In a first attempt at bovine surrogacy, Banas Dairy on Thursday began artificially inseminating surrogate Kankrej cows in Banaskantha district. If the pregnancies succeed, these indigenous breed of cows are expected to produce calves that will grow up to be high-milk yielding cows.
“This is the first time we are using in-vitro fertilisation or IVF technique in Kankrej breed of cows. While this breed is known to be sturdy and has high resistance to diseases, the average daily milk yield of a Kankrej cow is just 3-5 litres. But there are cows of the same breed that can yeild 20-25 litres of milk a day. We have purchased 50 such cows from farmers and are using their embryos to artificially inseminate average cows of the same breed who act as surrogates to increase the number of high milk-yielding cows,” said Shankar Choudhary, chairman of Banas Dairy, who along with the board of directors oversaw the artificial insemination of first five Kankrej cows in Raiya village of Diyodhar taluka.
The artificial insemination process was carried out by experts from the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB). Two months ago, Banas Dairy had sent few of their “elite” Kankrej cows to NDDB for extraction of their oocytes that was fertilised in their laboratory with semen of Kankrej bulls taken from the semen station of Banas Dairy.
The insemination process began after Banas Dairy chairman performed a pooja and fed the cows that would undergo the insemination process at their farm in Rajya village.
“The embryos that were inseminated into the cows on Thursday are seven days old. We are actually renting the wombs of low milk-yielding cows of the same breed to produce calves that can grow up as high milk-yielding animals,” said Dr Siddhartha S Layek, manager (animal breeding) NDDB, who travelled to Rajya village with a colleague from Anand with five harvested embryos in a transport incubator where a temperature 37.5 degrees Celsius was maintained.
“Without being frozen, these embryos can survive for a day,” he said as the first attempt at inseminating the chosen cow failed after the animal failed to respond to the local anaesthetic given before the process began.
“If we are able complete the process smoothly, say within five minutes, the chances of pregnancy increases,” Layek said as he bends over a microscope to load more embryos into an artificial insemination gun. This gun is inserted into the cows to plant the embryos. The insemination process in the remaining four cows were successful, officials said.
Banas Dairy plans to take the cow surrogacy project to the farmers of the district if the experiments yield desired results. “We will inseminate 100 Kankrej cows. We have trained our team in the process and if this succeeds, we will take it to farmers,” Chaudhary said. The dairy has chosen heifer cows, which have never borne a calf before, for the project.
Banas Dairy also plans to build its own laboratory and start an animal breeding centre to take the project forward. “Currently, we are using the facilities of NDDB but within a year, we plan to build our own laboratory where we will create embryos,” he said. Currently, inseminating one cow costs around Rs 20,000. But the Dairy hopes the costs will come down with mass inseminations.
The increase in numbers of high milk-yielding cows is expected to benefit Banas Dairy, which collected over 85 lakh litres of milk per day in 2020-21 is also building a second milk processing plant with a 50 lakh litres per day capacity at Diyodhar in Banaskantha district.
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