Tuesday, March 23, 2021

The Next Technology Onslaught: “Gene Editing”


CONCEPTIONS  Dairy Route Newsletter                              April May 2020


Are  you  a  spring  season  AI  breeder ?

If we have your semen tank stored here, or if you will need a rental tank and your carryover semen is stored here, it may be time to think about sires to use.     Call in if you know what you want, ask Greg for an appointment if you do not…  

Looking  for  an  edge  to  stay  competitive  in  the  dairy   business ?

Most of the thinking in dairy is too simplistic, just get bigger but do everything the same as you have done for years …  read the “aAa” info inside if you seek “better”


The  Next  Technology  Onslaught:   “Gene Editing”

A dairyman called me recently because he had received a questionnaire asking his opinion on “gene editing” (which he had not heard of before)… and then noted that  supposedly unbiased research was trying to talk him into believing he needed it!

“Gene Editing” is literally a way to make GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms).    Scientists in China and elsewhere have a new technique called ‘CRISPR technology’ which is said to be more precise than what has been used to create “traited” corns and soybeans (and sugar beets).

The process is described as  “you cut out the gene you don’t want and you insert the genes you do in the same place [on the chromosome involved]”.       Throwing a bone toward animal rights activists, the current example of how this could be used is “we can have all polled bulls now”…

Marginalizing the traditional breeding industry

It first became obvious with Genomic selection (a last-ditch effort to convince dairymen that all you need to select is the highest ranking index, forget mating or pedigree or on-site evaluation of the current generation of replacements) that the AI industry intended to produce the future AI bulls, marginalizing the independent purebred breeding industry of dairymen who have bred for improved cow herds utilizing all the breeding tools available.     To do this, they have spent whatever it took to buy the highest-indexing heifers at public auctions over the last decade, in the process sending a message that “if she ain’t got numbers she ain’t worth much”.    This has influenced purebred dairymen to spend exhorbitant sums of money on DNA testing, ET and IVF to compete with what the AI studs are producing themselves, all in the face of a declining milk market for the “generic” milk production indexing has produced.     

Invest up front – wait for a future return

I will not debate the issue of whether consumers want GMO cows any more than they accept GMO crops  (with the accompanying questions about the environmental “climate change” all this focus on row crops and vegetarian diets has produced).    Given current values for milk or beef or replacement cows, who has the money to pay for yet another level of technology for animal propogation?     With CRISPR gene editing, you take embryos, slice out what you don’t want, insert what you do want, and wait for them to incubate into a calf, from which you will then breed the future GMO cows and bulls.     Another generation of time passes before what they want (high numbers combined with useful genes) is produced, then you get to pay for it.    Clearly, the independent farmer-breeder will be priced out of this, and the future of dairying will be in the hands of a handful of sire analysts reading computer printouts and a cadre of technician-scientists who will produce the physical animal from the microbiology.

There is no relationship between the added layers of technology interference in the natural reproduction processes, as you use to manage and rebreed your herd, and the gene product you would be told you must now use…    what will be the future cost of fertility?


Preserve  your  choices  in  breeding

Gene editing may soon follow Genomic selection (which followed gender-selected semen) as  the final step  in a technology take-over of the dairy cattle breeding industry as we have known it.

Already, 50% of the Holstein and Jersey bulls in AI are produced “in house” by AI studs with no independent farmer-breeder input.      The mad race to accelerate generations demonstrates the impatience of the propogation of breeding stock, wherein “index rank” eclipses any consideration of trends in milk consumption or future specialty milk market opportunities… or the stocking needs of any farm not embracing all new technology investments (that tend to defy the growing climate change environmental battle we face with the voting public).

You will be reading articles in favor of yet another technology that takes breeding out of the hands of those who need it.    Read these with a critical mind and draw your own conclusions…   meanwhile, traditional selection and mating still works.

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