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Semen diluent: Is it the end of the road for cocks?

It seems that not all is well for the cocks of the poultry industry i.e. the male hens, who appear to be heading towards the end of the road

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It seems that not all is well for the cocks of the poultry industry i.e. the male hens, who appear to be heading towards the end of the road. In order to reduce the operational cost of poultry industry and for pushing the sector to the fastest growth, ICAR-Central Avian Research Institute has developed a diluent for poultry semen. It reduces the cost of cock rearing up to 95%. Mohd Mustaquim reports

With 4.5 million tonnes broiler production and 84 billion eggs, India is the fifth largest producer of poultry products. The sector is currently providing 1.6 million employment, 80% of them are the farmers in the villages. Riding on the increasing demand from educated and growing middle class who have started accepting eggs and chicken meat in their regular meals, the sector is expected to grow manifold in the next two decades.   

To meet the increasing demand, it is necessary to bring in scientific, low cost and high productive measures for sustainable development of the poultry sector which can translate maximum benefits to the farmers as well as the consumers. Taking this forward, the scientists at ICAR-Central Avian Research Institute (ICAR-CARI), Izatnagar, Bareilly (UP) has developed a poultry semen diluent which minimises the cost of production by removing of 95% cocks from the poultry flock.

Objectives 
Poultry semen is highly concentrated and has low water content, containing 6 ( in roosters) to 12 (in toms) billion spermatozoa with a low volume. Due to evaporation of water from semen, sperm start dying after 30 minute. This necessitates immediate dilution of poultry semen with a suitable diluent that contain proper nutrients to the spermatozoa and would maintain desired buffering in surrounding media. Semen diluent would have the adequate flexibility for artificial insemination (AI) ranging 24-48 hours.  

Highlighting about the need of the semen diluent, Dr. JM Kataria, Director, ICAR-CARI says, “Diluent is essential for poultry semen in order to increase semen volume that prevent clumping of spermatozoa; increase in number of birds that can be inseminated by per unit volume of semen; uniformly distribute the spermatozoa in the diluent, thereby it makes AI easy in hens and increases the metabolic activity of spermatozoa associated enhancing sperm motility. Finally, semen diluent prolongs the sperm survival for both short and long term preservation of semen in vitro.”

Modus Operandi
“Artificial insemination (AI) is the technique in which semen is collected from the male bird and inseminated into the female reproductive tract of the hen at proper site with the help of certain devices. Over the past decades, this technology has been developed throughout the world and presently is employed as a biggest tool for genetic improvement in domesticated animal and poultry industry,” Dr. Kataria says.

Based on the data collected from domestic fowl, AI technique is considered superior to natural mating. This technique is comprised of semen collection, dilution, storage and insemination of semen to the hen.

Dilution and storage of semen is an additional stress experienced by spermatozoa and losses may be greater. Therefore, dilution and storage of semen techniques are designed to minimise the rate of loss of viability of spermatozoa in vitro. The poultry semen, developed by CARI, preserves the fertilising ability of chicken semen from 24-48 hour. Semen from the poultry commonly collected by the abdominal massage method.

After collecting and diluting the semen, it has to be inseminated to the hens. Several factors influence fertility after AI, semen quality can be affected by age of the tom or rooster, lighting schedule, season, body weight, and diet as well as the semen collector.

The technique of artificial insemination (AI) is the biggest tool for genetic improvement in livestock throughout the world. Day by day, it is getting momentum in poultry species.

Salient Features
Transportation of birds from one region to another is difficult but semen can be transported easily and at a large scale. Older male birds those have good genetic traits can be used for several generations. Whereas under natural mating their useful life is limited. Valuable male birds that have been injured in the leg can still be used for artificial insemination. Such birds are unfit under natural mating. Usually cross breeding is very successful under natural conditions, but sometimes there is a kind of colour discrimination, some hens do not mate with a male of a different colour unless they have been reared together. The technique of AI can produce very good fertility in this cross.

Prevention of vertically and sexually transmitted diseases can be achieved in a poultry flock if properly certified and good quality semen is used. It has been shown that Marek’s disease can be transmitted through fowl semen. There is reduced chance of transmission of infectious and contagious diseases, apart from those transmitted through semen, from tom (adult male of turkey) or cock to the hens as there is no physical contact.

Benefiting Farmers
Using the poultry semen diluent, the services of superior male can be used maximally by AI technique which is not possible under natural mating. From the economic angle, diluent reduces the number of males required for AI, hence, saving the feed cost due to  having less numbers of males and saving labour, space, maintenance and operating costs also .This makes the poultry industry more profitable.

“A broiler male which normally produces average 0.5ml of thick semen generally contain 2,670 million spermatozoa. Semen obtained from single cock can be inseminated after dilution (0.5 ml semen + 5.0 ml diluent = 5.5 ml) in to 110 hens at the rate of 0.05 ml semen per hen which contain about 24 million spermatozoa. Therefore, using a single male once in a week, nearly 110 hens could be inseminated with male giving 0.5 ml semen,” informs Dr. Jag Mohan, Principal Scientist & Head - Division of Physiology & Reproduction, ICAR-CARI.

“Using a single male on alternate days - 4 time in a week - 440 hens could be inseminated. Under natural mating, the ratio of hen: cock is 8:1. In this way, for 440 hens, there is a need of 55 cocks/week. This can be concluded that against 55 cocks, only one cock is enough through AI technology with CARI diluent,” Dr. Jag Mohan adds.

If a poultry farmer maintaining 100 cocks for natural mating, he can reduce it up to 4-5 cocks by adopting this technology. In this way, 95% males from the flock can be eliminated. This is highly feed and management saving technology.

Road Ahead
The major challenges in the application of AI technology are, lack of education with respect to usefulness of artificial insemination has contributed to the slow development of artificial insemination practices; moreover, difficulties of obtaining the skilful and trained personnel and inadequate attention being given to the development of poultry industry compared to dairy industry in the country.

And therefore, awareness should be created among the poultry farmers regarding the benefit of artificial insemination. This can be done by electronic and print media, kisan melas and through extention activities carried out by the agricultural institute and universities.

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