Indian Scientists Improve Fertility of Buffaloes

First-ever Offspring by Embryo Transfer of Goats in Sri Lanka Livestock forms an integral part of agriculture in India and involves the participation of around 70% of its population, most of which are small/medium scale holders. Buffalo farming is an important component of the livestock industry and contributes more than 50 million tons of milk and 1.43 million tons of meat in addition to high valued hides, bones and draft power for agricultural operations. The buffalo holds similar importance in certain other countries such as Pakistan and Nepal although their numbers are dwindling in several countries of the world. FAO has declared buffalo, the ‘Black Gold’ at the verge of extinction.

Poor reproduction in buffalo is a major impediment to its efficient production. Most (30-80%) buffaloes do not exhibit overt estrus (Condition called Sub-estrus), especially during summer, and remain un-bred, leading to prolonged infertile periods and therefore high economics losses, or are bred naturally by bulls with unknown and often poor genetics. The genetic potential of buffalo has therefore been declining. However, activities in India associated with regional TC project RAS5044, Integrated Approach for Improving Livestock Production Using Indigenous Resources and Conserving the Environment, are contributing significantly to rectify this problem through development and standardization of technologies to enhance fertility in buffaloes.

Technology Standardized

The Indian research team, led by P.S. Brar and A.S. Nanda of the Guru Angad Dev Veterinary & Animal Sciences University, in Ludhiana have standardized the Ovsynch protocol for use in dairy buffaloes. Ovsynch is the administration of hormone treatments designed to bring the buffalo into estrus at a specific time. The optimal time for artificial insemination (AI) was established on the basis of “most probable time of ovulation” after treatment in different seasons of the year. Strategies were also developed to improve nutritional status of the animals, where necessary. This protocol was applied in farmers’ buffaloes to enhance their fertility and genetic potential for production and reproduction.

Infertile postpartum sub-estrous buffaloes were identified through application of progesterone radioimmunoassay and ultrasonographic techniques. They were injected intramuscularly with 20 mg Buserelin on day 0, 500 mg Cloprostenol on day 7 and 10 mg Buserelin on day 9. Each buffalo was inseminated twice, at 16 hrs and 40 hrs after the second Buserelin injection, irrespective of the expression of estrus. Semen from proven and pedigreed bulls of known fertility and genetic superiority was used. While 67% buffaloes conceived following this treatment in winter, only 30% buffaloes conceived during summer months.

The experiments were repeated in summer after supplementary feeding of monensin to sub-estrus buffaloes (200 mg/ buffalo/ day for 30 days). Monensin was fed either in the form of capsules or through urea molasses multi-nutrient blocks (UMMB) developed under a previous TC project, RAS/5/035 (see photo). Of these, 60% buffaloes conceived following the Ovsynch treatment. More than 50 heifers have so far been produced from farmers’ buffaloes in the filed. The technology resulted in the following benefits:

- Enhanced fertility in buffaloes, which would otherwise remain un-bred for variable, long time.
- Offspring with better genetic production potential.
- Cost-effective intervention: early production of calves and of milk while reducing costs on extra feeding and veterinary interventions.

Framers’ Responses

The technology received overwhelmingly positive response from the dairy farmers and from certain NGO’s. More and more requests are pouring in to get the treatment for buffaloes. It is expected that wider adoption of the technology will help in improving dairy buffalo production and economy of the farmers in a number of States.

Dissemination of Technology

The technology has subsequently been transferred to the following quarters for further application in the field:

- To the State Animal Husbandry Department: 20 Field Veterinarians responsible for animal health and breeding were trained through “Continuing Education Programme” of the university.
- To about 50 Animal Production Scientists from 12 different States of India through a National Seminar on Animal Reproduction organized by the Indian Society for Study of Animal Reproduction.
- To some other countries in the Region (Mongolia and Myanmar) through IAEA sponsored scientific exchange programmes.

Collaboration with Other Funding Agencies

In addition to support from the RCA/IAEA, funding from other resources such as the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, New Delhi, The State Government of Punjab and certain NGO’s was involved.

Source: P.S. Brar and A.S. Nanda, Guru Angad Dev Veterinary & Animal Sciences University, Ludhiana, India.