Revati is 11 years old and Rupa is 13. Both have passed the age of reproduction, as the average lifespan of a cow is 15 years. But in less than a year from now, their calves will be delivered by ‘surrogate’ cows. For the first time in the country, the oocytes (female eggs) of seven cows were collected from cow farms in Pune district earlier this week for reproduction through invitro fertilisation (IVF) technology. The hour-long process was carried out under J K BovaGenix, and it is a first-of-its-kind initiative conceptualised and developed to achieve pregnancies from IVF embryos of selected indigenous cattle breeds.
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The initiative was launched near Bilaspur in Chhattisgarh by JK Trust in July.
Dr Shyam Zavar, CEO, JK Trust, said, “The main objective of livestock development activity is to upgrade local indigenous low milk-yielding cows and buffaloes by breeding them through artificial insemination, with the use of high-pedigree frozen semen of indigenous/ exotic breeds. The resulting upgraded progeny, with an improved genetic makeup, will have far better milk-yielding capacity. The technology works exactly the same way IVF works in humans.”
At the two cow farms in Pune district, a veterinarian collected oocytes from the donor cows using an ultrasound-guided follicular aspiration technique. The oocytes were placed in a petri dish and fertilised the following day with semen. The fertilised eggs will mature in an incubator for seven days, and the resulting viable embryos will be transferred into recipient cows.
During their reproductive years, both Revati and Rupa used to produce substantially higher amount of milk as compared to the other cows of the breeds they belong to — Khillari and Gir.
“While Revati would give 13.5 litres milk in a day, Rupa used to give 24 litres,” said Majid Pathan, who owns a cow farm in Indapur.
“Rupa’s daughter Shobha gives 28 litres of milk a day. That’s why we want to save the bloodline of Rupa. Generally, once a cow surpasses its age of reproducing, it is handed over to the slaughter house. At least this way, we can keep her alive and give her special care till she dies a natural death. Usually a cow gives birth to a calf once a year, but we can reproduce nearly 50 calves in a year through IVF. The oocytes of a cow gets ready in a month’s time… with the technology, the matured embryos of a donor cow can be transferred to the recipient cows,” said Pathan.
He added that among the 250 cows that he owns, he has already identified the cows that might be used as surrogates or recipient cows – Parni, Harni, Surbhi and Sagar in the Khilari breed, and Henna, Gita, Hansa, Kanchan and Kirti in the Gir breed.
“We will conduct a medical check-up before transferring the embryo in the medically fit cows,” said Pathan.
Other than the four cows of Pathan, the oocytes of three cows of Chandrakant Bharekar, who owns a cow farm, were also collected the same day. All the three cows — Morni, Radha and Saraswati — belong to Tharparkar breed and are almost four years old. “It’s a breed from Rajasthan and is a dual purpose cow, used for milking and farming in drought areas. However, over the past few decades, the breed was destroyed due to mixed-breeding practice. We have 150 pure breed Tharparkar cows, which have been reared to save the breed in its purest form. Morni, Radha and Saraswati give nearly 16 litres of milk in a day,” he said.