The complete DNA sequences of 234 cattle are reported in a paper published online this week in Nature Genetics. The sequences are part of a larger project aimed at improving the health of cattle, as well as helping the dairy and beef industries.
Ben Hayes and colleagues sequenced the genomes of 232 bulls and 2 cows from the Holstein-Fresian, the Fleckvieh and the Jersey breeds. The animals selected were “key ancestors” from these three populations, meaning that they should contain the majority of the genetic variation found in each breed.
The researchers used the DNA sequences to locate genes linked to embryonic death-a major source of reduced fertility in cattle-skeletal deformities, milk production and curly coats. These findings could allow for more direct selection of healthy cattle in the future, which can increase the efficiency of meat or milk production.