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DNA testing isn't only useful for deciding paternity cases - it can also identify stolen cattle that were taken to the other end of the country.
Bactochem, the Ness Ziona company that offers "BactoGen" protection through DNA typing of cows and horses, recently helped a Golan Heights farmer prove ownership of his stolen animals.
After 36 cows and calves from the Boker ranch in the Golan were stolen, the owner spread the word and located them in the Negev. But the police said they couldn't be returned until he could prove they belonged to him. In the meantime, they were sent to a southern kibbutz to stay until the court handed down its decision.
The farmer turned to Bactochem, which has a national DNA bank of cattle and horses. It took blood samples from the "parents" of the calves that remained on the ranch to test for a genetic connection with those that had been stolen. Bactochem proved to the police that the animals were siblings.
Bactochem DNA bank director Dr. Aviv Kahana said the database has the genetic profile of 3,000 cows, making it possible to match DNA of registered animals with those that have been stolen and recovered. However, in this case, the cattle were not registered, requiring the lab to carry out extra work to prove a family connection between the stolen cows and those who remained on the ranch.
The DNA samples are taken when a small hole is made in the cow's ear to attach a tag identifying it as having been tested and registered. The technology can even identify the lineage of the cow if it has already been slaughtered and turned into a steak, or in the form of milk, urine or stool, according to Bactochem.
The DNA database project is being carried out with the cooperation and encouragement of the Cattle Raisers Association. It was recently presented to Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon, who voiced his support and gave instructions for a special allocation to help cattle raisers and other farmers get their animals tested and registered.
Cattle Raisers Association head Haim Dayan said he hoped that in the next few years, the Bactochem DNA bank would coordinate samples from all the herds in Israel and combat not only animal thefts but also unsupervised slaughter of animals and supervision of the sale of fresh kosher meat.