The productivity of modern livestock production was made possible through basic and applied research. The application of the principles of genetics, discovery of vitamins and other nutrients necessary for health and productivity of livestock, and the control of reproduction have made large contributions to the economy of producing food. However, for livestock production and its products to remain economically competitive the emergence of new technologies must continue.
Several new technologies and discoveries with applications in livestock production hold promise for enhancing the competitiveness of United States livestock production. Recombinant DNA technology is largely responsible for the production of commercially abundant supplies of somatotropin, also commonly known as growth hormone, to enhance milk and meat production. Porcine somatotropin (PST) administration in pigs increases rate of gain, feed efficiency, and carcass muscling, while significantly reducing carcass fat deposition (26). Similar, though less dramatic, results are seen in beef cattle given bST (27). This technology, along with other methods to regulate lean tissue growth, such as fi agonists, will help the pork and beef industry produce meat that is leaner and thus help to reduce fat consumption in the American diet.
Artificial insemination and embryo transplantation of superior lines of swine, sheep, and dairy and beef cattle will continue to increase in popularity among livestock breeders. The ability of scientists to develop improved embryo freezing techniques will greatly enhance the efficacy of this technology. The successful introduction of transgenic livestock with improved rates of growth, carcass characteristics, lactation, and disease resistance will influence the methods and efficiency of livestock production (28).
Transgenic animals provide opportunities to greatly decrease genetic lag in breeding schemes (29) and enhance transfer of superior genes (30). Transgenics may make it possible to alter milk composition in ways that enhance human health, such as decreasing lactose for lactose-intolerant individuals and increasing the resemblance to human milk to improve neonatal nutrition (31). There is even research into the use of the transgenic mammary gland as a mammalian bioreactor that could produce mammalian therapeutic proteins, thus avoiding the disadvantages of pharmaceutical proteins produced by microbial fermentors (lack of bioactivity, presence of allergenic pro-karyotic proteins) (32). This process has been dubbed "pharming." Currently, transgenic technology is still inefficient, expensive, and socially controversial; however, it holds promise for enhancing the productivity of livestock and the quality of life for humans.
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