Centuries of human and natural selection have resulted in thousands of genetically diverged species, breeds and strains of livestock each with unique adaptability and productive characteristic that are economic, scientific and of cultural interest to mankind for food production now and in future. Besides food production animals are important for post production system, apparel fiber production, draught power, rural transport and human welfare in developing countries because of their valuable and renewable resources. The multi-functionality of livestock and their existence in small holder production system directly link them with poor rural communities and millions of resource poor, landless agricultural labourers and marginal farmers. In present century livestock production system has been used not only for food production but also for poverty alleviation.
Indigenous breeds of livestock and poultry have shown exceptional survivability in different regions of world, where newly developed breeds have perished because most of the indigenous livestock population possess valuable traits such as disease resistance, high fertility, good maternal quality, longevity and possess unique ability to utilise poor quality feed and can adopt in harse and difficult climate. These diverse animal genetic resources have been and shall be the future base for animal production for surviving humanity since new genes cannot be made but only can be sorted out from the diverse genetic base of the existing population. These rare breeds often possess traits of special significance to local people and economics and their way of life; make their conservation most vital.
These indigenous germ plasm resources which provided the basis for development of high productive breeds and stains of livestock and poultry are loosing their importance under impact of modernization and industrialisation. In spite of the poor growth and low production the survival these indigenous animal germ plasm is conventional because of its basic ability to service of and reproduce which in term ensures family’s self-reliance and survival.
Keth Hammond FAO expert on Animal Genetic resources has said that 80 percent of the world’s best adopted genetic resources of animals are superior to the modern breeds developed. In developed countries the germ plasm resource base has reduced drastically due to development of modern breeds for high productivity as for example there are only 5 layer stock and 6 broiler stocks available in the world at present for industrial poultry production. The Holstein breed known for its high milk production has also a narrow genetic base. In view of these happenings, the development of future stock for high productivity would depend upon diverse genetic resources available in the developing countries of world. Genetic diversity available in the livestock will help to meet the productive need in various environment to allow sustained genetic improvement and to facilitate adoption to changing breeding objectives.
The Orissa state with varied culture base inherited from ancient time is endowed with large rivers and dense forest has helped development of various livestock and poultry species with great diversity. Its rich animal genetic base has also been further strengthened by import of various animals from abroad by the navigating community of Kalinga empire. As a result the state has a strong agricultural and livestock base rich in biodiversity. The sheep and goat found in Orissa are known for their resistance to common endoparasites they are also highly prolific and possess exceptional quality to survive in water logging condition. Similarly some of the cattle and buffalo breeds found in Orissa have good qualities for growth reproduction and survivability under summer and saline harsh conditions. Wild types of buffaloes have been found in different regions of Orissa. Orissa has rich source of fowl germ plasma including its ancestor Red jungle fowls with great genetic and phenotypic diversity.
Although the state has a great variety animal genetic resources of cattle, buffaloes, sheep, goat and poultry breeds their production performance is low. Hence the sate is using improved germ plasm for cross breeding as for example Jersey, Holstein bulls are used for crossing the native cows to improve the milk yield. It is feared in some quarter that indiscriminate crossbreeding of local cattle would destroy the native germ plasm consequently reducing the genetic base. In view of this, there is a need to define an optimum breeding policy which will help to conserve the available genetic base and at the same time shall permit the use of crossbreeding for augmenting milk yield.