Dairy farmers in Kerala can look forward to better quality of livestock for accelerated improvement of milk productivity.
A genomic laboratory for DNA analysis established by the Kerala Livestock Development Board (KLDB) at Kudappanakunnu here promises to usher in a new era in genetic improvement of breeding bulls used for artificial insemination.
Named Centre for Applied Livestock Genomics (CALG), the State-funded laboratory has been set up at a cost of Rs.11 crore with technical support from the National Dairy Research Institute, Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology, and Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute. It is due to be inaugurated on February 11 by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy.
Managing Director, KLDB, Jose James told The Hindu that genomic tools were expected to facilitate early and more precise selection of breeding animals.
Since 1977, the KLDB has relied on progeny testing — the evaluation of bulls based on the performance of their female offspring in milk production - for stock improvement of dairy cattle. As many as 40 young bulls on an average are put to progeny test annually and 10 per cent (four bulls) which produce daughters with the highest milk yield are selected as ‘proven’ bulls.
The proven bulls are multiplied by producing more number of young bulls from them, which are then largely used for artificial insemination.
These young bulls are put to progeny test again and the cycle continues. The frozen semen of all the bulls put to progeny test is kept in long storage for future use and the daughter performance is recorded. In Kerala, heifers calve between 30 and 40 months of age, while breeding bulls take 18 to 24 months of age to attain semen production.
This long generation interval, Dr. James points out, was a drag on the pace of genetic improvement. “By using genomic information, in conjunction with the traditional progeny testing, we hope to achieve a more reliable estimate of the genetic value that a bull passes on to its offspring.”
Genetic improvement of livestock is critical for improved milk production.