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CSIRO Afrikaner.jpg ©The Afrikaner Cattle Breeders Society of South Africa
The Afrikaner cattle breed

CSIRO auctions historic bull semen for charity

Advances in science mean Australia’s national science agency no longer requires historic collection of bull semen.

Citing advances in genomic sciences, Australia's Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) announced that it will auction off its collection of bull semen that had been gathered in the 1980s and '90s.

CSIRO said the genetic material from a range of rare cattle breeds offers breeding societies and producers the chance to bring back some of the older breeds whose genetic stock isn’t readily available anymore.

CSIRO began cattle genetics and breeding research in the 1950s for the Australian beef industry, at a time when animals had to be bred to be studied. Now, these studies can take place at the genetic level.

Since the completion of the cattle genome sequence in 2009, research into selective breeding and improving cattle herd genetics has moved into the digital age, with observational studies, statistical imputation and machine learning replacing the much slower and more expensive traditional methods, CSIRO said.

CSIRO livestock geneticist Dr. Sigrid Lehnert said most of the samples are from hybrid species developed by crossing tropical breeds, known as Bos indicus, with the traditional British Bos taurus breeds.

"CSIRO was the first in Australia to blend multiple British and African-sourced cattle breeds to create 'tropical composite' cattle that were more heat tolerant and tick resistant and, therefore, better suited to our climates," Lehnert said.

"With the new genetics, we were instrumental in helping the livestock industry improve and diversify the genetic quality of the national herd," Lehnert added. "CSIRO works closely with rural communities to build drought resilience, but in addition to our scientific innovation, we also wanted to do something to help out charities supporting people on the land during this tough time."

Australia's first tropical composite breed, the Belmont Red, was bred at -- and named after -- CSIRO's former cattle research station at Belmont in central Queensland.

In addition to the Belmont Red, there is semen on offer at the auction from Tuli, Brahman, Adaptaur, Red Angus, Afrikaner, Simbrah, Charbray and other breeds.

"We can't guarantee that the semen is still viable after all this time, and unfortunately, we have no genetic information on the bulls," Lehnert said.

Nearly 5,000 straws of semen are on offer. Breeding societies and cattle farmers can visit Auctions Plus to check lots and place bids. The auction is open Nov. 27-29.

The funds raised will go to charities that help rural communities.

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