Cattle breeding involve selection of stock; insemination (both natural and artificial) as well as embryo transfers for producing genetically improved offsprings. Breeding, especially the artificial form of breeding being practiced these days has realized a long cherished dream of the scientists and it has now become possible to get the genetically superior animals to produce more offsprings than it would be possible through natural mating.
Selective Breeding Of Cattle
Robert Bakewell, an 18th-century English farmer, is known to have effectively put selective breeding to use for the first time and it is to him that we owe our knowledge that for a better breed (offspring/progeny), we need to breed two good breeds (parents/antecedents). He continued pure-breeding/inbreeding beef cattle for several generations and developed better-quality beef cattle.
Inbreeding remained the prominent form of cattle breeding till the 1950s when the positive effects of crossbreeding of cattle first came to light. Reports based on studies on crossbreeding proved that the mating of two unrelated breeds resulted in the development of a calf with HETEROSIS or Hybrid Vigor. Studies also indicated that the offspring thus resulting surpassed its parents in every respect – in health, in its growth-rate as well as in its ability to produce offsprings. There is no element of doubt that crossbreeding has proved to be a boon for beef cattle breeding. In contrast, it has so far not shown any promises for dairy animal breeding.
Other selective breeding methods being practiced today involve:
Artificial Insemination was that revolutionary find that wove success-stories around dairy farms. AI, wherein semen from a superior-quality bull was injected in the reproductive tract of a cow to make her pregnant proved immensely beneficial and boosted dairy production manifold times.
Initially, semen collected could be stored for just four days; by the 1950s, however, scientists evolved an innovative way for storing semen for indefinite periods – frozen semen was preserved in liquid nitrogen.
Embryo Transfer Technique
The development of the Embryo Transfer Technique is another milestone event in cattle breeding. With the arrival of this technique, it has now become possible to pass on the genetic traits of top quality female animals to future generations.
ETT involves the removal of a fertilized egg from the reproductive tract of a special breed cow into the reproductive tract of a second cow. This ensures that the top characteristics of both a superior-quality bull and superior-quality cow are inherited by the offspring calf.
Advancement in technology has made it possible to freeze and store fertilized eggs for later use. A research on an 8-day-old fertilized egg that was split to produce four genetically identical calves has bolstered the belief that some day it will be possible to impregnate countless number of cows by splitting fertilized eggs from a superior breed female cattle. The day scientists are able to achieve that feat; cattle breeding will reach its zenith.