A buffalo clone, Garima, was presented to the world last week at the National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal (Haryana). This was the second live cloned buffalo, the first one having lived only a few days.
What is Cloning?
Cloning is to create genetically similar organism from a single parent without sexual reproduction. Simply, the clone of a female will be a female with genetic similarity to her mother and the clone of a male will be a male with genetic similarity to his father.
Cloning is widely prevalent in botanical research but animal cloning is relatively new. Cloning has attracted a lot of attention, both as a branch of science and an ethical issue, after Dr. Ian Wilmot of Roslyn Institute London, produced first sheep clone, Dolly, in 1996. Animal cloning experiments are going on in a few countries such as the UK, the USA, South Korea, China and India. Though India joined slightly late, it has achieved significant successes in cloning in recent years.
So, when India successfully bred two buffaloes in a series, using cloning, it did not come as a surprise, but it did open doors for using animal cloning as a viable method of breeding. The National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI) scientists this time used a new and advanced ‘hand-guided cloning technique’ which is an advanced modification of the conventional cloning technique.
Milk Production in India
India is the world’s largest milk producer with 104.9 million tonnes milk production per year. Milk production in India is growing at 4% per year, and at present India contributes 15% of the total global milk production. Out of this, 55% is contributed by buffalo. Though per capita availability of milk in India has increased from 120 grams in 1960 to 241 grams per day in 2005-2006, demand for milk is increasing day by day owing to increase in population and individual income. In 2008 it was 104.9 million tonnes which has already been achieved. The projected milk demand in India by 2010, 2015 and 2020 will be 120, 140 and 170 million tonnes.
India has the largest cattle and buffalo population in the world, to the tune of about 180 million and 85 million respectively. This, more than being a productive resource, is causing huge pressure on our limited fodder reserves. Already there is a shortage of 30% fodder for domestic animals. The land for grazing and fodder production which is only 9% of total agriculture land, is getting constricted day by day. In this situation, the only solution to increase our dairy production, is to scientifically control the population of animals and upgrade them for better quality and more quantity of milk and meat per animal.
Potentials of Cloning
Here comes the role of cloning. Indian scientists have been using scientific techniques to raise dairy production. The breed improvement programme for the production of elite breeds of cattle and buffaloes started in as early as 1909 when first cross-bred cow named ‘Jill’, was produced in the Imperial Institute of Animal Husbandry Bangalore, by crossing Ayrshire with the local Haryana breed. Since then many elite milk and meat-giving crossbreeds of cows and buffaloes have been produced. India has also achieved Frozen Semen Technology so that germplasm of elite breeds could be stored for long and used later.
Cloning of buffalo and other milch animals has the potential to multiply elite breed of buffaloes and cattle without loss of parental traits. It may also prove to be a very fast way of creating new breeds. Other advantage of this technique will be to save many endangered species of domestic and wild animals on the verge of extinction. In the coming days cloning may become a very significant tool for improving of India’s animal stock and germplasm conservation. It may prove a boon for the dairy sector.