A.K. Das, Deepak Sharma and Nishant Kumar
Division of Animal Genetics & Breeding, Faculty of
Vety. Sci. & Animal Husbandry. SKUAST- J. R.S.Pura.
buffalo plays a very important role in Indian economy as it alone contributes
about 56% of total milk production in
Keywords: genetic resources, conservation, domestication, germplasm
buffalo forms the backbone of
Conservation is the act or process of protection, preservation, management or restoration of wildlife, livestock and natural and cultural resources and management of human use of bio-sphere so that it may yield the greatest sustainable benefit to present generation.
Breed types, Origin and Domestication
The Asiatic and
European buffaloes belong to the genus Bubalus,
while the African buffaloes to the genus Syncerus.
The Asiatic genus, often described as water or river buffalo, consists of two
types (river or swamp) distinguishable on the basis of their appearance, behavior,
use and habitat. The river buffalo (Bubalus
bubalis) of the Indian sub continent, Egypt and
Mediterranean basin of Europe and maintained chiefly for milk production (Cockrill, 1982) but all of them are also dual purpose
animals, exhibiting good meat characteristics, though their potential for meat
still remains unexplored and unexploited. The swamp buffalo is more or less a
permanent denizen of marshy lands where it wallows in mud and feed on coarse
marsh grass. It is mainly found in South East Asia and
The African buffaloes, referred to as the wild buffalo
or Cape buffalo, include two sub-species; Syncerus
caffer caffer (the
African or red buffalo) and Syncerus caffer nanus (the
Indian buffaloes may be put into following five distinct groups
Murrah Murrah, Nili-Ravi, Kundi
Uttar Pradesh Bhadawari, Tarai
These breed types constitute only about 40% of the population while the remaining 60% represent an admixture of different breeds and are commonly referred to as Desi or non-descript types. However, the fact remains that the best known breeds are Murrah, Nili-Ravi, Jaffarabadi, Surti, Mehsana, Kundi, Nagpuri and Bhadawari. The germpasm of such-well defined breeds constitutes a valuable genetic resource.
Little information is available about the performance of Indian buffaloes; moreover, it mostly restricted on Murrah, Nili-Ravi and Surti and on the basis of data from different breeds, strains of institutional farms and utility vis-à-vis production system in their home tracts and under farmers management conditions. The situation is further complicated by the fact that there exist no breed societies or breed registration/improvement societies to register animals of specific breeds, maintain herd books and ensure the purity of the breeds. There is no controlled breeding in the breeding tract of any of the breeds. Rather uncontrolled breeding is the common order under widely prevalent extensive grazing situations throughout the country.
In majority of the cases, the true productive potential of individual breeds in their breeding tracts has not been adequately documented. This has affected the detailed description of the breeds and also their genetic potential. There is thus an urgent need for differentiating the real breed differences by conducting systemic scientific studies. There is an urgent requirement to uniformly describe all the Indian buffalo breeds by utilizing common breed descriptors, by studying their native environment, management practices, qualitative and quantitative aspects of morphological, physiological and functional traits, blood groups and biochemical polymorphisms, cytogenetic parameters, DNA analyses, utility and demographical and geographical distributions. This will lead to the identification of the types of genes and gene combinations available in different breeds and will also assist in formulating breeding policies and selection of animals for conservation, propagation and improvement programmes.
The country’s buffalo genetic resources need to be used judiciously. The rich biological diversity of this species is progressively being eroded due to unplanned breeding. Except in few organized farms which maintain small herds of pure breed, there is almost unrestricted interbreeding among different breeds and there is a marked decline in the availability of unique animals conforming to the attributes of defined breeds, particularly in their native breeding tracts. There has been a non-judicious utilization of buffalo genetic resources in the country. The males are only partially utilized in the form of bulls and bullocks. There is always a scarcity of breeding bulls of superior genetic merit. Above all, the high producing milch buffaloes from the breeding tract, representing the best germplams, are taken to metropolitan cities in large numbers for milk production (NDRI, 2006). After completion of lactation, these buffaloes are slaughtered, causing a serious erosion of elite germplasm.
the livestock census in
Approach for Conservation
Broadly, there are two means of conservation i.e. in situ and ex situ. Conserving the live animals that exist in nature is in situ conservation. The animals are maintained in their original habitats under native conditions with no interference in their mode of management, feeding and other conditions. The main problem of in situ conservation is inbreeding and genetic drift typical of small populations. The ex situ conservation is to be used when the endangered population is dismally low in numbers, as this process has its own innate problems. It may suffer from spread of disease, or neglect during periods of institutional weakness, besides being costly in long term preservations and losing the relatedness of current genotype with environment when one of these is preserved for long time (Singh et al., 2004).
Generally sperm, oocytes, embryos, DNA and embryonic stem cell are conserved. It is possible now to store a wide variety of living cells for long periods of time. The techniques can be used for the conservation of endangered breeds as follows:
Sperms and oocytes: Deep freezing of semen is suitable for most of the species of domestic animals.
Embryos: Cryopreservation of embryos of cows, buffaloes, sheep, goats and horse has successfully been done to produce offspring. This is a better tool for conservation as all the genetic information is stored in one diploid zygote.
Storage of DNA: Cryogenic storage of DNA is another method of preservation of genetic material.
Cloning of somatic cells: Cloning offers the advantage of producing series of exact replica /copy of the concerned animals.
Embryonic stem cells: Embryonic stem cells are derived from culture of inner cell mass of a young blastocyst. These embryonic cells are totipotent and have potential to develop into viable embryos.
Explicit efforts to select males from superior dams under farm conditions and making wider use of the selected best bulls and also preserving their semen are necessary. The process has been initiated for some of the breeds by NBAGR.
Data Bank Strategy: Maintenance of a database containing all relevant breeds, population census and ecological data is essential for designing and implementing conservation strategies. Several agencies are engaged in generation and dissemination of data/information on Animal Genetic Resources. A useful body of knowledge has already been generated/gathered at NBAGR and at other locations.
Gene Bank Strategy: Semen from indigenous breeds has been cryopreserved for use in the future. Ideally sufficient doses should be storedat at least at two locations remote from each other. The preserved material should be periodically evaluated and put into use.
DNA Bank Strategy: Genetic material can be preserved in the form of DNA fragments under cryogenic conditions. This has the advantage over storage of live cells as it is economical, occupies less space and there is no spread of diseases. Within and across different countries the storage of DNA has been made feasible.
Somatic Cell Strategy: With the advent of Dolly sheep, somatic cell technology has received a great fillip. In future it may be possible to produce a live animal from stored somatic cells. This possibility is very important since the protocols for collecting somatic cell samples are less demanding and inexpensive than for collection of spermatozoa and embryos.
Balain, D.S. 1999. Inflow and outflow of buffalo germplasm resources and their global contribution. Invited papers presented in short course on “characterization and conservation of domesticated livestock and poultry resources”. 10-19 May, 1999, National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources (ICAR), Karnal.
Cockrill, N.R. 1982. The water buffalo, A review , British Veterinary Journal, 137: 8
NDRI. 2006. Compendium of Lectures in Advanced Animal Breeding Technologies for improvement of livestock. 17 March-6 April, 2006.
Resali, D.P. 2000. Recent
trends in buffalo production in
S.K. and N.P. Shrestha. 1998. Genetic improvement of buffalo. In Proc. First Nat. workshop on
Anim. Genet. Resources Conserv.
Genet. Improvement of Domest.
Singh, Ram Vir,
G.K. Sachdeva, R.C. Garg,
S.N. Kaushik and Kripal
Singh. 2004. Conservation and Genetic improvement of important indigenous cattle