R.A. Brown’s Donnell Brown Explains Value of Gene Editing for Ethical Cattle Wellbeing

Listen to Ron Hays talk with Donnell Brown about gene editing.

Senior Farm and Ranch Broadcaster, Ron Hays, caught up with Donnell Brown of the R.A. Brown Ranch in Throckmorton, Texas at the recent American Angus Convention as they talked his ranch’s role in gene editing.

“We have got the first two gene-edited Angus animals, and the company that we are working with has made others with slick coat hair traits,” Brown said. “We have actually turned black Angus animals red.”

Since black cattle absorb more heat than red cattle, Brown said by using gene editing, ranchers can keep the great Angus genetics but with a more heat-friendly color: red.

“Our company that is doing the gene editing is also making them slick hair coated,” Brown said. “So, they are slick like a Brahman- not the normal Angus haircoat.”

As 70 percent of the global cattle population is in the tropics and sub-tropics, Brown said it is a huge opportunity for Angus to take on these gene-edited slick hair coats.

“We can select for it, and breed for it, and do it, but it is going to take generations and years of production to get that,” Brown said. “We can do it with gene editing and do it fast.”

Brown said the Red Angus Association is already registering gene-edited cattle. If animals are black-hided, Brown said they qualify as Certified Angus Beef whether they are registered by the American Association or not.

“We want to make sure with these gene edits whether it is plants or whether it is animals- we want to make sure it is safe for human consumption,” Brown said. “That is why we appreciate the Food and Drug Administration testing and researching and forcing us to do all of that research to make sure it is right.”

Gene editing rearranges an animal’s personal DNA, Brown said, and does not include DNA from an outside source.

“It is not genetically modified,” Brown said. “It is gene-edited in a process called precision breeding where we just cut and splice the animal’s own DNA to express a trait differently.”

Gene edits do not only have the ability to change physical traits, Brown said but also can improve the health and well-being of the animal. There is already a calf that has had her genes edited to provide immunity to Bovine Viral Diarrhea (BVD)- and she has shown no symptoms of the disease even as she has shared a pen all of its life with a persistently BVD cohort.  She has full immunity to BVD to this point- which could be a huge breakthrough in dealing with this costly disease.

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