January 25, 2009

A dying breed – Andrew Rice.

A dying breed – Andrew Rice.

The dying breed analyzed from angle of other benefits we often forget before they go extinct. In Uganda (remember the infamous Idi Amin), farmers prefer western breed of cow – Holsteins rather than their local breed – Ankole.

In one side, Ankole cows is a beacon of their culture (President Yoweri Museveni once imposed a ban on imported semen of Holstein as part of protecting their culture), but on the other side, its output is between a quarter & half gallon of milk a day where Holstein cows produce 6 gallons of milk. So it is a matter of choice between culture and stomachs. When farmers tasted money, they are excited about having these big earnings and they are forgetting cultural aspect.

In the past, number of cows was a status symbol (owner of 100 cows would not even talk to owner of 30 cows), but with introduction of Holstein, the status symbol is elevated to how much quantity of milk they produce.

The principle of the ‘tragedy of the commons’ perhaps the most famous metaphor in ecology, is a cattle parable. Garrett predicted ‘ each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit – in a world that is limited and would inevitable be picked clean.

Holstein is descended from Chief and Elevation and that 30% of the all Holstein genes in the world are traceable back to those 2 bulls. That has created a serious problem with in breeding that has adverse effects on fertility and mortality. In order to maintain Holstein cows, Ugandans need to import medicine, as these cows are susceptible to local disease/infections. Resistance power of Ankole breed now seems to be very important where no one knows, what are the powers these dying breeds can offer to the humanity.

Kenya used to have several millions of Red Maasai sheep and indiscriminate crossbreeding with woollier imported sheep nearly drove them out of existence. But the wool sheep fared poorly in the Kenyan environment, in part because of intestinal parasites to which the Red Maasai were almost impossible to find.

When certain part of Uganda faced severe drought in 1999, none of the Holstein cows could not survive, but Ankole breed did survive. As the world’s climate warns, and the environment becomes more inhospitable to the major breeds, humanity might need the genes that allow animal like the Ankoles to flourish in the African heat.

The challenge is to safeguard the resources of all breeds which may not be the best breed for their primary purpose, but also needs to consider secondary benefits which often get forgotten.

Tx n Rd

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