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Gir cow goes global via Brazil

Gujarat is estimated to have only around 3,000 pure breed Gir cows left, according to Satyajit Khachar, scion of the erstwhile princely state of Jasdan and a known breeder of the cow.

And now, the Gir breed is set to go global. As Khachar puts it, "Brazil has emerged as the world's biggest supplier of improved cattle embryos and semen of Indian origin, now rated among the best dairy breeds in the world. The demand is particularly high from African and Southeast Asian countries. The Indian 'holy cow' has turned out to be a great money-spinner for Brazil."

According to Khachar, the focus of the dairy industry in Gujarat was on buffalo milk because of its fat content. So the Gir breed was neglected, resulting in the dwindling of both its numbers and pedigree.

Only recently, two containers with embryos of the breed were flown to Brazil to improve the stock of cows there. The embryos were developed in a laboratory in Bhavnagar which has been funded at a cost of Rs 2 crore by cattle breeders of Brazil.

"The last major export of the breed to Brazil took place in 1960, after which laws made import and export of animals difficult. The South American country has taken very good care of the breed, but they need fresh blood every three to four generations because of which the embryos were flown there," says Khachar.

The Bhavnagar laboratory was set up in 2001. Khachar is exporting the embryos in partnership with a Brazilian firm. In Brazil, the Indian cows are known as the Zebu breed. Brazilian farmers first shipped three cattle breeds from India - Gir and Kankrej from Gujarat and Ongole from Andhra Pradesh, in 1850. These breeds were essentially for use in agriculture and for beef. But they soon found out that Gir cow gave large quantities of milk. Interestingly, pedigreed Gir cows in Brazil get the Pure Origin India (POI) tag. Each animal's pedigree and DNA is registered with Association of Brazilian Zebu Breeders, an apex body.

 

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