The heat-resistant ‘cow of the future’

Photo by Raluca Mateescu

Time for some cow math. Angus + Brahman = Brangus.

Angus cattle, originally from Scotland, are one of the most popular breeds for beef in the world. With black or red coloring and natural lack of horns, the breed is used for crossbreeding to introduce positive traits in cows. Angus beef is well-liked by diners; restaurant commercials around the world tout the quality and certification of their Angus beef.

The Brahman is a breed of cattle from the U.S. that was bred from four different Indian breeds. Like its predecessors — other zebu cattle — Brahman have humps on their shoulders and are good at dealing with high temperatures. The breed is very popular for beef, and is widely raised in South America, North America and Australia.

It’s not hard to imagine, then, what the cross between these two breeds is like. Brangus cattle — which are 5/8 Angus and 3/8 Brahman — are good at dealing with hot weather conditions. Not only that, they have easygoing temperaments, gain weight quickly, are hardy and resistant to disease, and generally make good mothers. They’re popular throughout North America, Argentina, Australia and some parts of Africa.

For these reasons, researchers from the University of Florida are focusing on Brangus cattle in a genomics study to learn more about how cows handle heat. The team received a federal grant to conduct the research.

“The grant allows us to track down DNA segments from the two breeds and figure out which regions of the cow’s DNA are important to regulate body temperature,” said associate professor Raluca Mateescu.

According to the university, more than half the cattle in the world live in hot, humid climates. If researchers can nail down how to produce animals that can adapt to high temperatures, it could mean better quality meat for the beef industry. It could also boost efficiency in production and reproduction.

“This offers a powerful new approach to address the challenges of climate change and develop climate-smart, productive cattle for a future, hotter world,” said Mateescu.

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