Chinese scientists said they have successfully cloned three “super cow” calves that, once fully grown, are capable of producing 50% more milk than the average American cow.
The cloning experiment began last year at Northwest University of Agricultural and Forestry Science and Technology in Shaanxi, China. Scientists sampled tissue from cows across China and used what’s called the somatic cell nuclear transfer method to create embryos which were then placed inside surrogate cows.
The calves were born healthy last month in Lingwu City, according to the Global Times. The first calf born weighed 120 pounds and stood 2′ 6″ feet tall, the Global Times reported. The calves have the same shape and skin pattern as the cows they were bred from, the scientists told the state-owned media outlet.
The calves will eventually produce 18 tons of milk per year, or 100 tons of milk in their lifetime, Chinese scientists said. By comparison, the average U.S. cow produces almost 12 tons of milk a year, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.
Officials from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have said meat and milk from a cloned cow is just “as safe to eat as food from conventionally bred animals.”
Holstein Friesian cows
The so-called super cows were created using Holstein Friesian cows, a Dutch breed of cattle known for producing a higher than average amount of milk. Chinese scientists made headlines last year for cloning the world’s first arctic wolf, but the super cow experiment has been hailed as another important breakthrough by the researchers, who also noted how much China depends on imports of cows.
Faced with rising demand for milk and cheese, China imports roughly 70% of its dairy cows from other countries. The nation has roughly 6.6 million Holstein Friesian cows within its borders, but only five in every 10,000 are actually capable of producing the high volume of milk, the Global Times reported.
Yaping Jin, a bovine veterinarian at Northwest A&F who led the experiment, told the Global Times that cloning will help revitalize China’s agricultural sector. Jin said his team’s experiment produced more than 100 cloned embryos that were implanted into the surrogates with a pregnancy rate of about 18% after 200 days.
The newly born calves will be used as the basis for a larger herd of super cows, Jin added.
“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,” he said.