Scientists in China have used cloning technology to create “super cows” genetically engineered to produce twice as much milk as traditionally raised cows.
Researchers say the somatic cell nuclear transfer method to clone three cows which are each capable of producing 18 tons of milk per year and 100 tons of milk over their lifetimes. The project is part of China’s effort to revitalize its agriculture sector, a researcher on the team told Global Times.
China is the fourth largest consumer of milk, and as Reuters reported, demand has been increasing after doctors touted its health benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic and the country has seen a surge in new dairy farms being built.
In 2020, despite China being the world’s third-largest milk producer, the country’s output only met 70 percent of market demand. To meet that demand, Chinese officials were calling for adding 2.5 million cows to the country’s milking herd, according to Reuters.
Currently, China has about 6.6 million cows, but it imports 70 percent of its dairy cows, the Global Times said. China is expected to increase its milk consumption by 300 percent by 2050, so cloning higher producing cows will allow the agriculture sector to better meet demand with fewer negative consequences.
“Using cloning technology alone won’t have any economic meaning, and the combination of tapping reproductive technology and using low-productive cows as surrogates allowed us to reproduce 20 more offspring compared with just using cloning for a given time period,” said Jin Yaping, lead researcher on the cloning project.
“We plan to take two to three years to build up a herd comprised of over 1,000 super cows, as a solid foundation to tackle China’s reliance on overseas dairy cows and the issue of the risk of being ‘choked’,” Jin added.
This recent development is not the first time Chinese researchers have embarked on a quest to clone animals.
In 2019, scientists at the Institute of Neuroscience in Shanghai cloned genetically altered primates for the first time.
Last year, Beijing’s Sinogene Biotechnology cloned a wild Arctic wolf using a genetic technology they hope will prevent species from going extinct.