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Saturday, February 1, 2020

horns of cows - genetically modifying them for benefit of cattle merchants !!

It’s not horn vs hornless but Cattle lovers Vs Commercial rearers !!

On Mattu Pongal day, I had posted on ‘cows of Triplicane’ beautifully decorated and cared for .. .. Nagoji rao street in Thiruvallikkeni housed hundreds of them a couple of decades ago.. .. cows of various hues, while, black, brown – tall, short, and more .. ….and all of them had  horns, though short ones.

South Sudan is a landlocked country in East-Central Africa. It gained independence from the Republic of the Sudan in 2011, making it the most recent sovereign state with widespread recognition. Its capital and largest city is Juba. The country is bordered by Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Congo and Central African republic.  It includes the vast swamp region of the Sudd, formed by the White Nile and known locally as the Bahr al Jabal  meaning "Mountain Sea”.  Following the First Sudanese Civil War, the Southern Sudan Autonomous Region was formed in 1972 and lasted until 1983. A second Sudanese civil war soon broke out, ending in 2005 with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. It has suffered ethnic violence and endured a civil war since 2013.

Back to cows – I could never imagine that cows (bulls too) could be without horns too. On a careful scrutiny on roads, observe a couple of cows were found to be so.  Read that there  are only a few cattle breeds in existence that have no horns naturally but now American scientists are developing the trait within Holstein cattle. Cattle have now been made hornless through genetic editing, with no apparent side effects, researchers say.

In the United States, roughly 80 percent of all calves raised for dairy and 25 percent of beef cattle get their horns removed every year — that's 4.8 million and 8.75 million head of cattle, respectively. Dehorning helps protect animals and their handlers from accidental injuries, (don’t believe in this sugar coated statement, it is only for the benefit of man and much against the cattle) but it's not only costly, it's painful to animals, and numerous animal advocacy groups have campaigned for either mandatory anesthesia during dehorning or a complete end to the practice. "Dehorning animals is a bloody and painful process that no one likes to do," notes William Muir, a professor of genetics at Purdue University.

Naturally hornless cattle do exist, a trait known as "polled" that is common in beef breeds such as Angus but rare in dairy breeds such as Holstein. Farmers have tried using naturally polled Holstein sires to breed dairy cows, but the offspring don't produce as much milk as their horned counterparts.  As human reacts wherever it is required to be advantageous to them, researchers genetically tweaked clones they created of dairy cattle. Three calves were euthanized shortly after birth due to problems commonly associated with cloning techniques, but two other calves survived, males named Spotigy and Buri that are healthy and are now more than 10 months old. (credit Popular Science

Horn removal through gene editing is a win-win both for the animal and for the farmer, says Muir, who did not take part in this research. "These findings show that you can take highly desirable genes from animals and move them to other members of their species," he told Popular Science. "One could achieve the same results with natural breeding, but gene editing greatly speeds up the process, reducing the time it takes to accomplish the goal from centuries to years." Genetic editing may also lead to other animal improvements, such as resistance to various diseases, notes Willard Eyestone, a research associate professor of reproductive biology and biotechnology at Virginia Tech, who did not participate in this study. Other beneficial traits may include tailless pigs, Muir notes.

.. .. what would starkly separate USA / Europe with developing Nations in Asia or that of Africa is the latter’s inclination and oneness with nature.  Here is something on the  South Sudanese tribe who use cows as currency, drink straight from the udder and even SHOWER under the animals... but never eat them.  MailOnline has interesting photos of a  young boy squirting milk into his mouth straight from a cow's udder and another lovingly caresses a bull's horn - meet the cattle-revering Mundari tribe of South Sudan. Photographer Mario Gerth, 42, captured their daily lives in this spectacular set of images after spending three months living among them. The nomadic tribe wander the plains of the Sahel region of the country along the Nile river and use cattle as currency.

These cattle are simply class apart and adorable ! South Sudan is the world's youngest country, and it has witnessed immense change since gaining independence in 2011. The promise of peace has given way to civil war, and tribal rifts continue to run deep, permeating political affairs. Over two million people have been displaced according to the UN, and tens of thousands killed. Amid the tumult is the Mundari, a people who would rather get on with doing what they do best: looking after their cattle. It would be hard to find a more dedicated group of herdsmen than the tribe who live on the banks of the Nile, north of the capital Juba. Their entire lifestyle is geared around caring for their prized livestock, the Ankole-Watusi, a horned breed known as "the cattle of kings."

These cows grow up to eight feet tall, and are worth as much as $500 each. It's no wonder the Mundari view these animals as their most valuable assets (or that they guard them with with machine guns). In these places there exists a great bonhomie aka relationship between man and beast. The animals are important to them and are part of their livelihood.   Perhaps this is in part due to the function and symbolism of the Ankole-Watusi. Each bovine is so highly prized that it is rarely killed for its meat. Instead, it is a walking larder, a pharmacy, a dowry, even a friend. It is clear that cow is a resource maintaining not just a people, but a way of life. The Mundari, tall and muscular, may "look like bodybuilders," says Zaidi, "but their diet is pretty much milk and yogurt. That's it." Other bodily fluids have more unlikely uses. Mundari men will squat under streams of cow urine, both an antiseptic, Zaidi suggests, and as an aesthetic choice -- the ammonia in the urine color the Mundari's hair orange.  Meanwhile dung is piled high into heaps for burning, the fine peach-colored ash used as another form of antiseptic and sunscreen by the herdsmen, shielding them from the 115-degree heat.  

The cows, adds Zaidi, are among the world's most pampered. He says he witnessed Mundari massaging their animals twice a day. The ash from dung fires, as fine as talcum powder, is rubbed into the cattle's skin and used as bedding, while ornamental tassels swat flies from the eyes of the herd's most prestigious beasts.  The Mundari sleep among their cattle, "literally two feet away from their favorites" says Zaidi, and guard them at the point of a gun. It's not unreasonable for the tribe to go to these lengths. "Rustlers are a huge issue for them," the photographer explains. "Their cattle are a form of currency and status symbol, and form a key part of a family's pension or dowry. Since the end of the civil war, thousands of men have returned to South Sudan looking for wives, which has pushed up the 'bride price', making these animals even more precious and increasing lethal cattle raids." Such raids have been deadly for the Mundari, but the effects of war are manifold. Landmines make finding fresh pasture a dangerous lottery. When he visited, Zaidi says the tribe were using a small island in the Nile as a safe haven. The conflict, he adds, has the paradoxical effect of preserving their way of life.

"The ongoing war in South Sudan has cut off the Mundari tribe from the rest of the world," he says. "They don't venture into the town, they stay in the bush, and it's why their unique way of life endures." Zaidi says the Mundari have no taste for war and "their guns are not to kill anyone but to protect their herd." All the Mundari want to do is take care of their livestock, he argues, "and they will protect them at all costs."

Perhaps  that explains the lives of so called advanced modern men and those who live loving and being with nature but called poor or underdeveloped !

In my recent pilgrimage to Dwaraka was so engrossed by the Girs cows & bulls of Saurashtra region that had long horns – a separate post on them sooner *

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
18th Jan 2019. 

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