Scientists in New Zealand say some of the country's four million cows contain genes that could be used to make them produce only skimmed milk. Their work, published in Chemistry & Industry magazine, could help the dairy industry meet consumer demand for lower fat products while also reducing wastage. A first commercial herd "is likely by 2011", according to the scientists, who work for biotech firm ViaLactia. It is reported that Fonterra, New Zealand's largest dairy co-operative, has already made milk from one of the cows carrying the gene. Low fat dairy products have increased market share in several western markets. In the UK, consumption of whole milk has dropped 75 per cent in 20 years to roughly 50mls per person per week. Consumption of semi-skimmed milk is double that and skimmed milk is even higher, up at 150mls, according to Milk Development Council (MDC) figures. As well as skimmed milk, the New Zealand researchers said they plan to breed cows capable of producing milk that is ideal for spreadable butter. They said one cow identified for this task, named Marge, could produce milk very low in saturated fats, which should also mean high levels of polyunsaturates and monounsaturates - seen as 'good fats'. Ed Komorowski, technical director at industry body Dairy UK, told DairyReporter the findings were interesting but cautioned that "we have not really seen any of the scientific detail". He said a main advantage of cows producing skimmed milk may be lower costs through less wastage. Producing whole and semi-skimmed milk means there is more fat left over. "The advantage for some companies is that they would not have any surplus cream, which would minimise the need to dispose of this," Komorowski said. But, he warned, some firms wanted the cream for other products or to sell. Cream income this month reached its highest level since October 2003, the MDC said last week. The rise is part of a general commodity market boom, although reduced EU subsidies for dairy commodities is still expected to wean European firms off them over the next few years.