Phylogenetic characterization of indigenous Cyprus cattle

€5,000 awarded

Project duration: 11/2022 – 04/2023

Status: ON-GOING

The challenge

The indigenous Cyprus Cattle Breed is an endangered species and the only local cattle breed of the island that evolved and adapted to local environment for thousands of years. High prices of feed, the competition for land use, its slower growth rates compared to imported breeds, as well as due to the intensification of cattle production systems established on the island during the last 50 years, have led the local cattle to marginalization. Current counts of this breed sum up to 1300 adults and if this number continues to drop, inbreeding will start to occur, putting the future of this breed at stake. Farmers who have been keeping these cattle are mostly depended on the support of EU schemes of rare breeds instead of better acquired market prices due to its uniqueness and high-quality products. The absence of appropriate research regarding the Cyprus Cattle Breed led to the absence of acknowledgment by the public regarding the value of this animal and its high-quality products as a unique, environmental-friendly, low-input and well adapted to local extensive farming practices, and consequently driving the future of indigenous Cyprus cattle to extinction.

 

The solution

The objective of this project is to study the genetic characterization, population structure and diversity of the animals that still exist on the island. For this scope, blood samples from all over Cyprus will be collected, DNA will be isolated and stored, and molecular techniques will be optimized. As the indigenous Cyprus cattle is very well adapted to local xerothermic Mediterranean environment with unique attributes that lend its use in extensive farming, this is the first step of a larger project that aims to support the survival of the breed on the island, promotes its products and incorporate the breed in ecological rebuilding projects through grazing and soil regeneration.

 

Project’s deliverables

  • Map of cattle blood sampling across Cyprus: Create a map with location of the farms that the sampling of cattle blood took place.
  • Storage of genetic material (DNA): Blood samples are collected across the country and DNA is isolated from animal blood.
  • Allele database creation: Creation and maintenance of a database with the alleles that will be identified during optimization process.
  • Optimized protocols for Cyprus Cattle Breed genetic analysis: Optimized protocols for genetic analysis of Cyprus Cattle Breed will be written for any future user.

 

The overall project has multiple beneficiaries including the animals, the farmers, the environment, the consumers and the genetic resources of Cyprus.

 

A bit about the organization

ERATOSTHENES Center of Excellence (ERATOSTHENES CoE) is an autonomous, and self-sustained center, part of the Cyprus University of Technology (CUT). The mission of the ERATOSTHENES CoE is to conduct both basic and applied research towards improved understanding, management, and monitoring of natural resources and infrastructures and to offer expert services and products of excellent quality in line with the latest development on cutting-edge and high-tech tools. The research team involved in the current project, leaded by the Associate Professor Despoina Miltiadou, represent the Animal and Dairy Science specialisation of the Department of Agricultural Sciences, Biotechnology and Food Science (CUT), and constituted by well trained and known scientists in the subject of animal biology working for the last 15 years in research projects funded by the EU, different state agencies and the private sector of Cyprus in themes related to ruminant’s production, animal genetics, local breeds and quality of products.