Fifteen years have passed since publication of the first edition of The Genetics of Cattle. During this time a deep transformation has occurred in biological sciences. Just two decades ago the chromosomal location of only a few genes was known in cattle. By 2009 the bovine genome was sequenced and annotated, and all this information became easily accessible. The consequences of such an incredible scientific and technological explosion will follow; some of them are still unknown and others are discussed in this book. All this provides a strong case for the publication of the second edition of The Genetics of Cattle.
Since domestication more than 10,000 years ago, cattle have played an increasingly important role in development of human civilizations around the world. It is not easy to find a country that does not have a more or less significant population of cattle. The ability to effectively digest rough plant mass allows cattle to occupy a special ecological position in the global environment. Cattle have always provided essential human needs like food, clothing, draught, soil improvement and more, including meeting cultural and religious necessities. The current number of cattle worldwide exceeds 1300 million and continues to grow.
Traction power was probably the initial reason for bovine domestication, which marked a turning point in the development of agriculture. Over time, cow’s milk steadily became a staple source of food in many geographical areas. This process is continuing, and milk, as well as numerous milk products, is spreading into countries that were not traditional dairy consumers. The total world production of cow’s milk was 600 billion kilogrammes in 2010. Another valuable product is beef. The worldwide production of beef and veal exceeds 65 billion kilogrammes per year.
Progress in cattle breeding and selection over the past century was impressive. Breeding programmes developed to exploit principles of quantitative genetics, artificial insemination and embryo transfer. Scientifically designed breeding schemes along with increasing computerization of the industry were the main causes of the tremendous increase in milk production per cow. Previously separated, quantitative and molecular genetics have now become a unified approach in identification of loci underlying important cattle traits (quantitative trait loci). However, lengthy and convoluted pathways from genes to complex traits affected by numerous factors create significant impediments in both theoretical understanding and practical applications.
The purpose of this book is to present in one location a complete, comprehensive and fully updated description of cattle genetics. It is our intention to combine essential knowledge from various fields of genetics and biology of cattle in this reference book. The 24 chapters of the book can be partitioned into five connected sections. The first five chapters cover systematics, phylogeny, domestication, breeds and factorial genetics of cattle. The next two chapters provide crucial information about the structure of bovine chromosomes and the genome, as well as gene mapping in cattle. Chapters 8–10 cover the foundations of immune response and disease resistance. The following section, Chapters 11–14, discusses genetics of behaviour, reproduction and development. Chapters 15–23 are devoted to genetics applied to cattle improvement. Standard genetic nomenclature for cattle is presented in the final chapter.
This book is the result of truly international cooperation. Scientists from Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Japan, Ireland, Netherlands, the UK and the USA made valuable contributions to this book. The editors are very grateful to all of them. The authors have made every attempt to highlight the latest and most important publications in the area of cattle genetics. However, we realize that omissions and errors are unavoidable and apologize for possible mistakes.
The book is addressed to a broad audience, which includes researchers, lecturers, students, farmers and specialists working in the industry. The 2nd edition of The Genetics of Cattle is the latest book in a series of monographs on mammalian genetics recently published by CAB International. Two other recent books, The Genetics of the Pig (2011) and The Genetics of the Dog (2012) are based on similar ideas and have comparable structure. It is our hope that this book will be useful to many people throughout the world interested in cattle genetics. Perhaps it will support consolidation and further progress in this field of science and its implementation in order to advance practical agriculture.