Artificial Breeding

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Context: On September 11, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to launch a major six-month drive to promote artificial insemination in cattle in 600 districts which have less than 50% coverage of the technology. Currently, the national coverage is only 30%, though some states such as Kerala and Tamil Nadu use artificial insemination rates for more than 70% of their cattle.

Concerned Ministry: Ministry of Animal Husbandry, Dairying, and Fisheries.

Mains: GS III

Artificial Breeding:

Artificial breeding is the use of technologies such as artificial insemination and embryo transfer. Artificial insemination (AI) involves placing semen directly into the uterus. Embryo transfer involves transferring fertilized ova from a donor female to a recipient female who then rears the calf.

Artificial insemination is used in both stud and commercial herds, whilst embryo transfer tends to be used mainly when breeding stud stock. The use of injected hormones is necessary for embryo transfer programs and are often used in AI programs to synchronize estrous cycles.

Why use artificial insemination:

A cattle breeder may choose to utilize artificial insemination (AI) in their herds for several reasons including:

  1. genetic improvement.
  2. access to genetics from across the world.
  3. access to genetics from bulls that they would not otherwise be able to afford to purchase.
  4. to reduce the number of bulls required.
  5. access to breeds that are not available locally.
  6. to join a bull with more females than he would be able to serve naturally in one mating season.
  7. to mate individual cows to specific sires.
  8. potential increased value of progeny from AI sires.
  9. to reduce the risk of infection from venereal diseases​.
  10. A nominal investment of ₹350 per pregnancy would result in extremely high returns.
  11. Artificial insemination can triple milk production rates, especially for the vast majority of non-descript indigenous cows, and improve the overall quality of the cattle.

Artificial breeding in India:

Using sex-sorted semen- which increases the possibility of a female calf to about 90% -also drastically increases the cost of insemination, as the technology is still new in India. The government-subsidized price of a single semen dose is only ₹20; sex-sorted semen, on the other hand, can cost ₹500 to 600 per dose. Of the 11.9 crore semen doses produced in the country every year, only 10 lakh are sex-sorted.

Currently, only four centers – including two owned by the government – produce such semen.  The government is planning to open 11 such centers across the country to promote widespread adoption of the technology and reduce costs.

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