Several years ago, I challenged a learned livestock friend with: “How long will it be before we successfully clone a grand champion steer?” He replied that it’ll probably never happen because there are too many variables beyond DNA.
Being an unreformed steer jockey, I was mesmerized by the possibility. And, well, “never happen” happened at this summer’s Iowa State Fair.
“Doc”, the 1,320-pound crossbred grand champion market steer, was more than a spitting image of “Wade”, the 2008 grand champion. He was a cut of the same cell.
David Faber, president of Trans Ova Genetics of Sioux Center, Iowa, had all to do with it. The clone was created by Bovance, a joint venture between Trans Ova and ViaGen, a Texas-based firm. Faber’s son, Tyler, showed both animals.
Faber considers cloning to be a progressing breeding tool to protect the genetics of superior animals. “Cloning allowed me to collect an ear punch from a champion steer that possessed [excellent confirmation and carcass characteristics], and to use that to make a breeding bull with the same genetic endowment,” he explains.
A rich man’s game?
The technology costs $15,000 to $20,000 a “pop” – make that per embryo. That makes it a rich man’s game, something that’s questionably suitable for livestock shows, especially 4-H and FFA shows.
We also know it can be with sheep and hogs. The thoroughbred and quarter horse racing associations have already banned cloned animals.
So, now what? The U.S. food industry has a voluntary ban on food from clones due to consumer concerns. This summer, the European Community banned food from cloned animals.
Does U.S. agriculture really want raise more consumer concern over food safety – legit or not. I think not.
Still, the possibilities lead me to wonder – again. If we could just splice genes for a great rump and backline with strong legs and good shoulders, we could really make it tough on judges. Ah, one can dream.
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