Magazine article The Futurist

The Farm Animals of Tomorrow

Magazine article The Futurist

The Farm Animals of Tomorrow

Article excerpt

The Farm Animals Of Tomorrow

Miniature chickens that lay twice as many eggs as the hens of today, pigs that are bigger but not fatter than today's hogs, and cattle produced by cloning may be some of the farm animals of the future.

Biogenetic engineering will be the key to these advances, says Robert J. Wall of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. "We'll analyze the entire genetic composition of the animal and store that information on computer," explains Wall, a physiologist. "Then we'll be able to hook up a machine we already have, called a DNA synthesizer, and recreate the genes we want. . . .

"There's a lot of concern today about life forms that are in danger of becoming extinct. In the future, we'll be capable of recreating an animal that no longer exists, drawing from genetic information."

Most agricultural biogenetic research today focuses on breeding animals with greater resistance to diseases. But animals with greater reproductive capability, larger size, and less fat are some of the long-term goals for researchers. For example, "In 1950, it took 84 days to produce a four-pound broiler chicken," says James W. Deaton, an animal scientist. "In the twenty-first century, we should be able to produce a four-pound broiler in 25 days."

Dairy cattle will produce far more milk in the future. A single cow could produce as much as 40,000 pounds of milk per year in the twenty-first century, according to H. …

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