Article by: Hari Yellina
The $32 billion Australian red meat industry is considering freezing cattle eggs and sperm for use in future breeding programmes to preserve their bloodlines in response to the threat of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). The discovery in Bali of the extremely contagious animal virus, which spreads through livestock like cattle, sheep, pigs, and goats, has Australian producers on high alert. Millions of animals could be wiped out in the event of an incursion, ruining decades’ worth of breeding efforts to produce the greatest animals for domestic and international markets. As insurance in case the herd needed to be restored, it has prompted some stud breeders to look into the pricey alternative of freezing and preserving bull semen and cow embryos.
Ced Wise, a veterinarian and expert on cattle, claimed that due to a combination of demands and record-high cow prices, he was busier than ever in his 46 years in the business. He claimed that both little and big breeding enterprises were interested in storing their genetic material, which for some of the bigger operations meant thousands of animals. They intend to perform in pretty significant numbers, he said. You would need to preserve the herd’s genetic diversity and then rebuild it using the genetic material you’ve saved. Dr Wise claimed that while pricey, breeders were assessing the hazards versus the expenses when using artificial breeding procedures. It will cost money to freeze an embryo and preserve it in liquid nitrogen, both of which we can do pretty successfully.
In the vicinity of Kumbia and Eidsvold, Alice Greenup and her husband Rick raise Santa Gertrudis cattle. Alice Greenup also serves as an independent northern director for the Cattle Council of Australia. At the couple’s stud, there are 2,500 stud cows and 600 bulls in all, but they only use around 130 of them for their yearly sale. “The difficulty in managing that many cattle is the main cause. To even begin to capture the diversity, you would need to maintain a sizable number of embryos and semen,” she spoke. Then you’d want more studs to follow suit so that you may access additional diversity in the future.
Although the stud does already save part of its genetics, the stud breeder stated that it was not something she was investigating at the time. According to her, the cattle business needed to be watchful because the possibility of disease incursion was not new to the industry. This may potentially remain here for seven to ten years, she said, so it’s not just a short-term issue. Potential invasions have always been a concern, so we just have to accept it and develop long-term coping mechanisms.