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Methods to use in Cross-Breeding Animals

A crossbreed is an organism with purebred parents of two different breeds, varieties, or populations. Cross-breeding, sometimes called “designer cross-breeding”, is the process of breeding such an organism, often with the intention to create offspring that share the traits of both parent lineages, or producing an organism with hybrid vigor.

While crossbreeding is used to maintain health and viability of organisms, irresponsible crossbreeding can also produce organisms of inferior quality or dilute a purebred gene pool to the point of extinction of a given breed of organism

There are generally two methods of cross-breeding as is seen in mating. You can do natural mating or artificial insemination. Under natural mating, you introduce the male you want to use to the female on heat and allow them mate each other.

For artificial insemination, you take the semen (sperm) of your desired male and introduce it to the female on heat. In artificial insemination, the male don’t have to be there as a matter of fact most of the semen’s used for artificial insemination are imported into the country.

Cross breeding is the process of breeding with the intention to create offspring that share the traits of both parent lineages or to produce an animal with hybrid vigour (the improved or increased function of any biological quality in a hybrid offspring).

In the developing world, cross breeding mainly seeks to improve the milk production of dairy cattle. Unlike milk production in developed countries where certain breeds of cows produce around 30 litres a day, cows in some developing countries can only produce 1-2 litres per day.

Although productive capacity varies depending on the quality of feeding, nutrition and animal husbandry, much has to do with genetics.

Read Also: Factors to be considered before Cross-Breeding

There are 2 dominant species of cattle in the world: the taurine cattle of the temperate climates of Europe, North Asia and West Africa and the zebu cattle of the hot arid and semi-arid regions of Africa and Asia.

Although these species can naturally cross, today they are very different because of the selective breeding for increased milk production in taurine cows, which has led to the dominance of very high producing breeds such as the Holstein-Friesian.

Most smallholder farmers in Africa use indigenous livestock breeds, adapted to local conditions. For example, natural selection has produced zebu cattle with a high degree of heat tolerance. The zebu is also resistant to many tropical diseases and able to survive long periods of feed and water shortages.

However, their dairy potential is poor as they yield low quantities of milk, mature late and usually do not let down milk unless simulated by the sucking of a calf.

Improving the productivity of indigenous breeds can be done with the introduction of foreign ones. In Zimbabwe and several countries in East Africa this has occurred with much success.

For example, in Kenya improved dairy cattle account for 23% of the total cattle population and 75% of dairy cattle in eastern and southern Africa. Some countries, such as Uganda and Ethiopia, lag far behind; improved breeds only account for 3% and 1% respectively.

Due to the low exchange of breeding animals and materials, as well as limited access and use of technologies such as artificial insemination, livestock populations remain mainly inbred. High rates of inbreeding in Kenya, for example have also lead to reductions in dairy production from 6-7 litres per day down to just 3 litres.

Introducing breeding technologies such as cross breeding will be important for raising dairy productivity, but this will need to be met with support to enable farmers to manage this increased productivity. In many cases, extension services are already strained, but will be integral for smallholders to manage improved breeds.

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