Gaushala Semen Conservation

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Semen Banking and Gaushalas: An important partners for ex situ conservation of cattle biodiversity

Rajeev A.K Aggarwal1, P.K.Viz1, M.S.Tantia1, B.K.Joshi2
National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources, Karnal 132001, Haryana, India

The indigenous cattle breeds and their diversity have evolved over a long period of time and developed as milch, draught or dual purpose breeds. Many of these breeds in spite of their satisfactory performance in low input system are fast depleting due to their economical non-viability, hence there is an urgent need of preserving this rich indigenous genetic resources biodiversity which is genetic insurance for sustainable development in future. Artificial insemination and semen freezing is well established technology, which is being used successfully in cattle propagation and breed improvement programme, and can simultaneously be utilized to conserve the cattle biodiversity by storing frozen semen for posterity. Such conservation programme involves long term storage of germplasm in semen bank and its replenishment through utilization and exchange. The Gaushalas are playing significant role socially and culturally for protecting cattle wealth of our country, therefore they have potential of becoming an important and meaningful partner in both in in situ and ex situ conservation programme.

Cattle Wealth of India

India has a rich reservoir of genetic diversity and possesses some of the well known breeds of cattle. There are 30 well defined breeds of cattle in India apart from several other undefined populations. Recognized breeds represent about 20% of the total

1 Principal Scientists, 2 Director, NBAGR, Karnal
cattle population, which are classified into milch, draft and dual purpose breeds. These breeds of cattle are the result of thousands of years of selection, evolution and development in the process of domestication suitable to the local agro climatic conditions. Milch breeds like Sahiwal, Red Sindhi, Gir and Rathi are high milk producers but bullocks of these breeds have poor draft potential. Majority of the cattle breeds belong to draft category providing a little amount of milk. The dual purpose cattle breeds are fairly good milkers and bullocks provide good draft power. Kankrej and Tharparkar, though, dual purpose breeds, produce good quantity of milk often comparable to those of milch breeds. These breeds are resistant to common tropical diseases and can subsist on poor quality crop residual roughages, grasses and scanty drinking water. With the advent of “Green revolution” and introduction of mechanical and chemical inputs in the agricultural practices, importance of cattle animal drought power has reduced. Changing socio-economic scenario coupled to agricultural diversification, low productivity and loss of utility, alternate economic opportunities and developmental apathy is resulting in decline of cattle population (Table 1) from year 1992 onward and some indigenous cattle breeds are getting endangered at an alarming rate. This situation demands immediate attention and as a precautionary measure, an ex situ conservation programme has been undertaken at National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources, Karnal in which frozen semen of cattle breeds is stored for posterity. This stored germplasm diversity will equip farmers and breeders to improve their livestock and utilize it to meet the needs of local communities in future. Considering the large cattle diversity to be conserved many agencies will have to participate in such programmes, hence there is need to explore the possibility of utilizing Gaushalas and their infrastructure in the country for conserving cattle biodiversity. Conservation methods

Conservation methods can be broadly categorized as in situ and ex situ. In situ conservation means that animals are kept within their production system, in the area where the breed developed its characteristics. Ex situ ( in vivo) conservation...
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