By Julia Lull
September 15, 2015

About 95% of the dairy products in the U.S. are produced by the more than 8 million Holstein cattle spread throughout dairy farms in America. However, with only enough genetic diversity to produce 34 unique cows, the American Holstein population is at a serious risk. One disease could have the potential to wipe out the entire population, and decimate the dairy industry in the U.S.

In an effort to provide food security to America, a team of researchers, veterinarians, and farmers at the SVF Foundation are preserving genetic material from rare and important breeds of livestock, like the Holstein.

“We are losing breeds at an estimated rate of one per month on a global scale. And once they are gone they are gone,” says Sarah Bowley, Program Director for the SVF Foundation. “It took 5,000 to 10,000 years to domesticate these species and we are losing them in the blink of an eye.”

With 28 breeds preserved so far and about 10 more to go, the SVF Foundation is beginning to look towards the future.

According to George Saperstein, Scientific Advisor to the SVF Foundation, “when that disastrous disease strikes the…Holstein cows, the answer to saving them is going to be in that library, in those freezers.”

Write to Julia Lull at julia.lull@timeinc.com.

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