Ancient wild cattle genome reveals complex cow ancestry
Scientists have discovered an ancient genome, which reveals that wild aurochs who became extinct more than 3,000 years ago were crossbred with early British domesticated cattle.

A now-extinct species of giant wild cattle, known as aurochs, were crossbred with the ancestors of modern cattle in Britain and Ireland thousands of years ago, according to a new study. The study, led by Professor David MacHugh, Associate Dean for Research, Innovation and Impact at UCD’s School of Agriculture and Food Science, found strong evidence for genes from wild aurochs mixing in with early domestic cattle in Britain. The study says this must have happened before the aurochs were hunted to extinction in Britain more than 3,000 years ago.

The auroch is an extinct wild ox that inhabited Europe, Asia and North Africa. The species survived in Europe until the last recorded aurochs died some time in the early 1600s, reportedly in Poland.

Researchers made the finding after they successfully reconstructed the genome sequence from a representative of the northwestern European population of aurochs using a 6,750-year-old British auroch’s bone discovered in a cave in Derbyshire, England. The scientists used whole-genome sequencing data generated from this bone in their research.

Commenting on the study, Professor MacHugh said it “contradicts earlier simple models of cattle domestication and evolution that we and others proposed, based on studies of uniparental genetic systems, such as mitochondrial DNA and the Y chromosome.

‘‘What now emerges from high-resolution studies of the nuclear genome is a more nuanced picture of crossbreeding and gene flow between domestic cattle and wild aurochs, as early European farmers moved into new habitats, such as Britain during the Neolithic period.”

The study’s conclusion said the work provides important new information regarding the origins and functional evolution of modern cattle, revealing that the interface between early European domestic populations and wild aurochs was significantly more complex than previously thought.

An international team of scientists from UCD, IdentiGEN Ltd, Trinity College Dublin, the National University of Ireland, Galway, the University of Oxford, the University of Manchester, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Recombinetics, Inc, and the Beijing Genome Institute contributed to the research which was published in the journal Genome Biology.

The farmer's daily wrap: protest outside TB forum and BPS opens
Here is your news round-up of the top five farming stories today, Wednesday 20 February 2019.

Weather

It will be cloudy and misty on Wednesday night, with a little drizzle and light rain in places. Some fog along hills and coasts. Temperatures will range from 8°C to 11°C, with south to southeast winds mostly moderate or fresh in strength. However, winds will be strong at times along coasts.

Thursday is set to be a mostly dry and blustery day, but a little drizzle or mist may occur along south and west coasts. A good deal of cloud overall but a few bright spells will break through at times. South to southeast winds will be mostly moderate to fresh in strength, but it will be gusty in parts of the south and west, before becoming increasingly windy by evening time in the southwest and west. Mild, with highs of 11°C to 14°C.

High Seas will lead to the risk of some coastal flooding.

In the news

  • Applications to the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) for 2019 opened on Wednesday.
  • The Beef Plan Movement held a protest outside a TB stakeholder forum meeting that was held at the Department of Agriculture’s Backweston Campus.
  • Meanwhile, inside the meeting farm bodies opposed the tighter TB controls which the Department put on the table.
  • Despite opposition from residents, the Supreme Court has upheld An Bord Pleanala's decision to grant planning permission for the North-South Interconnector.
  • And, shares in Glanbia surged on the back of strong 2018 results.
    Weekly podcast: roadmap for the beef sector and turning weeds into cash
    In this week's podcast, we report from the National Farmer's Union conference in the UK and the Agri Careers Expo in the RDS.

     

    Click here to download this week's podcast.

    With less than 900 hours to go until Brexit, Hannah Quinn Mulligan spoke to farmers in England at the National Farmers Union annual conference in Birmingham

    Addressing the NFU conference on Tuesday, UK secretary for the Environment Michael Gove said that there will be no zero-rate tariffs on agricultural goods post-Brexit and no hardening of the border in Ireland.

    Irish farmers are increasingly concerned about the future of the Irish beef industry. News correspondent Barry Cassidy spoke to IFA Sligo chair JP Cowley who has been farming suckler cows for over 40 years.

    Responding to these concerns, the chair of the Oireachtas Agriculture committee Pat Deering told us that the group is currently working on a roadmap for the beef sector.

    This week Bord Bia announced changes to the feedback farmers will receive from their Quality Assurance audits, news correspondent Thomas Hubert asked the Director of Origin Green Michael Moloney for more information.

    Thomas Hubert also met Derek Milton of Miltcon Services and Bernard Carey of the Biomass to Biochar project to discuss the conversion of rushes and bracken into valuable carbon products.

    And finally, Tyrone farmer Kenny Little is taking part in the Belfast, Edinburgh and Dublin marathons this year to raise money for three different charities. Tracey Donaghey caught up with Kenny to find out how he is feeling ahead of the challenge and why he has decided to do the marathons wearing a boiler suit and yellow wellies.

    Missed the previous episodes of the podcast? Catch up here!

    Supreme Court upholds North-South pylon plan despite opposition from residents
    Despite opposition from residents, the Supreme Court has upheld An Bord Pleanala's decision to grant planning permission for the North-South Interconnector.

    Affected residents in Monaghan, Cavan and Meath say they will continue to oppose the North-South Interconnector, despite the Supreme Court upholding planning approval for the southern section of the project.

    Planning for the project was initially granted by An Bord Pleanala in December 2016. Since then it has been the subject to judicial review proceedings.

    These were dismissed by the High Court in August 2017 but the judgement was appealed, which culminated in the case being brought to the Supreme Court.

    Liam Ryan, director of grid development and interconnection at EirGrid, said it was pleased the project had cleared “all of the planning and legal hurdles in Ireland”.

    He added EirGrid is hopeful the same could be achieved in Northern Ireland in the coming months.

    Opposition

    Residents who are opposed to the interconnector say the Supreme Court rulings change nothing.

    In a statement the North East Pylon Pressure (NEPP) group said: “The ruling today is very much related to the An Bord Pleanála approval in 2016. It does not address or have any impact on the ongoing issues facing Eirgrid and ESB.

    “The two key issues in relation to the challenges ahead – those related to access to landowners’ properties and the impact of Brexit on the future status of the project – were not considered by the court.”

    NEPP contends that the original planning application did not request permission for access routes.

    “No agreement for access exists at landowner level. Any attempts by ESB and EirGrid to request the local authorities to vary any of the conditions imposed will be challenged by landowners, one by one, at the appropriate time.

    “Now is the time to stand firm. Eirgrid and ESB will try to divide and conquer by making a big deal out of today’s ruling,” NEPP said.

    Read more

    EirGrid hopes study will 'clarify issues' on undergrounding interconnector

    High Court rules against landowners in North-South Interconnector case