Photo of a cow.

Could a national livestock gene bank future-proof endangered farm animals?

In 2001, foot-and-mouth disease broke out among livestock in the United Kingdom.

More than 6 million sheep and cattle were slaughtered and their carcasses incinerated on farms before the disease was brought under control.

In the wake of the crisis, estimated to have cost approximately $14 billion, the UK bolstered its national livestock gene bank to bolster rare domestic breeds, including sheep, cattle and goats.

The bank — a type of high-tech Noah’s Ark — securely stores semen and embryos cryogenically frozen as insurance against disasters such as disease, flood, fire or climate change.