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Religion and Genetics: Simplifying India's Dairy Farming

08 November 2013

Religion and culture could limit the world’s biggest milk producer in becoming a sustainable farming dairy farming nation, a leading expert at the World Dairy Summit in Japan has revealed.

According to former dean of Bangalore Veterinary College, Sira Abdul Rahman, India produces around 143 million tonnes of milk from an average herd size of just two.

Progress has been rapid since the 1990’s as average annual yield has increased to 1,200 litres per cow, doubling production since 1996.

However, Mr Rahman told the Summit the country’s 76 million dairy farms are faced with fundamental problems of welfare because cows are sacred.

He explained that, at the end of a cow’s productive life, it cannot be slaughtered. Instead, it goes to a ‘Goshala’, a government funded shelter.

Cows are often abandoned in Goshalas - an animal welfare concern as well as being bad for the industry’s environmental footprint, he added.

“India is a fascinating country,” said Professor Albert De Vries, University of Florida, after a US Department of Agriculture sponsored visit to India in the summer.

Highlighting the nature of Indian farming he said: “It is crowded with people and cattle on the streets everywhere. With a population of 1,237 million people, it has 3.9 times as many people as the US on an area that is only 32 per cent of the area of the US.”

Genomics company CRI Genex organised the visit as part of the government ‘Emerging Markets Project’, which Professor De Vries said was to market genomically proven US sires.

For a host of reasons, India has imported little semen for a long time, explained the Professor.

He added that dairy semen from unproven sires has import restrictions, which limits US semen sales.

“Most of today’s top US genetics are young bulls with no daughters milking yet. For example, of the top 100 Holsteins ranked in the April 2013 CDCB sire evaluations for lifetime Net Merit dollars, only two bulls had daughters.”

While good interest in genomics can be seen in India, most passion is about applying technology to Indian cattle, not on importing, he added.

For this to work, an extensive and rigorous national data base needs to be in place, such as the US corpus made from the National Dairy Herd Association which incorporates type traits.

He concluded the jury is still out on whether the visit to Indian will open doors for US semen to India.

Michael Priestley

Michael Priestley
News Team - Editor

Mainly production and market stories on ruminants sector. Works closely with sustainability consultants at FAI Farms

 

Top image via Shutterstock



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