Genetic Evaluation of Sahiwal Cattle in Pakistan: Progeny Testing and Future Directions

David McGill

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Abstract

Dairy farming in Pakistan is the traditional backbone of rural village life. Many households are dependent on dairy animals for capital, nutrition and income. The dairy sector in Pakistan is dominated by low input and low production systems. Short-term solutions for increasing milk production involve farmer education in animal nutrition and management. However, for increased milk production in future generations, it is imperative to improve the genetic capacity of the Pakistani dairy herd. Herd recording and progeny testing programs for Sahiwal cattle in Pakistan have been in existence for over three decades. Despite limited success, these programs provide a sound platform for future development. With limited capacity for data recording, research is required to evaluate the suitability of the current genetic evaluation model (GEM). Furthermore, concerns arise regarding the sustainability of the selection program as it is solely based on milk production, which could impact other correlated traits of economic or social importance. Therefore, this thesis aimed to address the following three questions: i. Is the current GEM used in the Sahiwal progeny testing system suitable given the number of animals recorded and the limited data available? ii. Can the current milk recording system be utilised more efficiently to increase accuracy of selection for Sahiwal cattle? iii. What are the breeding objectives for the national Sahiwal herd of Pakistan, and can the current progeny testing system be expanded to include these?Three studies were conducted to address these questions. The first used simulated and actual herd recorded data to assess the accuracy of GEMs. The results showed that the current GEM is adequate and that there is limited scope to improve the accuracy of analysis and selection using the current number of test recorded animals. The second study used simulated Sahiwal lactation curves to investigate the lactation yield estimation methods based on equally and unequally spaced milk recording regimes. Results show that using a mathematical lactation model to estimate yield whilst maintaining the accuracy of selection is possible with fewer and more strategically timed milk recordings throughout lactation. Accordingly, this provides an opportunity to increase the number of animals recorded using the same resources. The third study involved workshops and an internet-based choice survey with groups of farmers, breeders and professionals. This study showed that all groups involved were interested in expanding the breeding objective for Sahiwal cattle to ensure they are selecting not only high producing animals, but also hardy cows with a sound temperament that will live a long life and be profitable to the smallholder farmers of Pakistan.Based on the research outlined in this thesis, practical recommendations can be made to improve the progeny testing system for Sahiwal cattle in Pakistan. More specifically, there is an opportunity to work with existing breed improvement groups to maximise limited resources by strategically timing herd recording to increase the numbers of animals recorded. Furthermore, there is an opportunity to develop the breeding objectives with the Government''s new Breeding Policy. Whilst not without challenge, these changes will aid long-term genetic selection and are key to reaching the untapped potential of millions of dairy animals in Pakistan. Consequently, the livelihoods and food security of farming households across the country could be vastly improved.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publisher
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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