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TOQUERVILLE — Steve and Cindy Gilbert have become well-known in the rodeo world over the years for raising some of the toughest bucking bulls.
If you step onto their Diamond G Ranch today, you might notice some of the bulls look almost exactly alike. White Magic for example, who rose to fame several years ago in the rodeo circuit, is often accompanied by a handful of look-alikes. There were six at one time.
"It's always nice to look out in the field and see an exact replica of that animal," Cindy Gilbert said. "We try to name them according to the genetics, like Magical, White Magic Mirror Image, you know, tie it back to the genetic clone that they come out of."
Livestock cloning isn't new. The ability has been around for nearly a decade but is generally cost-prohibitive. However, Steve Gilbert said he and his wife aren't doing it to make money, but to further research with their partners at Utah State University in finding ways to combat cancer and other human diseases.
"It's not an easy project. There's a lot of issues with it," he said. "I can see a lot of benefits of health care coming out of this for human beings in the future."
"It gives vet students an opportunity that very few veterinary clinics or veterinary schools will offer them," Cindy Gilbert added. "We're living longer, and I think it can help us in the long run."
The Gilberts said the clones have become a regular attraction at rodeos. They say onlookers are often amazed at how much they look and act alike. Owen Albrecht, a handler at the Diamond G Ranch, admits that telling the bulls apart is not easy.
"I take real pride in knowing each one of my animals," Albrecht said. "I'm glad there's a number branded on them so I can tell them apart."
The Gilberts said their clones not only look like their originals but behave like them too; seemingly bucking and even loading into a trailer the same way. Cindy Gilbert, however, admits they spend tens of thousands of dollars on the clones for more than just research. She said after becoming attached to certain bulls over the years, it can be tough to let go.
"I'm very good at acquiring. I'm terrible at getting rid of," she said. "We were offered half a million dollars to sell White Magic at the height of his fame, and no amount of money could bring the pleasure that bull brought me."