Agriculture and Farming Technology Updates

Can Sexed Semen Technology Change the Picture of Dairy Farming? Know all about it

At the time of conception of cow and buffalo, the technique of sex determination of offspring will increase milk production and increase earnings in dairy farming

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As the use of tractor-like machines increased in the country’s agriculture, the utility of the male progeny of cows and buffaloes, i.e. calves, went down. That is why most of the cattle breeders now wish for the birth of only female calves when their cow or buffalo is pregnant, because at the age of about three to three and a half years, the calf becomes young or starts producing milk or the livestock farmer sells it for a good price. Reproductive science has made the wish of the birth of only and only female calves or maximum number of female calves come true.

This science is called Sexed Semen or ‘Sexual Semen’ technique. To understand the importance of the ‘sexual semen’ technique, just imagine that if a commercial dairy farmer had 100 cows or buffaloes and half of them gave birth to male calves (calves), how expensive would a cradle be and how difficult would it be to earn from them? The Sexed Semen technique solves these problems.

How is Sexed Semen prepared? 

Flow cytometry is a popular technique in the disciplines of pathology and molecular biology. Machines of this technology are adept at identifying, sorting and counting the fine particles present in blood, semen or other secretions on the basis of their physical and chemical properties with the help of laser and computer. Through Flow Cytometry, the X and Y chromosomes present in the semen are separated on the basis that the size of the sperm with the X chromosome and the amount of DNA present in it is 3.8% more than the sperm with the Y chromosome. That is, the size of X is greater than that of Y. This method does not significantly change the shape of the sperm. This is the process of producing sexed semen or ‘sexual semen’.

There are two techniques for processing sexual semen – the first is the shortening method, in which sperms with ‘X’ and ‘Y’ chromosomes are separated from the semen. From this, females use only the semen with ‘X’ chromosome to get the child and either keep the part of ‘Y’ chromosome to get the male child or throw it away. Under the second technique, the ‘Y’ chromosome present in the semen is destroyed. Both the technologies have been developed by the US and the companies there are leaders in this field. Both techniques use a ‘flow cytometer’ for cell sorting, which sorts at about 25,000 sperm per second.

Sexed Semen is also available in India 

The technology was discovered in the 1980s at the University of Colorado, USA. In the next decade, such machines were developed that made it possible to isolate the Y-chromosome, the chromosome producing male offspring, from the semen of inseminating bull or buffalo. Its patent is with the university itself, but since 2001, a Texas-based company named Sexing Technologies (ST) is producing and trading Sexed Semen in countries like America, Europe, Canada, Mexico, China, Japan etc.

Currently, the practice of Sexed Semen in India is very limited and mainly dependent on imports. However, according to the scientists of Jaipur-based Institute of Postgraduate Veterinary Education and Research, sexed semen is now widely available in India as well and better heifers are being obtained from imported sexed semen. In India, sexual semen technology has been started with the use of Influx high speed cell sorter under Go Sampada Vikas Sanstha of Government of West Bengal based in Kolkata.

Sexed Semen

Capable of sorting cells, this cell sorter has a production capacity of 100 to 120 lakh sperm per hour for female and male sex separately. In this way, 40 to 50 Sexed Semen straws are produced there daily. Straw is the only device through which 0.25 ml of sexed semen is used in the artificial insemination of the female from which the child of the desired sex i.e. male or female is desired. This quantity of sexed semen contains 20 to 40 lakh sperm. Whereas the sperm count in the semen used in the normal process of artificial insemination ranges from 1 to 20 million. 

What is the success rate of Sexed Semen? 

Now if we talk about the success rate of Sexed Semen, then 45 to 50% of cows or buffaloes become pregnant, whereas in the case of traditional artificial insemination, 60 to 70% success is achieved. And, if we talk about the success of sex based conception, then using Sexed Semen 9 times out of 10 children of the desired sex are obtained. This happens because despite millions of efforts from sexed semen, it is not possible to 100 percent isolate the sperm with Y-chromosome. Let us tell you that the first calf named ‘Shreyas’ was born on 1 January 2011 in India through Sexed Semen Technique. Since then, thousands of male and female calves of improved breed have been born from Sexed Semen.

Sexed Semen

Heifers are the best for Sexed Semen Technique 

In all mammals, the semen in adult males contains two types of spermatozoa – Y-Chromosome bearing sperm and X-Chromosome bearing sperm, whereas the female egg has only Y-Chromosome properties. Male progeny occurs when the father’s X-chromosome is fertilized with the mother’s Y-chromosome, whereas in the case of female offspring, the Y-chromosomes of both parents are fertilized. First time pregnant females i.e. heifers have been found to be the best for obtaining calves of desired sex by Sexed Semen technique as they have very high rate of early pregnancy. This technique of sexual semen has given good results till the third pregnancy.

Prevalence of Sexed Semen in India 

The Progressive Dairy Farmers Association (PDFA), an organization of more than 7,000 commercial dairy owners in Punjab, imported 25,000 sexed semen straws from the US for the first time in 2008. The technique of Sexed Semen in the conception of heifers yielded encouraging results. PDFA has been importing continuously since then. Its price per straw is one and a half to two thousand rupees. From the year 2011, the Punjab government also started importing sexed semen and subsidizing its price.

Earlier in the year 2015, a project named ‘Semen Sexing in Cattle’ proposed by ICAR-NDRI (National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal) was approved. In 2018, NDRI Bangalore was also linked to this project through the National Agriculture Science Fund (NASF). Apart from this, to develop facilities for sexual semen preparation under Rashtriya Gokul Mission, approval has been given to set up semen stations in 12 states by February 2022 and the Central Government has also released its share amount for setting up 10 such centres. These states are – Gujarat, Haryana, Kerala, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamilnadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh.

Why is the practice of Sexed Semen limited in India? 

Sexed semen has been shown to be genetically superior and beneficial, as it is obtained only from selected good breed bulls or buffaloes and does not cause difficulty in delivery. The option of insemination from Sexed Semen is very expensive for the cattle rearing farmers. Because the cost of normal artificial insemination in veterinary hospitals is around Rs 50, while the cost of imported sexed semen ranges from Rs 1500 to Rs 4000. For better results of sexed semen, only technicians skilled and experienced in artificial insemination should use it when the signs of heat are shown in the cow or buffalo for insemination.

Currently, sexed semen are in demand in the country only for commercially produced cows of exotic cross breeds like Holstein Friesians and Jerseys. Dairy owners do not want to rear calves of hybrid breeds and leave them on the streets. That is why the problem of stray animals is increasing rapidly. On the other hand, sexual semen is not available for Indian breeds of cow and buffalo. However, dairy experts believe that sexual semen can also be produced for popular indigenous cows like Sehwal, Gir and specific indigenous breeds of buffalo like Murrah.

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Most of the service providers who perform simple artificial insemination do not have provision for sexed semen. In fact, for the import of sexed semen straw, a permit has to be obtained from the Director General of Foreign Trade with the permission of the Dairy Department of the Central or State Governments. Apart from this, it is also mandatory for the importer to keep a record of the use of sexed semen and also the children born out of it.

Central government’s promise regarding Sexed Semen 

Union Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries Minister Giriraj Singh while inaugurating the Dairy and Agriculture Fair of Ludhiana in December 2019 had said that by the year 2020, Sexed Semen Straw would be provided to milk producing farmers for Rs 100. So far this promise has not been fulfilled. However, it is believed that as the prevalence of sexed semen increases in the country, the problem of stray animals will also decrease. The cattle breeders will not have to face the problem of unwanted male calves. If more female calves are produced, then the production of milk and the income of cattle rearers will also increase.

sexed semen

Will there be a shortage of semen from the calves?

Dairy experts are of clear opinion that despite the increase in the practice of sexed semen technology, the number of bulls and buffaloes will never be so low that their semen starts decreasing for processing. In fact, the level of male animals required by the dairy sector with high fertility are reared at the semen station and there, semen is frozen and made available to the farmers. In this way the population of male animals will also be controlled and their offspring will also continue to grow. Anyway, even in the use of sexed semen, only 90 out of 100 females will be born, the remaining 10 percent will be males. And yes, it will never be possible that all the cows will use only semen and the calf will not be born. 

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