“India has an enormous diversity of livestock and, at every 200 to 300 km, we find a different population of every species,” said Arjava Sharma, director of the National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources (NBAGR) in Karnal, Haryana.
It runs a central government-funded registration programme, under which the DNA profiling of a breed is done after an identification of physical characteristics, such as the look, coat colour, eye shape, height, breadth, neck, face and tail, said Sharma.
According to the latest bulletin issued by the bureau, there are currently 169 registered breeds of livestock and poultry in India, which include 41 breeds of cows, 13 of buffalo, 42 of sheep, 28 of goats, seven each of pigs and horses, nine of camels, and one each of yaks and donkeys for animal livestock, as well as 18 breeds of chicken and one breed each of ducks and geese among the poultry group. Also, in late 2017, and for the first time during this review, the breeds of yak, duck and geese have also been registered, said Sharma.
India: half of livestock breeds unknown
Any agency or an individual can apply for registration of a new breed present in their area, but to qualify it has to be unique and its population should be at least few thousand, said Sharma.
Such registrations are time-limited to 25 years, in case a breed perishes during this time, he added.
The work is ongoing, however, and still more than half of Indian livestock have yet to be identified in form of breeds, said Sharma. The goal is to identify the qualities of Indian livestock breeds, which will enable the government to better guide the development of the industry, he said.
According to Sharma, the government is also concerned about bio-piracy of Indian breeds, where foreign breeders buy livestock, improve it in some way, then sell semen on the market, claiming it is a different breed. Sharma said such actions could be contested at the World Trade Organization (WTO), but only if a breed is registered. Domestically, such registration is mandatory for any official grant for breed improvement programmes, he said.
“Goats and sheep in India are mainly reared for meat and any improvement in their breed would have a direct impact on meat production,” Paturu Kondaiah, professor in the department of molecular reproduction development and genetics at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, told GlobalMeatNews.
According to the Indian Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, India currently has 512 million head of livestock and 729 million head of poultry.