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The two calves that grace a muddy pen on the UC Davis campus will never grow horns typical of their breed. Instead, they’ll always sport soft hair on the parts of their heads where hard mounds normally emerge.

Named Spotigy and Buri, the calves were designed in a petri dish at a Minnesota-based genetics lab, with the goal of making them easier to pack into pens and trucks without the nuisance of their horns taking up valuable space. Their offspring may also lack horns, and generations of hornless cows could follow, potentially saving the dairy and cattle industry millions of dollars, said Alison Van Eenennaam, a geneticist at UC Davis’ College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences who worked with the Minnesota lab Recombinetics.

This first-of-a-kind result of a process called genetic editing is a test run that’s expected to deeply impact the cattle and dairy industry and the entire food supply, Van Eenennaam said. It’s also part of a flurry of research looking at how to make cattle easier to maintain, transport and turned into food. The research... see more