Research being carried out at PCC covers wide disciplinary areas such as breeding and genetics, biotechnology, nutrition and forage/pasture, animal health, reproductive physiology, management, product development, socio-economics and policy.
The major consideration in technology development is sustainability while improving overall production efficiency and economic profitability, primarily for small-scale and medium-scale production systems.
Identification of research gaps is a common concern of farmers, extension workers and scientists. Implementation of R&D activities is a cooperative undertaking of the research institutions, academe and other sectors, emphasizing excellence and relevance.
Breeding and Genetics
2008 marked the initial year of full operation of the molecular genetics laboratory. The laboratory is presently exploring various techniques/protocols that can be used as a tool for selection or identifying superior animals for breeding. These molecular genetic tools will complement the conventional quantitative genetics approach in animal breeding. Ongoing researches include breed identification using Random Amplification of Polymorphic DNA (RAPD) and mDNA, parentage verification, Quantitative Trait Loci (QTL) detection associated with milk production and milk component traits, Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) detection in buffaloes associated with milk and milk component traits, microsatellite genotyping, genetic defect screening, and Foot and Mouth (FMD) detection kits.
- Project Title: Characterization of Swamp and Riverine Buffalo Genome
- Project Title: Use of DNA “Fingerprinting” and other Molecular Markers in Genetic Resource Conservation and Improvement of Water Buffaloes
- Screening for the Genetic-Associated Diseases in Water Buffaloes, Cattle, Goat and Swine
- RT-PCR and RT-LAMP Detection Kits for Rapid Screening of FMD Virus Infection (Fellowship under the DA-BIOTECH)
Nutrition and Forage
The Nutrition Unit supports the Carabao Development Program of PCC on the development of feed technologies for sustainable production and supply of feed and forages to improve the nutrition and productivity of dairy buffaloes. Establishment of year-round feeding systems through the use of practical and least-cost animal rations utilizing the locally available feed resources or with the use of supplementary concentrates and mineral mixtures to augment energy and protein requirements and to correct the nutritional problems/ deficiencies are being undertaken. Production and conservation of forages and legumes in the most practical manner such as silage production and urea-molasses treatment of rice straw to improve its feeding value for feeding buffaloes are established and are being practiced at the institutional and at the small-hold farms.
Feeds and Feeding Technologies Developed
- Zero Suckling in Rearing and Early Weaning of Calves
- Feeding Milk Replacer in Calf Production and Management
- Flushing with Concentrates to Improve Milk Production and Reproduction Buffaloes
Reproductive technologies are important tools in bringing about desired genetic improvement in livestock species. Initial efforts of PCC for the past decade were focused on upgrading the native buffaloes primarily through the use of Artificial Insemination (AI). AI is basically a reproductive tool which harnesses the potential of outstanding males or sires. The significant accomplishment of PCC through AI is manifested through the proliferation of crossbreds in the country. To date, it remains as a widely and extensively used technique in buffalo reproduction.
Meanwhile, the potential of reproductive techniques in harnessing female germplasm was seriously pursued by the PCC’s Reproductive Biotechnology Unit during the past several years. These techniques which allow maximum utilization of superior female buffaloes include Multiple/Single Ovulation and Embryo Transfer (MOET and SOET). In Vitro Embryo Production (IVEP) and Embryo Cryopreservation which generated successful pregnancies and live births both in the institutional and village herds. Recently, a far more exciting development in animal biotechnology which was adopted by PCC is cloning by Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT). This is mainly aimed at enhancing the propagation of genetically outstanding dairy. However, the efficiency of this technology is generally low, and so far, no development to full term was achieved with the current cloning protocols. A great deal of research is still needed to make this technique a practical and applicable tool for livestock production.
More recent reproductive technology applied in buffalo reproduction is the Ultrasound-Guided Transvaginal Oocyte Retrieval, also known as Ovum Pick-UP (OPU). This technique offers a great potential in reducing genetic interval and producing more offspring from superior female animals. It is normally used in tandem with in-vitro embryo production system which includes In Vitro Maturation of the OPU-derived oocytes, and In Vitro Fertilization and Culture (IVM/IVF/IVC). To date several transfers had been made out of the OPU-derived embryos and embryo transfers made to some surrogate females resulted in successful pregnancies.
Cryopreservation of embryos is a component-technique of in-vitro embryo production. The two main methods employed by the laboratory for embryo freezing are the conventional slow freezing and vitrification, and each has its specific application. The OPU-derived buffalo embryos are commonly cryopreserved for synchronized transfer later.
Recent advancements in animal assisted reproductive techniques (ART) generally propelled the demand for oocytes both for research and production purposes. Cryopreservation of oocytes however, had been a challenging research endeavour as it is widely known to be difficult than cryopreservation of embryos. Presently the cryopreservation of buffalo oocytes is seriously being pursued by the Unit with initial focus on developing an efficient protocol for buffalo oocyte freezing. Oocyte cryopreservation has an enormous potential application and utilization in buffaloes which include In-vitro fertilization of frozen oocytes for embryo production and transfer, as an alternative source of recipient oocytes for nuclear transfer, and a germplasm material for cryobanking.
Along with the research efforts on oocyte freezing is the Unit’s initial engagement in a procedure known as the Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI). ICSI involves the mechanical injection of single sperm into the oocyte, usually done manually or with the aid of a Piezo machine. This technique will be used in an attempt to enhance in-vitro fertilization of OPU-derived and cryopreserved oocytes with the semen from superior bull.
Moreover, the prospect of using sex-sorted buffalo semen for production of dairy buffaloes is also being pursued. The sexed-semen can be used in synergy with the various reproductive in vitro techniques for embryo production or can be used directly for artificial insemination to produce female animals for dairy. Alternative approach of producing preferred sexed-embryos will be the sex determination through a DNA-based or Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) technique. A biopsy will be performed to get embryonic sample to test the sex of the embryo.
To date enormous efforts is continually being exerted by the PCC to harness the potential of these reproductive biotechnologies in accelerating genetic improvement towards increased productivity of water buffaloes aimed ultimately at improving the lives of millions of farmers in the country.
- In Vitro Embryo Production and Embryo Transfer
- Culture and Cryopreservation of Buffalo Somatic Cells
- Enhance In-Vitro Maturation of Buffalo Oocytes
- Production of Buffalo Clone Embryos Thru Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer
- Cryopreservation of Buffalo Oocytes by Vitrification
PCC proactively responds to animal health issues and related concerns through provision of diagnostic services, among other support services, to its various clienteles.
On the average, over a hundred clients are served annually. A majority of which are farmer-cooperators in the National Impact Zone (NIZ). Over a thousand samples are diagnostically tested in three major categories: Microbiology, Parasitology, and Pathology.
Support services are in the form of acquisition and distribution of veterinary biologicals that include vaccines and antigens needed for the animal health program of the PCC regional centers and strengthening diagnostic capability through DNA-based techniques.
As part of the Animal Health Unit’s research thrusts and to promote international/collaborative research exchange, an understanding between PCC and Hokkaido University-Center for Zoonoses Control (HU-CZC) was formalized. In connection with this, there is an ongoing collaborative research on the establishment of rapid diagnostic system for mycobacterial infection in ruminants using gene-based and immunological methods for surveillance in the Philippines.
Local research collaborations were also established through agreements with the College of Veterinary Science and Medicine, CLSU-Small Ruminant Center, and the UP Diliman-Molecular Protozoology Laboratory of the Natural Science Research Institute.
Through the PL480 Fund, a project entitled “Animal Health Biotechnology in the Prevention and Control of Endemic Diseases Including Emerging and Re-emerging Diseases that Affects the Livestock Industry” is concurrently being done to strengthen the molecular technique capabilities of the laboratory personnel. Laboratory staff members were also sent to trainings and seminars on DNA-based protocols for disease detection.
The Animal Health Unit sustains an effective implementation of its Preventive Maintenance System plan to ensure quality in its service delivery.
- Strenghtening the Philippine Animal Health Biotechnology Towards Effective, Preventive and Control Management of Trypanosoma Ivansi Infection (SURRA)
- Retrospective Study on the Prevalence of Sub-clinical Mastitis and its Association with Selected Risk Factors in PCC Genepool
- Bovine Vaccine Trial of Schistosoma Japonicum Paramyosin
- Establishment of Milk Quality Standard for Dairy Buffaloes
Part of the areas that would require attention is the post- production intervention, particularly for milk, in order to reduce losses due to spoilage.
Development of new meat and milk products from carabaos and improving the quality of current products, including those coming from hide, horn and hoof, to increase product value are post-production concerns.
Social and Policy Research
The social dimension of the Carabao Development Program (CDP) is considered as one of the newest researchable areas in the PCC’s Research and Development (R&D) Program.
Social research provides an avenue for discovering new modalities of development that are relevant to farmers including transformation of key players and stakeholders towards improved systems, procedures, structures, and processes necessary in the implementation of a more sustainable CDP.
The interactions and interrelationships of actors in the conservation, propagation and promotion of the carabao as an alternative livelihood for the Filipino farmers are very significant in drawing out testimonies, experiences and cases of success and failure. These are evaluated, analyzed and interpreted to develop socially relevant approaches and strategies in development. Along this line, proper understanding of the social aspect of the carabao-based enterprises and community development is viewed towards collaborative research partnerships with national and regional state universities and colleges, other research institutions and international partners. Professionals with research interests on carabao-related activities in the social sciences are encouraged to work closely in the interest of sustainable development.
Some of the socially inclined researchable areas that support this end are as follow:
• Private-public partnerships including local governance and management
• Contextualization of the carabao as a new entity towards commoditization
• Farmer-carabao and farmer-to-farmer relationships (Actor Networks and/or Social Networks)
• Social dynamism in carabao-based enterprises
• Community development in carabao-based communities
• Technology management particularly on utilization and application of carabao technologies vis-a-vis farmers’ capacity and competencies
• Strengthening of human capital and empowerment of carabao-based communities
• Cooperative management and enterprise development
• Ecological carabao waste management system
• Carabao-based extension and development approaches
• Knowledge management application in carabao-based development
Based on the identified researchable areas, PCC encourages not only multidisciplinary but interdisciplinary or even transdisciplinary mechanism in research management anchored on dynamism, systematic, organized, flexible, iterative, reflexive, process-oriented, development-oriented and output-outcome-oriented approaches.
PCC addresses the vast issues and policies that may affect the sector’s development. It also considers policy requirements for growing industrialization and the impending globalization of the market, and its potential impact on the buffalo industry.