THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, October 29: A unique set of semen has been imported from Canada by Kerala livestock development board (KLDB). It is known as sexed semen, it will make sure that the off-springs of desired sex are delivered by the cow and the initiative is expected to be a revolutionary step in artificial insemination in the state.
Estimates show that the cow population in the state has dipped from 20 lakh to 14.5 lakh during the last four years.
Of these, the number of inmilk cows is 8.05 lakh which again is dwindling. Although the latest data show that the milk production has shown a 2.75 percent increase, the animal husbandry department has been running out of ways to plug the glaring gap between per capita consumption and production of milk in the state.
In sexed semen, the fractions of X-bearing (female) and Y-bearing (male) sperm are modified from the natural mix through sorting and selection. Sorting is done either by passing the sperm cells through a laser beam or by staining sperm with a DNA-binding fluorescent dye.
The board has imported 650 doses of sexed semen at a cost of Rs 1500 per dose. “We are going to use this on an experimental mode in the first phase. The sexing technology offers us enhanced chances of getting the female calves. In conventional breeding the chance is 50 percent, we either get a bull or a cow. With a sexed semen, the desired off-spring can be produced,” said Jose James,managing director KLDB.
Sexed semen is considered most effective in virgin heifers, the young cows that haven’t calved before. The board had earlier tried to get the technology and equipments by calling for a global tender. However nobody responded. A US based company which owns the patent for producing sexed semen had offered to come over to Kerala and conduct the process here. However, the board dropped the offer owing to huge financial requisites.
The officials have reservations about the sexed semen and it’s results. Studies show that sexed semen contains a lower concentration of sperm per straw than non-sexed semen and hence fertility of sexed sperm is typically lower compared with conventional sperm.
“There could be five percent chance of mortality of calves as well. Still we are hopeful that it yields good results”, added Jose. If the first phase is successful, then another 26,000 dose of sexed semen will be imported.