More precised breeding of livestock high in production traits, achievable soon; PCC takes important role in International Buffalo Genome Consortium

Accurate prediction of genetic merits in water buffaloes is expected to pave the way for hastened genomic selection of animals with attributes that spell out high economic importance.

Precision in the selection of animals with, for instance, excellent milk and meat production capabilities, helps breeders propagate animals with high genetic merit only. This then ensures that the utilization of resources is done with high degree of efficiency.
International research efforts are currently focused toward the achievement of this goal. Scientists working on this field see this possibility with the imminent completion of the buffalo genome sequence.

During the first meeting of the International Buffalo Genome Consortium, held last January in San Diego, California, USA, where the Philippines is a member country represented by Dr. Libertado Cruz, executive director of the Philippine Carabao Center, the status of the completion of the buffalo genome was one of the topics presented.

It also aims to establish tools and schemes that will hasten genomic selection of water buffaloes according to traits of interest.
Related to the achievement of the consortium’s objectives, the following were also presented during the meeting: the buffalo transcriptome, discovery of single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) across buffalo breeds, searching for copy number variations in the buffalo genome, and domestication and genetic diversity in domestic buffalo.

Main country representatives from USA, Italy, Brazil, India, and Pakistan also attended the meeting.
Italy, based on presentations made, has already completed the sequencing of Mediterranean buffaloes.

These breeds have high milk production capabilities ranging from eight to 10 kg a day in a standard 305 days lactation period. Some of them are raised in other countries for meat production.

Studies on other breeds, such as Murrah, Surti, and Mehsana from India, have also contributed initial data in the consortium system.
Representative data from swamp buffaloes will be submitted by the Philippines as its counterpart in the consortium.
India, being the major buffalos country, takes major steps in buffalo genomics. A project was initiated by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).

In its website, the perspective of the initiative states that “Buffalo is the first tropical animal to be sequenced and is likely to provide the biological basis for adaptive traits. Buffalo genome sequence, thus, shall help in understanding the genetic and environmental interactions which is a major focus of present day production as well as future biomedical research.”

Under this initiative, the scientific team, with members from other related research centers in India, has completed the whole genome sequence of one female Murrah buffalo using the next generation sequencing (NGS) platform.

NGS is currently used for sequencing target genes to perform association studies that are sequence-based.
ICAR puts it this way, “The buffalo genome sequence shall be continuously improved by filling the gaps and annotation of genes.”

Pakistan, through the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences (UVAS), meanwhile, embarked on an S&T collaboration program with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the discovery of genetic variation that enhances improvement of dairy production and health in cattle and buffaloes.

The project overview states “the central aim of this project was to develop genomic tools to aid characterization of the structure and function of both the bovine and water buffalo genomes, then apply these tools using novel statistical methodology to accelerate genetic improvement for traits of economic importance in both species.”

A major result of the project included the generation of billions base pairs of sequence data from water buffaloes for SNP discovery and genome assembly.

With the current status of data generation, Illumina, a worldwide company that applies innovative technologies for studying genetic variation and function with headquarters in California, indicated support to the consortium’s goal.

The company said it can develop a genome chip for buffalos with 50,000 SNPs and 30,000 SNPs as add on. Said chip will be available to the consortium members by September this year.

Dr. Cruz said there is a growing interest both from Illumina and the consortium members in this development.
“This is due to the consideration that the magnitude of demand from buffalo breeders for the chip for genomic selection in water buffaloes can significantly grow,” he said.

Dr. Cruz was formerly the president of ABA and IBF.

In his post-meeting recommendation, he said the Philippines should seriously focus on building human resources for the country for it to be able to harness the advances in biotechnology.

“It is important that we train young batch of scientists in this fast growing molecular approach to genetics, bioinformatics, proteomics, among other important disciplines,” he said.

He also underscored the importance of strengthening infrastructure and equipment related to the application of biotechnology and establishing linkages abroad.

“There should be corresponding aggressive efforts to establish strong linkages with the institutions, laboratories, and scientists in more advanced countries to hasten the capacity development of our own system,” Dr. Cruz said.

KOICA installs new equipment in PCC; GIP expected to boost

The Philippine Carabao Center’s (PCC) genetic improvement program (GIP) has been strengthened some more with the installation of various laboratory equipment provided by the PCC-Korean International Coordination Agency (KOICA) project.

The project titled “Enhancing Livestock Sector Performance in the Philippines”, made possible the installation of 50 new pieces of equipment in the PCC main headquarters and at the PCC at Central Luzon State University (PCC at CLSU) last February 12-17.

The state-of-the-art laboratory equipment was installed to further advance the existing PCC GIP which is aimed at improving the productivity of the buffalos in the country.

The laboratory equipment will be used in performance test, genetic evaluation, distribution of prepotency, and conservation of genetic resources.

The installation of the office equipment is also expected to improve the institutionalized data capture system, genetic data analysis and evaluation system, and unified web-based genetic information system which are very much needed in the program.

Earlier, PCC personnel were sent to Korea for the needed training and workshop on the proper utilization of the installed equipment.

In addition, 10 pieces of laboratory equipment were put up in the Artificial Insemination Center at Barangay Joson in Carranglan, Nuva Ecija which is under the PCC at CLSU office.

Thirty representatives from KOICA came to help in the installation of the equipment. They were composed of seven members of the project management committee, seven researchers, and 16 suppliers.

The Department of Agriculture-PCC-KOICA project started in November 2010. The government of the Republic of Korea, through the KOICA, made the equipment available.

The Korean government, as stipulated in the memorandum of understanding, shall provide a grant aid in the tune of ,000,000.

The memorandum of understanding was signed on November 5, 2010 by the representatives of the Department of Agriculture and KOICA.

Philippines to host 9th ARBS conference

Deliberate efforts on livestock biotechnology development are continuously being done in the Philippines and are constantly translated into promising results.

Because of this, the executive committee of the Asian Reproductive Biotechnology Society (ARBS) chose the Philippines, through the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC), as the host for the 9th ARBS conference on October 23-28. The event will be a joint activity between ARBS and the Philippine Society of Animal Science (PSAS) which will be holding its 49th Annual Convention.

The ARBS, established in 2004, functions in promoting the educational and scientific interests of reproductive biotechnology research community throughout Asia.

With the emerging issues on food and health, the organizers adopted the theme: “Frontiers in Biotechnology for Food, Health, and Biodiversity” mainly to underscore the great promises that biotechnology offers in terms of addressing food and health issues as well as highlighting the various efforts and innovations that are continuously being undertaken in the country.

This joint conference is also aimed at providing a venue among scholars, scientists, extension practitioners, and policy makers from Asian countries in stimulating interaction and wide-range sharing on how to harness biotechnologies in addressing the issues on food, health, and biodiversity. More importantly, it aims to underline the recent advancements in the different areas of reproductive biotechnologies both in animals and humans, technological developments in increasing the productivity and profitability of livestock, and open opportunity for collaborative research and business opportunities among scientists, students, and practitioners across the Asian Region.

VP Binay recognizes PCC as leading livestock R&D institution, pays tribute to dairy farmers

The Philippine Carabao Center (PCC), headed by its executive director Dr. Libertado Cruz, got a boost from Vice President Jejomar Binay as he recognized the agency as the leading R&D institution for livestock in the country.

The vice president lauded the carabao as truly the ally of farmers.

He underscored the significant role of the carabao as an important commodity in ushering in additional income for thousands of smallhold farming families in the countryside and in ensuring the eventual food security in the country.

“Hinog na ang panahong kailangang palakasin ang kabuhayang salig sa kalabaw sa mga kanayunan at bilang instrumentong tutulong sa pagsugpo ng kahirapan (The time has come to strengthen the dairy industry in the countryside and the carabao as an instrument to alleviate poverty),” VP Binay said.

The vice president was guest in a short “Ugnayan at Talakayan” program at the PCC headquarters in the Science City of Muñoz Thursday. Some 700 farmer-members of dairy cooperatives in Nueva Ecija attended the program.

He emphasized the importance of close cooperation and linkage between the farmers and the government agencies such as PCC to sustain development programs that can surely usher in progress in the lives of smallhold farmers.

If this can be done, he said, dairy farmers can rise from subsistence to becoming progressive carabao raisers and, eventually, big income-earners in carabao-based entrepreneurship.

“Sa pamamagitan ng tamang programa ng gobyerno at pakikilahok ng ating mga magsasaka rito, magkakaroon ng magandang bunga ang ating lokal na industriya ng gatas (Through the right government programs and our farmers’ cooperation, we can expect a progressive state of our local dairy industry),” Vice President Binay said.

He stressed his stand, and the government’s, on protecting the welfare of dairy farmers, among other frontline workers in the country’s economic backbone.

“Ang tingin ko sa kalabaw ay kaagapay ng ating mga magsasaka, katulad doon sa aking kinalakihan (I see the carabao as the ally of our farmers, just like where I grew up),” VP Binay said.

He hails from Isabela, which is one of the major agricultural producers in the country.

During the short program, VP Binay, together with Dr. Cruz, awarded certificates of entrustment of the 25-dairy buffalo module to selected dairy cooperatives in the National Impact Zone (NIZ), which is Nueva Ecija.

He further emphasized the many benefits that the carabao raisers can obtain from the venture. He even enumerated the salient features of major products from the carabao such as milk and meat.

VP Binay’s visit was also in time with a series of lectures organized by the PCC’s NIZ coordinating unit such as “ensuring quality in the milk supply chain” and “animal reproduction”. The farmer-participants were also given a briefing on the massive deworming against liverfluke and Hemosep vaccination.

VP Binay visited PCC with a small group that included Rep. Mitos Magsaysay of Zambales, Joey de Venecia of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) political party, and Atty. JV Bautista.

He later motored to Cabanatuan City where he was guest speaker at the graduation program of the Wesleyan University-Philippines.