Scientists in China claim to have successfully cloned three "super cows" that can produce an unusually high amount of milk, state media reported and CNN reports.
According to Chinese State Media, the cloning of the three cows is being hailed as a breakthrough for China's dairy industry to reduce its reliance on imported breeds.
The three calves, bred by scientists at the Northwest University of Agriculture and Forestry Science and Technology, were born in the Ningxia region in the weeks before the Lunar New Year on Jan. 23, the state-run Ningxia Daily reported.
What race were they cloned from?
They were cloned from highly productive cows of the Holstein Friesian breed, which originates from the Netherlands. The selected animals are capable of producing 18 tons of milk per year or 100 tons of milk in their lifetime.
That's nearly 1,7 times the amount of milk an average cow in the United States produced in 2021, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The first of the cloned calves was born on Dec. 30 by caesarean section due to its relatively large size (56,7 kg), an official from the city of Wulin in Nigxia told the state-run Technology Daily.
The scientists created 120 cloned embryos from the ear cells of highly productive cows and placed them in surrogate cows, according to the same paper.
Jin Yaping, the program's chief scientist, called the birth of the "super cows" a "major breakthrough" that allows China to preserve the best cows "in an economically feasible way," state-run Global Times newspaper reported.
Only five out of 10.000 cows in China can produce 100 tons of milk in their lifetime, making them a valuable breeding resource. But some highly productive cows are not recognized until late in life, making it difficult to breed them, the lead scientist said.
70% of China's dairy cows are imported from abroad, according to the Global Times.
"We plan to take two to three years to build up a herd of over 1.000 super cows as a solid foundation to address China's dependence on foreign dairy cows and the issue of the country's 'suffocation' ” (supplied by supply chain disruptions),” Jin Yaping argued.
In many countries, including the United States, farmers breed clones with conventional animals to add to the gene pool desirable traits, such as high milk production or disease resistance.
According to CNN, China has made significant progress in animal cloning in recent years. Last year, a Chinese animal cloning company created the world's first cloned arctic wolf.
Also in 2017, Chinese scientists said they had produced cloned cattle with increased resistance to bovine tuberculosis, a risk to cattle in many countries.