In this article we will discuss about the role of biotechnology in livestock production.
Biotechnology will improve the life of every and allow more sustainable living. The use of biotechnology will lead to a distinct shift in the economic returns from livestock. Livestock is becoming increasingly important in the growth of agriculture in developing economies. The contributions made by livestock to both agriculture and gross domestic product (GDP) have risen, at a time when the contribution of agriculture to GDP has fallen.
The demand for livestock products is a function of income, and sustained growth in per capita income, rising urban populations and changes in diet and lifestyle are fuelling growth in livestock production. Livestock production contributes to socioeconomic development in many ways, by augmenting income and employment and reducing the incidence of rural poverty.
Though the role of livestock in ensuring nutritional security is recognised in mixed crop-livestock systems, the importance of livestock goes beyond direct food production. Livestock supply draught power and organic manure to the crop sector, and hides, skins, bones, blood and fibre are used in many industries.
Thus, livestock are an important source of income and employment, helping to alleviate poverty and smooth the income distribution among small landholders and the landless, who constitute the bulk of the rural population and the majority of livestock owners. In addition, livestock can easily be converted into cash and thus act as a cushion against crop failure, particularly in less favoured environments.
By enabling crop residues and by-products to be used as fodder, livestock production contributes positively to the environment. Animal owners in the developing world are predominantly resource-poor small-scale operators with little or no land and few animals, who must operate within the constraints of the local climate and who have limited purchasing power and little access to resources or opportunity to determine resource allocation for animal production.
The situation of the poorest livestock owners is fast deteriorating owing to the fragmentation of limited holdings, exhaustion of land resources and increasing human and animal population pressure.
Low livestock productivity in many developing countries is considered to reflect, among other things, the inadequate supply of animal husbandry and veterinary services. Veterinary services have traditionally been provided by the State, but financial constraints have limited the availability and effectiveness of public services.
Benefit of Technology:
A major benefit of agricultural research and technology is that the purchasing power of the poor increases, because both average incomes and access to staple food products are improved. Studies by economists have provided empirical support for the proposition that growth in the livestock sector affects the whole economy.
Rapid growth of livestock production has stimulated demand for and increased the value of land, labour and non-agricultural goods and services, thereby leading to overall economic growth. The poor spend a relatively high proportion of any additional income on food, so increases in livestock production achieved through the use of biotechnology can have major nutritional implications, particularly if the technology is aimed at the poorest producers.
However, studies have revealed that the commercialisation of agriculture has reduced the nutritional security of the poor. Once production of milk, meat or eggs has been enhanced through the use of technology, it is hoped that it will also make a significant difference in other areas such as nutrition, prevention of diseases, healthcare and other management practices. It is in these areas that biotechnology shows promise and is currently being used.
Green Revolution technologies (i.e. those technologies designed to improve the efficiency of agricultural processes and increase crop productivity by relying on the extensive use of chemical fertilisers/pesticides and heavy machinery) are intended to be used in package form (e.g. new plant varieties supplied with recommendations on fertiliser, pesticide and herbicide rates and water control measures); however, among livestock producers many components of these technologies have been taken up in a piecemeal, often stepwise, manner.
The sequence of adoption is determined by availability and by the potential cost savings. The sequential adoptions of crop management technologies for rice and wheat have been assessed in detail, but few similar studies have focussed on livestock production in developing countries.
Evidence from the People’s Republic of China, Mexico, South Africa and India suggests that small farmers have had no more difficulty than larger farmers in adopting the new technologies. The question, therefore, is not whether biotechnology can benefit small- scale resource-poor farmers, but rather how biotechnology can address the agricultural problems faced by farmers in developing countries.
Biotechnology is a promising new tool in the development of applied agricultural technologies. The challenge is to focus this potential on the problems experienced by developing countries.
The introduction of multi-enterprise systems or, more broadly, agricultural diversification is seen as the way forward for agriculture in the developing world; such systems could lift small- scale and marginal farmers out of poverty. For example, rotating rice and wheat cropping with dairy farming yields higher profits.
Introducing multi-enterprise systems involving livestock enhances the purchasing power of farmers and helps them to obtain nutritional security. It also generates rural (both farming and non-farming) employment, thus preventing excessive migration to urban areas, which is a common problem in developing economies.
Multi-enterprise systems also support the natural environment and contribute to capital formation, thus leading to higher overall growth in the agricultural economy. The technology, infrastructure and institutions now exist to make the application of biotechnology in the context of a multi-enterprise system involving livestock production economically viable.
Advantages of Livestock Production:
The multiplicity of genes, species, populations and agroeco-systems in the developing countries of South and South East Asia, the People’s Republic of China, Africa and Latin America is viewed as a valuable resource for the genetic improvement of livestock on a global scale. The livestock in these countries, which are an integral part of a fragile ecosystem, are a rich source of animal biodiversity.
Buffaloes, sheep, goats, camels and zebu cattle have adapted to their regional environments over thousands of years and have provided an important source of sustenance for the population of the region.
Livestock production in the developing world has a number of advantages over production in more developed countries, for example:
i. The unique and valuable production traits of buffaloes, cattle, sheep, goats and camels
ii. The low-input production system
iii. The low unit cost of production
iv. The lean meat produced from sheep, goats and buffaloes
v. The considerable biodiversity
vi. Animal breeds that are resistant to stress and to particular diseases
vii. The ability of the animals to survive on high-roughage feeds
viii. The potential for biopharmaceutical developments to lead to significant benefits
ix. The potential for expanding the microbial food, feed and leather industries
x. The integrated production system tailored to the local ecology
xi. The potential for integrating knowledge and industry.
Several genes and desirable traits have been identified in the livestock of developing countries in Asia and Africa, and some of the livestock species and breeds from these countries have become major contributors to the economy of South America.
Examples of breeds from the developing world that are particularly important on a global level are:
i. Buffaloes that produce milk with a high fat content or with the protein quality required to produce mozzarella cheese
ii. Goats from cold dry regions that produce pashmina and toos (the finest wool in the world)
iii. Black Bengal goats that carry a gene for high prolificacy
iv. Garole sheep that carry genes for twinning
v. Andaman goats that is highly tolerant of salt
vi. The yak and mithun that is adapted to high altitude
vii. The camels, sheep and goats that are adapted to a tropical arid environment and can tolerate feed with high lignin content
viii. The many species that is resistant to stress or to particular diseases.
Technological Development in Economy:
The genetic resources possessed by animals in developing countries often affect economic development. Animal biotechnology is the result of a multistage process, involving research, development, testing and registration, production and marketing. The goal is to develop a technology, process or product that has clear commercial potential and can be commercialised after due testing and regulatory approval.
Developing countries find it difficult to develop biotechnology because the facilities or resources needed to complete all of the stages in the process are often lacking. However, several technologies from developed countries have been successfully adopted by developing countries.
The impact of technology can be analysed by estimating the growth of total factor productivity (TFP) in livestock production. Not many TFP studies on livestock have been reported. However, separate TFP estimates for the aggregate crop and livestock sectors have been made.
TFP analysis has shown a shift towards larger, more commercial and more intensive production systems and has further revealed that, as specialisation has developed over the past decade, the importance of backyard livestock production has declined and the importance of specialised household and commercial enterprise has increased. Studies from India have shown that technological input is responsible for about 45% of total output growth and that the TFP growth may be as much as 1.8%.
There are a large number of technologies that have been developed for or adapted to the livestock of both developed and developing countries. However, the major technologies that are used effectively in livestock production in the developing world include conserving animal genetic resources, augmenting reproduction, embryo transfer (ET) and related technologies, diagnosing disease and controlling and improving nutrient availability.
Limitation of Technological Applications:
The application of new molecular biotechnologies and new breeding strategies to the livestock breeds used in smallholder production systems in developing countries is constrained by a number of factors.
Over the last few decades, the green revolution has brought comparative prosperity to farmers with land, but the majorities of farmers, who are landless or marginal farmers and subsist only on livestock, have been neglected and remain poor.
The major constraints on applying biotechnologies are:
i. The absence of an accurate and complete database on livestock and animal owners so that programmes can be implemented
ii. The biodiversity present within species and breeds in agro-ecological systems
iii. The fact that models of biotechnological intervention differ distinctly between developed and developing economies
iv. The fact that many animal species and breeds are unique to the developing world; each has its own distinct developmental, production, disease resistance and nutrient utilisation characteristics
v. The lack of trained scientists, technicians and fieldworkers to develop and apply the technologies, both in the government and in the private sectors
vi. The absence of an interface between industry, universities and institutions, which is necessary to translate technologies into products
vii. The inability to access technologies from the developed world at an affordable price in order to make a rightful, positive and sustainable contribution to livestock production and the economic welfare of farmers
viii. The high cost of technological inputs such as materials, biologicals and equipment
ix. The failure to address issues of biosafety and to conduct risk analyses of new biologicals, gene products, transgenics and modified food items, and, above all
x. The negligible investment in animal biotechnology.
The critical issues affecting livestock productivity have recently been re-examined. Research that aims to enhance productivity and sustainability should focus on improving livestock feeds and nutrition, improving animal health, managing natural resources relating to the livestock sector, assessing the impact of technological interventions, and strengthening the capacity of the national agricultural research systems of developing countries.
Furthermore, the potential production capacity and contribution of livestock to the economy are still not being achieved in developing countries because the transfer, adaptation and adoption of technology is hampered by the lack of a clear policy for livestock development that is conducive to the introduction of new proven technology and by the lack of information flow from and to decision makers.
In developing countries, there is a wealth gap between urban and rural areas, which persists and may even be widening; the rural-urban divide also tends to be reflected in education and health indicators. In addition, women in rural (and urban) areas who are predominantly involved in animal husbandry have higher illiteracy rates than men.
A survey of 21 African countries recently highlighted the substantial disparities in primary schooling between urban and rural areas, in favour of urban dwellers. Special attention must be given to the knowledge and information needed to enable rural people to apply biotechnology. There is a need to identify alternative delivery systems (beyond the State) for animal healthcare and to propose new roles for the state and the private sector in service delivery.