Workshop on Application of Genomics in Animal Breeding and Health

Jan 23, 2023

Inaugural Session Highlights

Jan 23, 2023

BAIF has been engaged in breed improvement programme since the last 55 years, right from piloting and providing breeding services at the doorsteps of farmers to extending the programme across the country through various government departments and institutions, stated Mr. Bharat Kakade, President and Managing Trustee of BAIF in his Welcome Address at the Inaugural Session of the three-day workshop on “Application of Genomics in Animal Breeding and Health” organised by the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries, Government of India in Pune with BAIF, National Dairy Development Board, ICAR- National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources and National Institute of Animal Biotechnology as co-organisers.  However, inspite of the good efforts of Government departments like NDDB and several cooperatives, issues such as production efficiency, degradation of genetic stock, challenges of diversity in terms of the environment in which breeding and rearing of livestock happens in India continue to besiege this programme, he lamented.  Accuracy in data recording, data gathering and data analytics is another challenge, he further added. He further cited the example of the initiative of the Government of India whereby a Consortium of NDDB, BAIF, NBAGR and NIAB is already working in this direction. Closer collaboration synergy from ground to apex level, one of the aims of this workshop, can result in optimisation of the data generated so far.  Certain new triggers are also expected to be generated which will in turn enhance animal production efficiency rapidly. Small and medium dairy farmers will benefit through this effort as livestock development is the major source of livelihood in India, he concluded.

Mr. Rajesh Kumar Singh, Secretary, Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries, Government of India, defined the focus of his Keynote Address as setting out micro-economic, the policies and the institutional context in which the dairy sector is working in India.  The dairy sector in India has been growing since last 5 years at 7.5% CAGR and is the economic lifeline for almost 100 million rural households while also being India’s largest agricultural commodity. As it is a small holder system, it requires certain unique intervention strategies to address its challenges specifically which were to limit the population growth of the world’s largest livestock population while simultaneously improving its animal productivity particularly in the context of climate change. In terms of policies, the Government of India in this sector is involved in breed improvement programme which was traditionally AI but is now focussed on better technologies such as Embryo Transfer, IVF and hopefully application of genomic technology as well.  On the animal health aspect, the Government of India has rolled out the world’s largest vaccination programme – the FMD programme while tagging all our bovine population in the country with a unique number and uploading on our digital portal.  The Government of India’s National Digital Livestock Mission is in its pilot stage and the idea is to provide data-based services to our farmers and to all the other stakeholders.  This progamme is being implemented with the help of Tata Consultancy Services and the pilot programme is being rolled out in 4 districts of Uttarakhand and the intention is to roll it out across Uttarakhand in March and nationwide in April.  Combined with this, is the roll out of mobile veterinary units in all the states across the country and thereby provide farmers the incentive to use the portal more and more as well as use of the overall national mission called “One-health” which is in the final stages of being launched in the country and with focus on three verticals namely wildlife, livestock and human health. During the G20 meetings which India is incidentally chairing in different parts of the country, the Government also hopes to roll out the broader animal-pandemic preparedness on the G20 platform. There is a need to focus on the genetic improvement of our bovine population. There is also a need to develop a single-genomic-based dairy genetic improvement programme.  Under the Government of India scheme including the National Livestock Mission as well as the Rashtriya Gokul Mission we will try to provide support in the form of research and application in the field.  The genetic composition of the bovine population needs to improve in the context of climate change.

Dr. Abhijit Mitra, Animal Husbandry Commissioner, Government of India, referred to Urulikanchan as a centre of pilgrimage for animal genetics and breeding in the country. Considering the huge livestock diversity in the country, increasing livestock productivity could be a challenge and further stated that genetics and environmental interaction play a significant role in a country like India. He also focussed on the endemic diseases in the country and the huge livestock population which is naturally disease-resistant or disease-tolerant and also heat tolerant.  Data recording was the other challenge he expressed and hence, a very robust model which can take care of environmental variation, phenotypes and other traits or influencing parameters was required.  He mentioned the collaboration with NDDB in launching the National Digital Livestock Mission with an aim of collecting data from the field and Rashtriya Gokul Mission which was launched last year and appealed to the participants to practice inclusion and include all stakeholders involved in data recording.

Mr. Meenesh Shah, Chairman, National Dairy Development Board (NDDB), mentioned the scope of Artificial Insemination, advanced reproduction technologies such as sex-sorted semen and Embryo transfer and scientific selection of bull mothers in the genomics application programme while sharing that many stakeholders in the country were well aware of the potential of genomic selection for genetic improvement of bovines. NDDB and BAIF along with other partners have a significant recording of animals, he stated and further highlighted the pioneering effort of NDDB in genomic selection of crossbreds and indigenous animals which has resulted in more than 35,000 animals being genotyped and creation of a reference population. He also highlighted the INALF platform and NDDB-BAIF-NBAGR consortia for genotyping chip development and expressed hope of the discussions accelerating the implementation of genomics selection in smallholder dairy farming systems.

Dr. B.P. Mishra, Director, National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources (NBAGR, expressed satisfaction about the fact that as a research fraternity, we have grown in the last two decades and we are ready to face the challenges to improve animal productivity while capitalizing on genetic tools. He also informed the gathering that India has a diversity of 212 registered breeds and that India was a unique nation as it has evolved a system to recognize its own animal genetic resources, document, characterize and register it and with gazette notification as a safeguard from IPR and India is now leading the Asia-Pacific region in this aspect. Breedwise survey undertaken in 2013 was a feat accomplished by the DAHDF.  In 2019, the breed wise survey expanded to 184 breeds and today in 2022, we have the second report of breed survey which provides scope to update our data in domestic animal diversity. In our challenge to improve per animal productivity, various molecular tools have been applied by IVRI, NDRI, NDDB, BAIF, NIAB and NBAGR.

Mr. Alkesh Wadhwani, Director, Poverty Alleviation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), highlighted the long association of BMGF and BAIF.

Dr. P.K. Rout, ADG, ICAR, stated that Pune was very closely associated with the history of Animal Science as the Imperial Ecological Laboratory was established in Pune in 1869. He expressed hope that the workshop would address the requirement of protein which was the biggest challenge of humanity and our country in particular with its alarming cases of malnutrition and hunger and this programme of genome-based application in animal breeding and enhancing genetic selection response would enable us to increase our milk production. And called for development of the livestock production system with genome-based application and called for a blueprint of the implementation plan as one of the outcomes of this workshop.

Dr. Ashish Lele, Director, National Chemical Laboratory, Pune, highlighted the interface between chemistry and biology and stated that one such interface was in the area of animal husbandry and establishment of the new generation sequencing facility at NCL which can be of help in the animal husbandry area and shared their research protocols by which the pathogens from this disease can be quickly and cost effectively tested and diagnosed in cattle research on Lumpy skin disease for cattle

Dr. R.O. Gupta, Senior General Manager, NDDB, proposed the vote of thanks.

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