To date, most research to reduce heat stress in cattle has focused on improving housing conditions, using feed additives and other non-genetic interventions. This grant is exploring genetic approaches to reduce heat stress.
Acceligen researchers and collaborators at the University of Florida are focusing on cattle that carry mutations, or gene variants, in the prolactin receptor gene (PRLR) that result in a slick coat or short hair. The shorter hair improves heat tolerance; however, this research further examines the impact of the mutations on molecular, genetic and physiological parameters. One aspect of this project involves employing sophisticated monitoring techniques to detect molecular differences emanating from the liver to identify key molecules for controlling metabolism prior to the onset of heat stress. This information could result in development of more effective feed additives to ease seasonal heat stress caused by climate change in temperate zones.
Additionally, scientists at Acceligen and Semex are using gene editing to introduce the mutations into both elite beef and dairy cattle to study an animal’s ability to adapt to extreme heat and humidity. After the edits are introduced, the productivity and well-being of the precision-bred cattle will be compared to those that do not carry any PRLR edits. By introducing these naturally occurring gene variations into non-adapted breeds, researchers can better understand how to control heat stress and ultimately improve animal health, well-being, fertility and economic return for producers.
“Tropically adapted cattle from the Caribbean Basin have provided us a naturally occurring trait that we can leverage to reduce the carbon footprint of cattle globally,” said Tad Sonstegard, the principal investigator of this research. “We believe this is an exceptional opportunity to contribute innovative solutions to food security challenges related to animal protein.”
Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research
The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) builds public-private partnerships to fund bold research addressing big food and agriculture challenges. FFAR was established in the 2014 Farm Bill to increase public agriculture research investments, fill knowledge gaps and complement USDA’s research agenda. FFAR’s model matches federal funding from Congress with private funding, delivering a powerful return on taxpayer investment. Through collaboration and partnerships, FFAR advances actionable science benefiting farmers, consumers and the environment.
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