Andhra Pradesh

Surrogacy, key to reviving endangered Punganur cows

A file photo of a Punganur cow.  

Shocking but true! The urine of a Punganur breed cow is sold for ₹10 a litre and its dung for ₹5 a kg. Though they are generally bought to be sprayed on crops, this ‘exorbitant’ price is attributed to the perceived ‘high anti-bacterial’ property of this breed. Ignored for decades, this breed, which is also considered holy in Hindu religion, is back in demand as it is priced up to ₹3.5 lakh.

Andhra Pradesh is famous for its native Punganur and Ongole cattle breeds. Having a Punganur cow in the barn was not only viewed as a status symbol, but also synonymous to opulence, when it was patronised by Vijayanagara emperors and Pithapuram rulers. The breed, which gives a mere 3 litres of milk a day, eventually lost out to high-yielding varieties, especially the cross-bred cattle, in the mad race that followed White Revolution. A rough estimate puts the number of well-characterised Punganur cows in the State at 2,000. Even in its home ground comprising Chittoor, Nellore and Kadapa districts, technically grouped under the southern agro-climatic zone, this short variety that is just over a metre tall, is fast losing ground, notwithstanding its ‘most sought after’ status in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

Mission Punganur

Around 50 Punganur cows are maintained at the Livestock Research Station (LRS) in Palamaner and propagated under in-situ conservation by processing the quality semen at LRS Lam (Guntur). The State government has recently sanctioned ₹69.36 crore under Mission Punganur to be implemented by Sri Venkateswara Veterinary University (SVVU), Tirupati, and at the Andhra Pradesh Centre for Advanced Research in Livestock Limited (APCARL), Pulivendula.

Conserving and propagating the breed and ensuring rapid multiplication of superior female through in-vivo and in-vitro embryo production to increase its population is the objective. “The idea is also to efficiently use low genetic merit cows as surrogate to produce elite offspring,” SVVU Vice-Chancellor V. Padmanabha Reddy told The Hindu.

Hundred elite Punganur cows identified as oocyte/embryo donors will be used for the purpose, from which 25 viable embryos will be produced each year, taking the total to 1,250 in five years. “At a pregnancy rate of 30% and calving rate of 90%, 338 calves will be produced each year, which means 1,690 in five years,” Prof. Reddy explained. However, non-availability of disease-free, genetically-superior donors in the market seems to be a challenge in taking the project further.

The role of SVVU and APCARL appear to be hazy in the government order, giving scope for confusion over dual control. Local cattle rearers are already agitated amid rumours of the Palamaner research station being totally shifted to Pulivendula, which adds a new dimension to the issue.

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2020 9:05:14 AM |

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