A first-of-its-kind effort in the country to use assisted reproductive technology (ART) in bovines has been successful, with 13 calves born from a single cow in a year. Now, an NGO working in the field of animal husbandry, J K Trust, plans to take this IVF technology to the doorstep of farmers, to improve the breed of indigenous cattle in the country.
The J K Trust’s Cattle Breed Improvement Programme operates 2,357 Integrated Livestock Development Centres in 112 districts of 11 states. It covers almost 24,000 villages and reaches 24 lakh farmers.
J K Trust CEO Dr Shyam Zavar told The Indian Express that a trained veterinarian collects oocytes from a donor cow, using an ultrasound-guided follicular aspiration technique. The oocytes are placed in a petri dish and fertilised the following day.The fertilised eggs mature in an incubator for seven days, and the resulting viable embryos are transferred into recipient cows.
In this case, the donor cow Radha, of Gir breed, was brought from Gujarat to the laboratory at Pune, where IVF technology was used and 99 embryos were produced from 24 oocyte aspirations conducted on her. These sessions were conducted between September 2016 and April 2018. Nineteen recipients got pregnant from the embryos of Radha. Within the last one year, 13 IVF calves have been born while the remaining are expected in the coming days, said Zavar.
He said earlier, the J K Trust had worked on embryo transfer in sheep. In 2016, the NGO launched a new initiative, JK BovaGenix, by setting up two IVF-ET Laboratories, one near Pune in Maharashtra and the other in Chhattisgarh.
“The live example of Radha and her 13 calves, born in a year, assumes importance considering the fact that a cow normally produces a maximum of 8-10 calves in her entire lifespan,” said Zavar.
He said this was a classic example of technology being used for the rapid propagation of animals with superior genetics at a faster pace. After achieving success at their own facilities, JK BovaGenix is planning to take the technology to the doorstep of farmers for the first time in India.
The programme is also in line with the objectives of the Centre’s ‘Rashtriya Gokul Mission’, aimed at preserving and propagating indigenous breeds of cattle such as Gir (Gujarat), Sahiwal (Punjab/Haryana), Tharparkar (Rajasthan), Ongole, Punganur (Andhra Pradesh), Khillar (Maharashtra) and others,