Gir Bulls of Bombay Gow Rakshak Mandali Finds Mention in International Bull Registry

BGM enjoyed the honour of being the first institute to receive permission from Government of India and Government of Maharashtra to import pure-bred Gir bull semen from Brazil.

Dr. Abdul Samad

The role of Gausahalas in preserving and improving cow genetics has been recognized since centuries.  The revolution in genetics of Zebu cows in Brazil was possible due to seed material taken from Indian Gaushalas. During the last 100 years or so gaushalas in India lagged behind, focusing more on physical cow protection efforts by providing shelter and mitigation to sick and abandoned cows and bullocks rather than participating in genetic improvement efforts. Bombay Gaurakshak Mandali’s (BGM) Betegaon Farm has recently set an example by adopting an unconventional path of gaushala-industry collaboration in larger farmer interest.

BGM enjoyed the honour of being the first institute to receive permission from Government of India and Government of Maharashtra to import pure-bred Gir bull semen from Brazil.  The idea was to inseminate relatively superior cows maintained in the farm to produce F1 generation bulls who can be genomic tested and introduced in country’s breeding program.  For genetic improvement in cows, bulls play very critical role as a single bull can be used to introduce good genetics in thousands of cows.  The genetic value of the bull is determined by looking at its pedigree, especially the performance, of fore-bulls and fore-dams (father and mother) going back to as many past generations as possible.  But there is a problem here; bulls don’t yield milk. This makes it difficult to directly determine its genetic value in milk production.  In contrasts, cows’ milk records are available hence their genetic values can be directly determined.  For bulls, the value is determined by comparing their lactation and fertility performances of tens or hundreds of daughters.

The comparison is done between the bull under evaluation versus daughters of contemporary bulls.  Predicted Transmitting Ability of Lactation (PTAL) index is calculated for each bull which involves huge data analysis efforts and statistical adjustments of external variables, such as management, climate, etc.  In case of cows, however, for milk yield either as average yield of all lactations or best lactation yield or life-time milk production is considered.  The evaluated bull is then officially ranked and its data is released for the benefit of the farmers who can decide which bull can be used in the breeding programs. 

The evaluation reports for the two bulls recently published officially is given for reference.  It is important that farmers, veterinarians and para-veterinarians understand how to interpret the bull report. To give an example of how to read pedigree chart, I describe the one for available for Ganesh. 

ABS-Ganesh’s Great grand sire (GGS) and Great grand dam (GGD) were Udo of Brasilia (PTAL 455.6) and dam Vicunha of Brasilia (Average lactation yield 6716 kg).  The bull son of this pair Fabuoloso de Brasilia (PTAL 514.6 kg) was mated with daughter of Pacu from Brasilia and Odyssey of Brasilia lactation by name The Hague TE of Brasilia (lactation yield 10,311 kg).   She was mated with Diamond of Brasilia to produce Diamante de Barzalia whose semen was imported by BGM.  The sire’s dam has yielded 15,652 kg milk in 305 days, whereas the PTAL of Diamante De Brazil is probably still under estimation.  BGM used MINU (best lactation 4208 kg) to inseminate with Diamante De Brazilia semen to produce Ganesh and Tanya another cow from the same farm to produce Ganpati.  Thus, Ganpati and Ganesh are siblings of the same sire.

The objective of this article is to bring forth smart strategy of BGM in collaborating with ABS, world’s largest animal breeding company. First, ABS carried out due diligence to confirm if these bulls fulfil international disease control and management norms.  Having passed these acid tests, BGM agreed to lease Ganesh and Ganpati to ABS so that the company can harvest and produce sorted semen for XX since such a facility has been established in the state of Maharashtra for the first time. The Company has been successfully sorting and marketing such semen to produce female calves (with 90-95% certainty).  This would be a massive push to Gir genetic improvement efforts. Since Gir is a recognized dairy breed it can also be used to upgrade other breed or non-descript cows (I prefer to call these animals ‘Mini Zebu’ as these can’t be labelled non-descript for our fault of not describing and classifying them).

As per crude calculations, it can be predicted that if this bull’s sorted semen is used on a cow with yield of say average 2500 kg, the daughters born with such mating would yield not less than 8000-9000 kg milk in the peak lactation, provided it is properly fed and cared.  Each of these bulls will be able to produce around 30,000 sorted semen doses which if properly inseminated in healthy cows free from uterine infections would be able to produce 20,000 females in one year.  If India can produce 100 such bulls we can improve low milk yielding cows to high yielding at the rate of 2 million per year.  With one thousand bulls, the genetic improvement could happen in 20 million cows which would be able to produce same amount of milk that we produce today. The critical benefit would be no compromise on cow phenotype (appearance), heat toleration and local adaptability, disease resistance hence culling rates.  Gir cows are known to have long productive life compared to HF and Jersey hence their life-time production would be expected to be higher than HF or Jersey cows. 

There also quite a few lessons to learn from Brazil breeders. First, there is no alternate to elaborate performance recording program.  They do this very honestly and in a transparent manner.  Brazil maintains a huge data centre where millions of registered cows’ performance records from phenotypes (physical attributes) to production, health and reproduction are collected daily, processed and shared with stakeholders including farmers.  For every potentially high producing cow, few bulls are carefully assigned using genetic mating system (GMS) with an objective to correct phenotype and genotype problems in next generation.  The educated and resourceful farmers invest in breeding business whereas milk production for them is merely a by-product.  These breeders have access to assisted reproductive technologies serviced by numerous accredited private companies which collect eggs, process for in vitro fertilization and then carry out embryo transfer or frozen embryos are exported at niche price.  This program is highly regulated, officially vetted and privately driven so that there is no room to cheating.  Scientific breeding programs are supported with ancillary efforts such as calf rearing, official disease testing and preventive programs.  If India wants to improve animal productivity it will have to adopt this development model.

Thankfully India has started ambitious performance recording program but this should not restrict only to tagging of animals.  The government should facilitate import of superior genetics, especially of Zebu breeds, wherever available.  The policy should be to ensure that any farmer who wants to use imported progeny / genomic tested should have access to such semen.  Currently the focus of the Government is to support state government semen stations although most of these do not have genomic / progeny tested bulls.  Both genomic and progeny testing require robust and credible cow performance records as reference population.  Such programs can be effectively implemented under private investment.  The policy therefore should be that the government should divest from semen processing and open it up for private players.  Since state governments are the major buyer of semen hence unless states come out of this activity private bovine semen enterprise would not be viable.

There appears to be a ray of hope.  BGM has shown that sure way forward is strategic use of science, technology and business collaboration.  BGM should insist on using sexed semen with caution, supported with calf rearing programs making available milk replacer, calf starter, fodder cultivation, disease testing and complete traceability of all semen doses used.  With this I am sure BGM will be able to attain noble objectives of helping Desi cows.  Incidentally, we are currently celebrating Ganesh festival, lord of wealth and prosperity.  Let us hope Ganesh and Ganpati these two bulls will also bring prosperity to our farmers.

  1. Perhaps u don’t have information that NDDB is doing since years…And there is nothing like pure gir in Brazil…

    Reply

    1. Dear Mr. Rohit Khandelwal:
      Thanks for your comments. When a blog is written about an activity it does not mean undermining work done by others. Do you mean to say if NDDB has been doing and if a farmer or an NGO does a good work it should not be published? The differentiating in this case study was sharing of bull (not sale) from NGO to breeding company for harvesting semen and sex sorting. This is what is practiced in many countries which realize that farmers are the best breeders and for greater diversity number of bulls from farmers should be availed for short-term period for semen production. From the comments it appears that you are well aware of the work done on Gir breed by NDDB or any other organization hence I have pleasure in inviting you to write a blog on that work and we will be very happy to publish. I would be most happy if our state-owned breeding companies can share three or four generation data on PTAL of bulls they are marketing in India. We would like to have a directory of all such bulls for benefit of the farmer breeders and veterinarians.
      As far as Gir breed or for that matter Indian breeds of cattle is concerned NDDB, ICAR, state universities and state governments have been doing ‘wonderful’ work which has led to increase in per animal productivity from 1.5 Kg in 1952 to around 2.5 kg in 2016 (I can provide you with exact figures for each sample survey done). Because of their concerted work Indian cattle breed numbers have ‘increased leaps and bound’ over years. Please do consider contribution of milk production by crossbreds Vs Indian breeds as well as buffaloes. Nobody talks of buffaloes even though their productivity is higher than Indian breed cows, they are more Indian (as these are found predominantly in Indian sub-continent), their milk is 100 % A2. Do read cow urine patents on anticancer property cited all the time, you will be surprised that same innovators in the same patent on efficacy of urine as anticancer have reported similar efficacy results for buffaloes and other species of animals. Problem is we are irrationally selective even in rhetoric. Due to irrational policies and planning we have caused more harm to our cow breeds and even don’t want to learn from others.
      I think you have taken the meaning of word ‘Pure’ in its purity sense. What I meant here was pure-bred Gir (from phenotype characters since we have not yet reached genomic analysis stage. You are right in that sense no breed can be pure as there will always be mixing. As far as Brazil Gir is concerned, I have visited and studied their breeding program, these have been built up on Gir cows that were imported over there from India (and possibly other countries). I will appreciate if you can share any genetic evidence you have on impurity of Gir breed cows in Brazil. I am sure even in India if you do genomic analysis of Gir population you will find some component of other breeds too. In nature there would always be introduction of genes of other breeds (after there is a common ancestor). Personally, I am against maintaining breed-wise purity as that is against the natures’ order and against the concept of natural selection. What we should be more concerned is not how the cow appears, colour, horn, tail, face, etc., but good survival characters, in no case these should be lost. It is always an advantage if even within species there is cross-breeding.

      Dr. Abdul Samad
      M.V.Sc., Ph. D. (Canada)
      Ex- Dean, Bombay Veterinary College and Director

      Reply

  2. Dr. Abdul Samad, Congratulations! I am personally is just gathering knowledge having interest in Organic ( rather Natural) Fodder thru Processing Silage. I have seen BGM efforts and well Research Center at Bhoisar couple of times.
    During my study I am in opinion that your shared valuable comments are definitely have weightage. Our Indian Government sector professionals are doing wonderful job but it is not yet diversified further it to Buffalo and other animals Milk qualities to study and elaborate their results for benefits to masses.
    Mr. Rohit has his own perception but facts are mentioned are more useful.
    Let’s hope that Bombay Veternary College and equally Calibre institutional Researches in collaboration with Private sector to come forward for more Original Indian breed to produce and get their contribution highlighted into Indian Agricultural economics.
    Once again Congratulations! Just keep going for your Pure aim !

    Reply

    1. Thanks for the appreciations sir, This keep us motivated for continuing good work. Be in touch with us for frequent updates.

      Reply

  3. Ravikiran MirajkarOctober 1, 2018 at 11:08 am

    Good Good

    Reply

  4. Nice article, I appreciate your efforts to represent India in elite manner. Many of us believed that we can not compete with other countries in terms of genetic studies and potency of our Indian breeds. I am proud of your efforts and would like to help in every manner I can and deliver my warm wishes to your team to continue good work.

    Reply

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