India's Fading Livestock Breeds

INDIA - A recent survey on biodiversity highlights the threat faced by India's livestock breeds.
calendar icon 18 June 2009
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A major part of India's indigenous breeds of livestock such as cattle, goats and sheep are threatened and showing declining trends, according to India's Fourth National Report to the convention on Biological Diversity.

India's Food & Beverage News says that the report, which was released by Union Minister of Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh, and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minster, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, in Hyderabad on 16 June, says that systematic surveys and programmes are needed to be undertaken on conservation and genetic enhancement for domesticated animal genetic diversity, according to a report in Business Line. India, the report points out, has vast resources of livestock, estimated at 485 million and poultry at 489 million.

"In terms of population, India ranks first in buffaloes, second in cattle and goats, third in sheep, fourth in ducks, fifth in chicken and sixth in camels in the world. There are about 140 listed breeds of livestock and poultry in India, including 30 breeds of cattle, 10 of buffalo, 42 of sheep, 20 of goat, six of horses and pony, eight of camel and 18 of poultry.

But over the years, animal husbandry has intensified in India, with widespread introduction of exotic breeds. This has led to the reduction in total genetic variability and population size of mane local breeds," the report says. It further says that of the indigenous breeds, 14 of cattle, three of buffalo, nine of sheep, four of goat and almost all breeds of horse and poultry are showing declining trends in the country. "Estimates indicate that 50 per cent of the indigenous goat, 30 per cent of sheep, 20 per cent of cattle and almost all poultry breeds are threatened," it added.

The National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources (NBAGR) is now undertaking suitable programmes for identification, evaluation, characterisation, conservation and sustainable utilisation of animal genetic resources. Various steps have also been taken to protect and check the bio-piracy of indigenous animal genetic resources, including allotment of accession numbers to each of the extant breeds.

Another factor contributing to the trend is that only a few indigenous breeds of cattle and buffalo, which are relatively well-known and economically important, are maintained at state-owned organised farms, where information on growth and production is carefully recorded, concludes the article in Food & Beverage News.

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