To make dairying profitable, Productivity (milk production per animal) needs to be increased. Productivity can be increased in two ways.
- By better feeding and management of the existing animals. However, by this, milk production cannot be increased beyond the animal’s genetic potential
- By improving Genetic potential for milk production in future generation of animals by using animals with high genetic potential for milk production as parents
One must understand that milk production is a function of both the above factors acting together and complementary to each other.
Selecting parents with high genetic potential is a highly complex and scientific process and requires collaborative efforts with farmers, breeding services providers, semen production centers and research institutes. It becomes more complicated in Indian situation where animal holdings are small, farmers do not keep any records including milk records, feeding and management is varied and not optimum, animal identification is resisted, AI is not popular, AI services are inadequate.
A few essential steps in any genetic improvement programme are:
- Identification and recording of large number of animals of the selected breed in an area.
- Identification of best performing animals (Bulls and Cows/ buffaloes) for producing next generation of bulls and heifers – called “Selection”
- Maximize 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 computerized 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 and measures amount of milk produced by the identified animal. He also takes a sample of the milk for testing of Fat%, Protein %, SNF% etc.
A computerized system of recording all these information collected from various corners of the country called Information Network for Animal Productivity and Health (INAPH) is used for recording the individual animal wise information. Best animals are then selected by analyzing the information thus collected in INAPH. The system also generates useful information for use of Managers of the services, AI Technicians and even farmers to help them take information based management decisions.
Best does not mean physically strong and beautiful but animals with genetic capacity to produce more. The challenge is to identify genetic potential of animals for the character of our interest and not just physical appearance. Selecting animals for traits which are expressed by them is easy – such as selecting cows/ buffaloes for milk production.
However, it is difficult to select animals for traits which they themselves do not express eg 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 large number of daughters of the bull will be much more accurate than just based on mother’s, sisters’ or grand parents’ performance. Records of grand-parents, mother’s and sisters’ would additionally add to the accuracy of selection based on daughters’ record.
Multiplying Best Bull
Genetic contribution of a bull to next generation can be maximized through use of Artificial Insemination (AI) technology. 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 on an average 45 - 50000 calves in its lifetime. Thus instead of contributing about 500 genetically improved calves to next generation, it can contribute 50000 calves which is 100 times more.
Multiplying best animals
For producing future bulls, we should only use the best few bulls of the selected lot on best performing cows/ buffaloes 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 be better and better over the generations. The use of elite cows/ buffaloes can be intensified further through use of embryo transfer, which will help us produce more number of calves from top cows/ buffaloes in a shorter period.