Concerned over the depletion of indigenous species of cattle in the state,the Department of Animal Husbandry has embarked on an ambitious project of selective breeding of cows and buffaloes. The project aims to both strengthen the indigenous breed of cattle and also produce a new generation of animals with better resilience and increased milk producing capacity in the next 5-6 years.
Dr S N Bagade,Additional Commissioner,Animal Husbandry,Maharashtra,said the breed improvement project would see use of latest technology at all levels. Indiscriminate breeding in both cows and buffaloes had weakened the genetic pool of Indian cattle. Also,the milk production capacity of the animals was far from satisfactory, he said.
The state has over 1 crore cows and over 60 lakh buffalos. While countries like New Zealand and Australia have already undertaken such breed improvement programmes years ago and seen success,this is the first time in India that such a programme would be undertaken by any state.
To address both the concerns,it was decided to identify high milk-yielding female animals and then artificially inseminate them using high quality sperms. Bagade said 60,000 cow and buffalos had been identified and fitted with tags for the purpose. The over 4,700 veterinary hospitals in the state were given the task of identifying high milk-yielding animals in their neighbourhood.
The tags on the animals have microchips that will help us track their movement. Each animal has been issued a unique 12 digit identification number. Also,the microchip has complete data of the animal age,milk yielding capacity,breed and other details. This data has been linked to the central server where all such details would be maintained. Each owner has been issued a special SIM card,the number of which has been linked to the above data. This way we would be able to track the animal,which is crucial in the breeding programme, he added.
The selected buffalos are from five of the major breeds found in Maharashtra Pandharpuri,Marathwadi,Nagpuri,Jaffrabadi and Mura. The indigenous cow breeds selected for the project are Khilar,Dangi,Saiwal,Devni,Gir,Lalkandhari and Gaolao. HF and Jersey cows,both products of cross breeding,have also been selected for their superior milk producing capacity.
After selection of the animals,veterinarians visited the owners and issued special instructions about the animals feed,maintenance and timely vaccinations. Each animal owner would be issued an allowance of Rs 200 per month towards mobile phone usage. Every day,the owner is supposed to send out milking records (total milk produced per day) of the chosen animals via SMS, Bagade said.
While special imported semen would be selected for crossbreed animals,semen extracted from specially selected robust bulls from the various bull farms in the state would be used for the indigenous breeds. We would buy back the male calves,of high milk yielding cows born this way,by paying the owner Rs 25,000. Such animals would be taken care of in the government bull farms and utilised for generation of high-quality semen both for indigenous and cross-breed varieties, said Bagade.While a trial run has started,Bagade said the first calf is expected to be born in mid-2014.