Agriculture Victoria scientists have found that tall cows have a lot in common with tall people.
The scientists have attracted global attention for their work in cattle genetics, with the recent publication of a paper in the prestigious journal ‘Nature Genetics’.
The paper, titled ‘Meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies for cattle stature identifies common genes that regulate body size in mammals’, is the world’s largest-scale study into the genetic basis for cattle body size.
The research revealed that body stature in cattle is controlled by thousands of genes, and that some of the key genes are the same as those that control human height. Agriculture Victoria researcher Dr Hans Daetwyler said the finding was significant in extending understanding of the bovine genome.
“In Australia, we already have a system in place for sophisticated cattle genetics. In recent years, we have improved the reliability of breeding values for dairy cattle, and implemented complex traits including fertility and heat tolerance,” Dr Daetwyler said.
He said the research was the largest-scale study to investigate the genetic basis for height, or body stature, in cattle.
“In some mammals, height is regulated by variants in a small number of genes. However, this research found that the genetic architecture of stature in cattle is similar to that of humans, with variants in thousands of genes – and substantially the same set of genes.
“Potentially, this work has far-reaching implications. It provides a better understanding of complex bovine traits, and it also suggests that studying bovine genetics could help us better understand human genetics and the inheritance of complex traits,” Dr Daetwyler said.