Female foeticide may be a curse for humans but the case is exactly opposite when it comes to dairy farming. For dairy farmers, it is always favorable to have a female calve instead of a male. In Punjab, it is even more desirable because male calves are not of much use and ultimately end up starving on roads, as stray cattle. Earlier, male calves were used for ploughing fields and female calves were used for milk production. With more mechanisation in agriculture, tractors replaced bullocks and the latter became useless.
To enhance the milk productivity and reduce the number of stray cattle, sexed semen has come as a hope. The imported sexed semen is becoming popular amongst dairy farmers as it ensures sex selection with 93% accuracy.
Parkash Singh Brar, professor and head of veterinary gynaecology department, said, "Few years back, sexed semen was made available in developed countries. In 2011-12, the Punjab government and Progressive Dairy Farmer Association (PDFA) imported sexed semen. It will help in the availability of more female calves in the state and less male calves will be subjected to inhuman treatment."
The problem was more pronounced in cows as compared to buffaloes because of ban on cow slaughter in India in view of religious sentiments of people. Male calves either starve to death or left loose on roads, posing a traffic hazard. In both situations, male calves are ill-treated. On the other hand, female calves always remain in short in supply and hence more in demand for replacement of the old unproductive cows in a herd.
Hence, there always remains a need to fix sex in favour of female calves. From oral supplements to the cow at time of impregnation to separation of X and Y chromosome and carrying sperms through sedimentation, several ways were tried to have female calves. Major research was done by
Larry Johnson from Colorado State University. Johnson developed a method for staining sperm, to facilitate sorting, and developed the instruments needed for the purpose. Once the technology was developed, XY Inc. of Fort Collins, Colorado, bought the patent. When using sexed semen, the results are predictable 93% of time.
Rajpal Singh, a dairy farmer from PDFA, said, "We have been using sexed semen for last one-and-a-half-year and till now have sold around 10,000 units. Each imported unit of sexed semen costs around Rs 1,300 and farmers are adopting this new technique very fast. Although conception rate is a bit low as compared to other semen, farmers are adopting it in view of other benefits of sexed semen."
Brar added that, "As of now, it is advised to use sexed semen in a heifer (a young cow before she has had her first calf) and once-calved cows only to achieve high conception rate. Usually, the imported semen is from heavier bulls and calves born are also heavy, so it is advised that imported semen may be used in very well-grown heifers or in pleuriparous cows (calved more than once). However, if female calves are to be born, which are usually 2-3 kg lighter than male calves, sexed semen can be used in first calvers."