Cross-breeding of domestic cattle with exotic breeds such as Jersey, a policy pursued so far by the Andhra Pradesh Government to increase milk yield, may have to be modified, according to D. Venkateswarlu, Director, Animal Husbandry Department, and CEO, AP Livestock Development Authority.

He was speaking at a workshop on the issue here on Wednesday, in which dairy farmers from eight coastal districts participated. He said experience had shown that cross-bred or hybrid cattle do not adapt completely to the local environment and lack the reproductive capabilities of native breeds, among other failings. “The time has come for us to take a relook at the policy in view of the changed scenario and also the needs of the dairy farmers in different regions of the State in the present circumstances. We have already conducted a regional workshop at Tirupati for the purpose and now we are holding one in coastal districts. Another one will be held at Warangal later.”

Course correction

Venkateswarlu said it would be a mistake to formulate a breeding policy that considered only milk yield and several other parameters would have to be considered for long-term, sustainable results. “Conservation of native breeds such as Ongole and Punganuru is of the utmost importance in the interests of bio-diversity, and genetic factors will have to be given due weight. Cross-breeding was taken up with great enthusiasm in the past to phase out the low milk-yielding, non-descript native breeds and it has led to increase in yields, but with some unintended consequences. Therefore, we have to review it now,” he said.

He said there were more than a crore heads of cattle in the State, with Ongole and Punganuru breeds being the most sought-after. “More than 60 per cent of the cattle are now covered under the artificial insemination programme, and we are also importing semen from abroad. Our aim is to improve milk yields and quality by upgrading the native breeds and introducing cross-breeds with discrimination. We want the co-operation and involvement of dairy farmers in the State in the endeavour at every stage,” he said.

V. Prabhakara Rao, Vice-Chancellor, Sri Venkateswara Veterinary University (Tirupati), was more vocal in criticising the cross-breeding programme. “When I started my career as a young veterinary scientist, we took up cross-breeding with great enthusiasm, and we did not realise at the time the importance of native breeds. In hindsight, I realise now the shortcomings of such a policy. For any plan, or project, there should be a mid-course correction, and we should at least now take the corrective measures.”

He said scientists abroad had identified a protein in the milk of tropical cattle useful in containing cardio-vascular diseases, absent in the milk produced in the temperate zone. “Therefore, we have to conserve native breeds, and I am glad that the Union Government is also focusing on the issue in the 12{+t}{+h} Plan.”

D.S. Kanaka Sundara Rao, former director of the State Animal Husbandry Department, and N.S.R. Sastry, veterinary scientist, also agreed with the criticism.

sarma.rs@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on January 23, 2013)
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