The Kerala Livestock Development Board has signed a partnership agreement with UMOTEST-COOPEX, a cooperative of Montebeliarde cattle-breeding farmers in France, for improving the genetic stock of dairy cattle in Kerala.

The cooperative agreed to provide 2,000 doses of frozen semen from 10 superior Montbeliarde bulls and 50 embryos of the breed for starting a technical programme in the State to improve milk production, Food and Civil Supplies Minister C. Divakaran and Managing Director of the board Ani S. Das said here on Monday.

Addressing the media on their return from France where they signed the agreement, they said the French had also expressed interest in a student exchange programme.

The memorandum of understanding with UMOTEST-COOPEX envisaged a cross-breeding programme, on a trial basis, for upgrading the genome base of Kerala cattle. It also proposed to establish a small nuclear herd of pure Montbeliarde breed for a breeding programme and study the adaptability of the breed in the climate and management conditions of Kerala. Besides, a training programme of board officials in markers assisted selection, genomic selection, progeny testing, embryo transfer, farm building management, nutrition and animal identification was envisaged.

The Minister said Kerala was chosen for the programme following a general agreement reached between the Central Ministry of Agriculture of France and the Union government last year. The cattle would be reared at the farms of the board at Mattupetty and Kolahalamedu (Vagamon) where the climate was similar to that of France.

Mr. Divakaran said that he had held discussions with the Secretary-General from the French Ministry of Agriculture and visited the National Institute for Agriculture Research of France, accompanied by Dr. Das, Additional Chief Secretary P.K. Mohanty and Second Secretary of Embassy of India in France Cyril Tigga. They had also visited UMOTEST-COOPEX at Besancon and medium and high-tech dairy farms and the National College of Higher Education in dairy processing. Opportunities for production of cheese were also discussed with French authorities.

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