From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Sexed Semen
Mains level : Livestocks breeding and their challenges
The Union Ministry for Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries is planning to provide dairy farmers with ‘sexed semen’ for cattle for as cheap as Rs 100 per straw by 2020.
What is Sexed Semen?
- Sexed semen is specially processed semen of bulls from which ‘Y’ chromosomes in sperm cells — which lead to the birth of a male calf — are either removed through a ‘sorting’ process or killed.
- Semen which has only ‘X’ chromosomes can only ensure that a female calf is born.
- The reproduction system of cattle is similar to humans.
- Cows carry XX chromosomes while bull semen carries both X and Y.
- If the egg fertilises with an ‘X’ chromosome, a female calf is born and if with ‘Y’, a male is born.
- There are two techniques to produce sexed semen: One is the ‘sorting process’ in which ‘X’ and ‘Y’ chromosomes are separated. ‘X’ are retained and ‘Y’ discarded.
- The other is in which ‘Y’ chromosomes are altogether killed.
Why is this method being used?
- Considered a financial burden, male calves are either killed or abandoned on the roads by farmers as they do not give milk.
- This had led to an increasing number of cattle roaming the streets, which has caused fatal road accidents as well.
- Cows are also abandoned when they stop giving milk.
- If a commercial farmer owns a hundred cows and even fifty of them give birth to male calves, he cannot afford to raise them. They become a burden.
Success rate of the sexed semen
- The guarantee of a female calf being born is never 100 per cent. It can be up to 90 per cent.
- In 10 per cent cases, a male calf might be born despite using sexed semen because even after sorting/killing, some Y chromosomes may pass.