Divyanshu Pandey1, Kumar Govil21 M.V.Sc.Animal Genetics and Breeding Division (National Dairy Research Institue, Karnal, Haryana),
2 Assistant Professor, Department of Animal nutrition (NanajiDeshmukh Veterinary Science University, Rewa, M.P).
Livestock acts as a main source of income and contributes to the livelihoods of the poor and marginal farmers of Uttarakhand by providing milk, manure, meat and wool. Most of the dairy products are consumed locally, and do not fetch suitable prices mainly due to lack of market and cold storages (Sati, 2016). The Badri breed derived its name from the holy shrine of Char Dham at Badrinath.It is found only in the hill districts of Uttarakhand and was earlier known as the ‘pahadi’ cow.These indigenous cattle are small with prominent hump, weighing between 200–250 kg, having short legs and varied body colors (black, brown, red, white and grey). Muzzle and hooves are black or brown in colour. Udder is small, tucked up with the body.This cattle of Uttarakhand being the first certified cattle breed of Uttarakhand after National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resource included it as Badri breed.At present, Uttarakhand has around seven lakh Badri cows, among which are 4.79 lakh female cattle (Breed survey, 2019). The uniqueness of Badri cow’s produce is indigenousness and environment (in the Himalayas), as it eats medicinal herbs and is far away from toxic pollution, polythene and other harmful things that cows in the plains are subject to. The milk also has rich medicinal content and high organic value as it grazes only on herbs and shrubs available in the mountains. It is also comparatively more resistant to diseases, mostly due to its eating habits. Landless and marginal farmers of Uttarakhand hills mainly rear Badri cattle and hence, the livelihood generation through Badri cattle becomes an important investigating variable to find its role in income generation. This will generate information for planning and improvement of Badri cattle, which is one way to conserve this cultural and traditional heritage of Uttarakhand. Therefore there is a huge singnificance of Badri cattle in rural household of Uttarakhand hills for example along with the medicinal use of its milk and milk product, people of Uttarakhand have cultural sentiments associated with the cow. Apart from Badri ghee, which is available at the rate of ₹3,000 to ₹5,000 per kg, there is a scope at the marketing potential of gaumutra ark (distilled cow urine), cow dung, and Panchgavya (the five products of the cow, including milk, curd, ghee, dung and urine).
To increase the productivity of its indigenous petite Badricow that grazes on the medicinal herbs of the Himalayas, its genetic enhancement is a novel thrust area for research.The use sex-sorted semen technology to improve production of Badri cattle may be adopted along with use of embryo transfer method in order to produce more cattle of high genetic stock to increase the overall productivity and economy.
New reproductive technologies
Badri cow is the first registered cattle breed of Uttarakhand which has been certified by the National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources (NBAGR).The issue with this variety of cattle is that its milk production capacity is quite less as it gives one to three litres of milk per day. To make the farmers of Uttarakhand breed Badri and not to shift to other high milk-producing alternative breeds like Jersey cows, Multiple Ovulation Embryo Transfer (MOET), a conventional embryo flush, which is the most common procedure can be used in advanced cattle breeding. The ovum pickup in vitro fertilisation (IVF) is the other technology that will be used to increase the yield per animal. The introduction of Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) for the improvement of Badri cattle, can generate employment and entrepreneurship through native Badri cattle along with productivity enhancement.
As the productivity of the native cattle breed can be improved by use of sex-sorted semen to curtail unproductive male population and the production of elite Badri bulls for semen production through the embryo transfer technology.
Grazes on medicinal herbs
As the Badri cow grazes only on herbs and shrubs available in the mountains, its milk has rich medicinal content and high organic value. The same is the unique quality of its produce for which its ghee is quite expensive. Its urine has a high value due to its feeding and habitat. The lactation milk yield ranges from 547 to 657 kg, with an average milk fat content of 4% (Uttarakhand Livestock Development Board, 2022).
BadriGauMutra Ark (Cow urine distillate) are usually sold at a price of ₹28 per litre and undistilledGaumutra at ₹5 per litre. Fresh Badri cow dung at ₹1 per kg from which they make products like havan samagri , local fuel, manure and dhoop. The awareness about the health benefits of Panchgavya products from indigenous cows is increasing with every passing day.
Sustainable use of animal genetic resources for livestock is proposed as the best strategy for maintaining their diversity. Achievement of sustainable use would continue to support livelihoods and minimize the long-term risk for survival of animal populations. The concept of sustainable use has economic, environmental and socio-cultural dimensions. Sustainable use of animal genetic resources also contributes to food security, rural development, increasing employment opportunities and improving standards of living of keepers of breeds. Supporting the rearing of breeds through better infrastructure, services, animal health care, marketing opportunities and other interventions would make a significant contribution to the sustainable use of animal genetic resources.To make dairying profitable, Productivity (milk production per animal) needs to be increased. Productivity of dairy Badri cattle can be increased by better feeding and management of the existing animals. However, by this, milk production cannot be increased beyond the animal’s genetic potential. Improving Genetic potential for milk production in future generation of animals by using animals with high genetic potential for milk production as parents. Selecting parents with high genetic potential is a highly complex and scientific process and requires collaborative efforts with farmers, breeding services providers, semen production centres and research institutes.
For a successful genetic improvement programme it is essential to:
- Identify and performance record of large number of animals of the selected breed in hilly areas of Uttarakhand.
- Identify best performing animals (Bulls and Cows) for producing next generation of bulls and heifers through Selection.
- Maximise use of these ”Selected” animals in breeding programme to produce all the replacement heifers – called “Multiplication”.
Identification and Performance Recording
It is important to measure and record the relevant traits along with the pedigree details of large number of animals in an area. From this pool of recorded animals, best animals can be identified and selected.Efforts are made to measure and record all traits, which affect milk production, milk quality and reproduction of animals such as milk volume, important milk components, body conformation, growth rates, age at first calving, fertility etc.For maintaining complete records of individual animals in computerised data base for further analysis, it is necessary that each animal is identified with a 12-digit ear tag digit number which is unique to each animal in the country i.e., no other animal in the country will have the same number. Every service (AI, Treatment, Vaccination etc.) received by the animal needs to be recorded against this tag number. Official milk recorders visit farmer’s house at the time of milking on designated days and measure amount of milk produced by the identified animal. The milk recorder also takes a sample of the milk for testing of Fat per cent, Protein per cent, SNF per cent etc.Data from across the country is collected. This data is used for analysis of animal information. All these information is collected used for recording the individual animal wise information.
The challenge is to accurately identify animals with higher genetic capacity to produce more and not just physical appearance. Selecting animals for traits which are expressed by them is easy – such as selecting cows for milk production.However, it is difficult to select animals for traits which they themselves do not express. For example selecting bulls for their milk production potential. For such traits, animals are selected based on the performance of their relatives which express that trait (Mother, Sisters or Daughters). Selection based on the performance of large number of daughters of the bull will be much more accurate than just based on dam, siblings or grandparent performance. Records of ancestors and siblings would additionally add to the accuracy of selection based on daughter’s record.
Multiplying Best Bull
Genetic contribution of a bull to next generation can be maximized through use of Artificial Insemination (AI). A good bull, if used in natural service can produce on an average around 450 – 500 calves in its life time (5 years) whereas, if we produce frozen semen doses from the bull and use in AI, it can produce approximately 45 – 50 thousand calves in its lifetime.
Multiplying best animals
For producing future bulls, we should only use the best few bulls of the selected lot on best performing cows from the recorded population. However, care should be taken to avoid breeding of close relatives to avoid deleterious effects of inbreeding. The genetic merit of the bulls thus produced will improve over generations. The use of elite cows can be intensified further through use of embryo transfer, which help to produce more number of calves from top cows in a shorter period.
It is desirable that a defined breeding policy based on geographical and climatic conditions of the state and distribution of breed in the state. Breeding policy is a guideline to indicate what breed and breed combination or exotic blood level would be most suitable in the given agro climatic condition of the state. It should be followed to get the optimum output from animals and to conserve the native breed available in the state.
Sustainable use includes the use and improvement of breeds that possess high levels of adaptive fitness to the prevailing environment. Genetic improvement programmes need to be considered in terms of livestock development objectives, suitability to local conditions and livelihood security as well as environmental sustainability. Genetic improvement can involve choice of appropriate breeds, choice of a suitable pure breeding or crossbreeding system. The choice of appropriate breeds and crossbreeding systems in developed countries has been a major contributor to the large increases in productivity. Crossbreeding has been most successful where it is followed by a rigorous selection programme involving livestock owners’ participation and substantial public sector investment in the form of technical support. In any genetic improvement programme, inbreeding needs to be monitored and controlled.
The genetic improvement of Badri cattle can be achieved with use of multiple ovulation Embryo transfer technology and sex sorted semen technology along with better management for better efficacy. Emerging genomic approaches can be adopted with use of marker assisted selection, identifying quantitative trait loci, other genomic technologies promise the ability to identify better, use and improve developing world animal genetic resources in the foreseeable future.