University of Wyoming Crossbreeding Yaks to Eliminate Brisket Disease

Research studies tend to get repetitive and remain generic. Well, at the University of Wyoming’s College of Ag., a team is tackling a troublesome issue of Brisket disease in cattle through crossbreeding Yaks. High elevation areas affect cattle’s respiratory system because it lack of design for that environment which results in the disease. Most summer pasture land for Wyoming ranchers is on mountain permits for four months of grazing. If the cattle cannot sustain this high elevation they will instantly die, which is financially costly to the rancher. Yaks are hardy animals that survive in the high altitude mountains of Tibet, India. Regardless of their similar makeup Yaks are more of a wild animal like elk and are not necessarily domestic like bovine. However they are close enough in their genetic makeup that they could be crossbred. Dr. Mark Stayton wanted to enhance the ability for cattle to sustain high altitude conditions  and by incorporating this gene into the commercial cattle breed at the university’s beef unit by artificially inseminating Yak semen into 14 mother cows to move the gene into cattle breeds.

The plan is to keep breeding back these new cows and isolating the gene so it passes on to other cows to genetically develop a stronger respiratory system. Maintaining the cross breed of cows-yak may not prove to be efficient since even though the babies grow up around their docile mothers there wild instincts over take their ability to react like domesticated cows. The ultimate goal is to gain the altitude resistant gene and not dilute in breed back which will hopefully leave the industry with a cow that its DNA is  99% bovine and only 1% yak. Nobody has ever attempted this research and currently the first generation of yearlings reside at the beef unit under the farm manager Travis Smith.

In creating this video having the main researcher, caretaker, and cows readily available to video offered a unique opportunity for reporting this new research. I really enjoyed interviewing the people creating and working with these cows. When interviewing I ignored the camera and made casual conversation with the interviewee which provided us with many great quotes and stories. I love putting stories together, so during the editing phase combining the B-roll for an effective story, came together so naturally. It really helped that we had high quality interviews and lots of B-Roll to pick and chose the best angle to piece together.

I did not enjoy struggling to find a topic. After this experience I would take time to brainstorm the close contacts I have before I go outside the box for a story.Our interviewee Dr. Stayton is my academic adviser, and I discovered his project through a presentation of a fellow Ag Communication student. After this project, the saying start with the topics close to you, makes more sense to me now.

I was surprised at how helpful the wind was for our B-roll. When we arrived at the beef unit we were nearly bent over and kept saying that the sound quality was going to be awful with the 60 mph winds. Once while editing at the computer, we realized the strong wind was helpful in showing the thickness of the hair so cattle people can see the physical differences in this crossbreeding. To go back and redo this project I would work on setting up the interviewees better for the camera. Unfortunately were we interviewed Travis there was only one good spot for Cassie to stand with the camera. After reviewing the film, next time I would take a moment to ask them to be conscious of their positioning.

I really enjoyed this project as a whole. Especially interviewing the experts and getting to ask questions out of my own curiosity. Then going into the computer lab I loved the control of designing and fine tuning the information to make interesting for a short video. I would really like to keep working on putting together videos. I love the short story we created on this insightful crossbreeding project, and am excited to see how this one project will open the door for me learn a new skill.  Another plus is the UW research center has already asked to see the video once this project is complete.


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