1. Animal Husbandry

Maharashtra Farmers Give Poor Response To Subsidized Sex-Sorted Semen Straws

For farmers in Maharashtra, a male offspring is a dead investment and after the state has banned the culling of animals of cow progeny, it can’t even be sold for meat. Dairy farmers use frozen semen straws to artificially inseminate (AI) their female animals. The process sees the thawed straw deposited in the reproductive tract of the animals.

Ayushi Raina
Farmers give lukewarm response to subsidized sex-sorted semen
Farmers give lukewarm response to subsidized sex-sorted semen

Maharashtra government's initiative to offer dairy farmers with significantly subsidized sex-sorted semen straws saw poor response from farmers. The scheme was launched in June of last year, but the government has yet to sell even 50% of the straws purchased. 

Dairy farmers artificially inseminate (AI) their female animals using frozen semen straws. The thawed straw is deposited in the reproductive tracts of the animals during the process. Straws are created from freshly collected ejaculate from bulls maintained in bull farms. Because the technique allows for the selection of male genetic material, it may be employed to increase milk production and other qualities in the resulting second generation. 

Normal straws have an equal probability of producing male or female offspring. This is because normal semen, from which straws are made contains an equal amount of X and Y chromosomes. A male offspring is created when the man's Y chromosome unites with the female's X chromosome, whereas a female offspring is conceived when the male's X chromosome combines with the female's X chromosome in the egg. However, modern patented technology allows for the 'sorting' of semen, and the straws generated as a result are referred to as sex sorted.

The Y chromosomes in the semen are screened out or destroyed using highly sophisticated technologies in this procedure. 

When such straws are used, the chances of conceiving female offspring climb to more than 90%. The patent for this procedure is held by only two biotechnology firms in the world, making the straws exceedingly expensive. As a result, whereas farmers pay Rs.41 for a normal AI straw, they must spend Rs.1200-1300 for each sex-sorted straw. 

A male offspring is a dead investment for farmers in Maharashtra, and as the state has forbidden the culling of animals of cow progeny, it can't even be sold for meat. The state government announced a scheme last year that allowed farmers to purchase sex-sorted semen straws for Rs.81 per straw, as opposed to the current cost of Rs.1200-1300 per straw.  

This was made feasible once the state and union governments subsidized straws. Back then, it was expected that farmers would welcome this technology given the advantages. 

The reality, however, is rather different. Only 5,825 of the 58,500 straws purchased for the process have been used till date. The Kolhapur Cooperative Milk Union of Gokul produced the vast majority of the straws. Senior officials in the animal husbandry department acknowledged to being perplexed by the lack of demand. "Despite the fact that this is the lowest rate in the world for this technology, farmers have not adopted it.  We fail to understand this,” said a senior official of the department. 

Animal Husbandry Commissioner Sachindrapratap Singh and colleagues held around 5-6 webinars with dairies and others to inform them of the scheme's benefits. "It's not that AI is foreign to our farmers; on average, 30-40 lakh AIs are done in the state, therefore we truly don't understand why these straws aren't being asked for by the farmers," the official explained. Singh, on his part, urged dairies and farmers to promote the scheme and take advantage of its benefits. 

Lactalis Prabhat CEO Rajiv Mitra stated that the company has placed big orders for straws and are waiting for them to be delivered. “Our past experience with the BAIF has been very good and we have the necessary trained manpower to carry out the AIs,” he said. 

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