NPR

Most U.S. Dairy Cows Are Descended From Just 2 Bulls. That's Not Good

The drive to make more milk has had an unsavory side effect: Cows have become more genetically similar and less fertile. Scientists are trying to recover valuable genetic variation that was lost.
Unlike most dairy cows in America, which are descended from just two bulls, this cow at Penn State has a different ancestor: She is the daughter of a bull that lived decades ago, called University of Minnesota Cuthbert. The bull's frozen semen was preserved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Source: Dan Charles

Chad Dechow, a geneticist at Penn State University who studies dairy cows, is explaining how all of America's cows ended up so similar to each other.

He brings up a website on his computer. "This is the company Select Sires," he says. It's one of just a few companies in the United States that sells semen from bulls for the purpose of artificially inseminating dairy cows.

Dechow chooses the lineup of Holstein bulls.

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