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Bill Gates wants to make cows great again

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has a novel idea for fighting poverty among farmers: breeding better cows.

BBC reported Friday that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will invest millions of dollars to promote “the health and productivity of livestock” through research by Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines. “For over a billion people living in the world’s poorest countries, agriculture and livestock are a lifeline out of poverty,” Gates said Friday. “You can sell the output, and that’s money for school fees. You can keep the output, and that’s diet diversification.”

Through their charitable organization, the Gateses are pumping $40 million into research to create more efficient and more resilient cows. The financial injection will help “make vaccines, medicines, and diagnostics accessible to millions of the world’s poorest smallholder farmers,” BBC explained. The Times of London added that some efforts will be made to crossbreed existing breeds of cows in an attempt to capitalize on the best traits of each one. “We [need] animals with the ability to have a high rate of feed conversion, and others that tolerate extreme variations of temperatures,” a professor involved in the research said.

For example, The Times explained, there is a huge difference in the milk output between different breeds of cows. British cows can pump out as much as 30 daily liters of milk, while some African cows can only make 2 liters — but the African cows are better adapted to the heat. If those two traits could be combined in one animal, the benefits would be great.

Gates is optimistic that his investment will go a long way: “The impact per dollar we spend is super-high in [Africa],” he said. “You can have a cow that is four times as productive.” Read more at BBC.