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Friday, 19 December 2014

I am not so optimistic anymore


When I just got into researching on the Tauros Project, I was really optimistic, almost euphoric, of what might be expected from the breeding results of the projects on a short- and middle-term scale. One of the reasons was that there were only few photos of their animals available, showing only a small number of their cattle, and these individuals usually were quite good. My expectation was that the Tauros Project would surpass the best Heck cattle within a few generations, also because their first crosses looked promising at young age.
But now, having seen photos of a larger number of Tauros-owned cattle, I am not so optimistic anymore about the herds in Keent and Kempen~Broek. The reason for that is that many of the animals did not prove as aurochs-like as I wished them to be: not all the Maremmana, especially the bulls, are as long-legged, long-snouted and well-built as I hoped, and even their horns are sometimes smaller than the goal, making it hard to compensate the small horns of other breeds used; the horn shape of many of the Sayaguesa, Limia and Pajuna is not very useful (in some other individuals however it is); some of the Sayaguesa x Tudanca and at least one Sayaguesa bear white spots at the ventral side of their body; in general the size of the cattle is disappointing – I neither know metric data nor did I see them in real, but photos and videos showing them next to Highland cattle tell me that most of them can’t be that big. The two crossbred bulls they presented so far, Manolo Uno (Maremmana x Pajuna) and Rocky (Maremmana x Limia), did not develop as aurochs-like as they promised when younger as well, but a first-generation animal is not very important to be fair.
For photos of the cattle, go here:

In general there is too much Highland cattle, in my opinion. Their small size, the stubby and short-legged body and the compressed head are very problematic features, as they are not as easy to breed against as are coat colours, which are controlled by only few genes. Especially when the other breeds, as outlined above, are not as tall, well-proportioned, long-snouted and large as hoped. The current Highland cross animals look like old Heck cattle, which is what I expected and I fear that won’t be that easy to breed away.
  
It does not sound fair when a breeding program is judged by their very first animals. But we should not forget that it is the traits that are present in the population that matter, and their frequency, and therefore I do not think that the Dutch Tauros herd will have superiour animals in the near future. But of course they have some very nice animals as well, such as a number of good Sayaguesa cows and a beautiful Limia bull. I expect that Tauros cattle to be very similar to Taurus cattle overall.



6 comments:

  1. Hi Daniel!

    Nice post!

    What do you think about the newest Tauros crossbreed centers in Croatia (Boskarin&Sayaguesa ) and Portugal (Maronesa&Sayaguesa)?
    To be honest, those Boskarin cows do not seem that good, probably cross them with a nice Sayaguesa bull is more a step back than a step forward...That is, some good Sayaguesa features will be lost without any appreciable advantage.Do you agree?

    Cheers,

    Filippo

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    1. Good Sayaguesa features do not necessarily get lost if they keep an eye on which individuals they select. Those Boskarin cows they have so far don't look as they would add much to Sayaguesa- Maronesa x Sayaguesa will certainly deliver some nice individuals but also has deficiencies. But those are just the founding animals of the herds, I presume one or two more breeds will be added later on, but all in all I don't except more than for the Dutch herds to be honest.

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  2. If only they would cull cattle in Oostvaardersplassen... :(
    -They could make a profit and most important:
    Less cattle means more food, means bigger cattle. Less food means: Smaller cattle are selected.
    In my opinion the aurochs is not as much a product of co-evolution with pleistozen predators, but more a product of bull-fighting.
    Why? -Because lidia-cattle looks like aurochs (except the small size, which ist not natural selected, but was selected by men). -They evolved to aurochs-like cattle WITHOUT predators -just by fighting for dominance.
    So just culling enough cattle in Oostvaardersplassen to end the starving at winter-time and they will evolve to auroch-like shapes by themselfes.
    (excuse my bad english, aber ich darf ja hier kein Deutsch schreiben, da das hier ein internationaler blog ist ;))

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    1. The problem is not that there are too many cattle there, quite the contrary. Cattle seem to be outcompeted by deer and horses, and its the high quantity of those two species that restricts the cattle, not the cattle themselves. Predators might balance that a bit but who knows. In terms of large game, OVP is all but natural anyway IMO.

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. I agree. It's hard to stay optimistic. I have a bit more hope and excitement for the Uruz Project. I am excited to see the Watusi chiannina crosses. I also have hope that in the future actual aurochs genes can be spliced into cattle using CRISPr technology. But mostly I agree that using highland cattle was a huge mistake they may never recover from.

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