Vet Nathan Hitchcock taking samples from Stuart Kirk's Hazelton Brahman to send away for cloning.
Vet Nathan Hitchcock taking samples from Stuart Kirk's Hazelton Brahman to send away for cloning. Felicity Ripper

Hazelton steers innovation

IN A first for Hazelton Brahman Stud, a North Burnett Brahman has undergone the first stage of being cloned.

On Monday morning local vet Nathan Hitchcock visited Stuart Kirk's family stud, 20 kilometres west of Gayndah, taking three skin samples of their best sire, Be Os Finegan Manso, to send off to Melbourne lab Clone International.

"I had Nathan take half-centimetre skin samples and over the next two weeks the cells will be induced to grow out from the processed skin sample,” Clone International CEO Dr Richard Fry said.

"Once we have around 10-20 million of these cells, they are harvested and stored in liquid nitrogen for future use.”

Once Mr Kirk decides to put the cells to use, Dr Fry will collect ovaries and eggs from an abattoir, remove the nuclear DNA from an egg and fuse it with the donor Brahman cell using an electric current.

The cloned embryo will then be activated and begin to divide.

"After seven days the cloned embryo is transferred into a recipient cow which hopefully becomes pregnant and calves the clone offspring, which is a genetic replica of the original bull,” Dr Fry said.

Stuart Kirk and vet Nathan Hitchcock hard at work.
Stuart Kirk and vet Nathan Hitchcock hard at work. Felicity Ripper

Mr Kirk said the idea of cloning had been in the works for a while for his family stud.

"We've always done a lot of artificial insemination and embryo transfer to carry on the best genetics of our cattle,” he said.

"I'm pretty excited because this, it's something we've been talking about doing forever and now it's finally happening.”

Clone International has been at the forefront of genetic breeding in Australia since 2001 when the lab cloned a top dairy bull called Donor.

The organisation has only cloned 30 to 50 cattle in Australia and New Zealand.

Mr Kirk says there is controversy around cloning, however he will be employing the technology solely to maintain his best breeder and doesn't see it as viable to have a whole herd of cloned Brahman.

Dr Fry agrees.

"I think that cloning will be a niche market in the cattle industry, preserving elite genetics and providing additional copies of an elite animal for specific breeding or commercial purposes,” he said.

Vet Nathan Hitchcock taking samples from Stuart Kirk's Hazelton Brahman to send away for cloning.
Vet Nathan Hitchcock taking samples from Stuart Kirk's Hazelton Brahman to send away for cloning. Felicity Ripper

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