which covered the area from modern Egypt around the eastern Mediterranean to Anatolia, the southern Caucasus mountains in the north, and the Euphrates and Tigris valleys in the east. Archaeologists have discovered evidence of early crop production from before 11,000 years ago and have traced the spread of agriculture in all directions from this region. One of the remaining questions is whether local hunter-gatherer populations across Europe and southern Asia learned about farming from afar and began their own farming culture, or whether Neolithic farmers migrated and brought agriculture and settlement with them. So, who were these ancient farmers, where did they come from, and where did their descendants emigrate? Read More...

Genomic Selection Accelerates Improvements in Health and Productivity of Dairy Cows

Genomic Selection Accelerates Improvements in Health and Productivity of Dairy Cows

The introduction of genomic selection into dairy cattle selective breeding programs has been greatly anticipated and is a remarkable example of the benefits of genomic technology. Made possible because the systems for selective breeding were already well developed in dairy, and the widespread use of artificial insemination meant that new developments could be delivered quickly. First introduced in the USA in 2008, there has now been sufficient time to generate enough data to assess its impact. Read More...

De-stressing with Dairy

De-stressing with Dairy

When, a few years ago, researchers analyzed fecal samples from volunteer undergraduates at Swinburne University of Technology, in Victoria, Australia, they didn’t necessarily expect to find evidence of the students’ examination stress. Yet the fecal lactic acid levels—reflecting the amount of “good bacteria” of the genus Lactobacillus in the students’ guts—took a dive during the exam period. In other words, exam stress had caused the volunteers’ intestines to become more favorable environments to pathogenic organisms. As the exams went on, things only got worse: the researchers observed day-by-day reductions in the undergraduates’ fecal lactic acid levels. This couldn’t have been because exam-period diets were messing with the students’ health—the only significant dietary change was an increase in coffee consumption. Read More...

Milk Vesicles Offer New Hope for Arthritis

Milk Vesicles Offer New Hope for Arthritis

Tiny, bubble-like structures found in cow’s milk appear to slow the development of arthritis in mice. The structures, called vesicles, were originally thought to be little more than the waste products of cellular processes. But in recent years, such vesicles have been shown to contain molecules called microRNAs, which in some contexts perform important biological functions. Although not fully demonstrated, the working hypothesis of lead investigator Fons van de Loo—is that the RNA molecules in milk vesicles are absorbed in the intestines—and modulate local mucosa l activity, thereby influencing the body’s innate immune system. Read More...

Getting the Balance Right

Getting the Balance Right

Once described as an epidemic, obesity has now reached pandemic status with an estimated 600 million obese adults worldwide, and an additional 1.4 billion that are overweight. The cause of the pandemic is known—people consuming more energy (calories) than they expend—so it would seem that the solution would be to simply eat less. But a team of nutritional ecologists believes that cutting calories will not solve anything, because it ignores some basic tenets of human (and animal) biology. Using data from fruit flies, mice, birds, fish, monkeys, and humans, Raubenheimer, Simpson and their colleagues demonstrate a seemingly universal law of animal nutrition: a predominant appetite for protein. They propose that the human need to meet a fixed daily protein target leads to weight gain through the overconsumption of low protein foods that have come to dominate the Western diet. Rather than advocating for a high protein diet that eschews carbohydrates, they emphasize a balance of macronutrients for optimal health. Can dairy help strike this balance? Whole-food sources of protein that are easy to access, like dairy, can help balance out those beloved low-protein, high-carbohydrate processed foods and keep energy consumption in check. Read More...

Ancient Aurochs Genome Contains the DNA Blueprint for Modern Cattle

Ancient Aurochs Genome Contains the DNA Blueprint for Modern Cattle

A preserved specimen of aurochs bone was discovered deep beneath the Derbyshire Dales in the UK in the 1990s. Aurochs are an ancient cattle breed domesticated around 10,000 years ago somewhere around modern day Iran. In Europe, the last of these animals were still found on a Polish royal reserve as recently as the 17th century. Park et al., have now extracted enough DNA from the ancient bone specimen to sequence the aurochs genome. When they compared the aurochs sequence to the DNA of cattle breeds we know and use in domestic agriculture today, they found a surprisingly high level in common with British and Irish cattle. Read More...

How Probiotic Bacteria Protect Against Allergy to Cow’s Milk

How Probiotic Bacteria Protect Against Allergy to Cow’s Milk

Whether it’s to nuts, cow’s milk, eggs, or some other food, food allergies have become increasingly common in recent decades. Allergy to cow’s milk is especially common, affecting up to 3% of children worldwide. There have been many recent efforts to treat cow’s milk allergy, and probiotics have looked particularly promising. Recent studies have shown that feeding infants formula supplemented with the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG) results in higher rates of tolerance to cow’s milk compared to infants fed unsupplemented formula. Read More...