Livestock genetic company LIC believes it's discovered the gene responsible for producing a number of unusually small calves which have been born over several decades.
The Livestock Improvement Corporation said its scientists made the discovery as part of ongoing research into possible genetic reasons for the 2% to 4% of calf losses on dairy farms each year.
It thinks the genetic variation has existed within the dairy cow population for at least 40 years.
Acting chief executive David Hemara said 12 of LIC's top breeding bulls have been identified as carriers of the small calf gene.
He said DNA sequencing technology has provided the answer and the solution. LIC has the means to breed out the genetic trait.
Another livestock genetics company, CRV Ambreed, will also be treating small calf syndrome as a priority and working with LIC to breed the genetic variation out of the national dairy herd.