Monday, October 31, 2016

The Strange Case of Pawnee Farm Arlinda Chief

Freakish numbers from the dairy industry:
It started with a bull named Pawnee Farm Arlinda Chief, who had a whopping 16,000 daughters. And 500,000 granddaughters and more than 2 million great-granddaughters. Today, in fact, his genes account for 14 percent of all DNA in Holstein cows, the most popular breed in the dairy industry.

Chief—let’s call him Chief for brevity’s sake—was so popular because his daughters were fantastic milk producers. He had great genes for milk. But, geneticists now know, he also had a single copy of a deadly mutation that spread undetected through the Holstein cow population. The mutation caused some unborn calves to die in the womb. According to a recent estimate, this single mutation ended up causing more than 500,000 spontaneous abortions and costing the dairy industry $420 million in losses.

That’s a crazy number, but here’s an even crazier one: Despite the lethal mutation, using Chief’s sperm instead of an average bull’s still led to $30 billion dollars in increased milk production over the past 35 years. That’s how much a single bull could affect the industry.


G. Verloren said...

Where did the trend of giving such strange names to breeding/bred animals come from, I wonder? Why do race horses and show dogs and cattle studs always have the weirdest, most convoluted, inexplicable names?

A single cow providing genes to over 14% of a breed? Doesn't really surprise me - just look at how many people have genes from the Great Khan.

But that same cow having the utterly bizarre name of "Pawnee Farm Arlinda Chief"? That just boggles my mind.

Anonymous said...

My guess is Pawnee Farm is the name of the place that bred him. Arlinda is the determinator. Maybe the farmer's wife/daughter when they decided this guy would be their major producer? And I'd guess Chief is what a lot of bulls get named, and probably what this guy was actually called when he rolled around in his pen.

Most show dogs &c break down this way. They're all "Bobby" or "Bell" to their owners, but the records are supposed to keep repetition down and make for good clarity.

Plenty of Genealogists would appreciate the same naming practices among their forebears! I'm pretty sure I have two generations of "William Page" on my family tree. But some records make it look like three.... *g*