Ruminant Production: Realigning the Future Through Indigenous Breeds

The prospect for a breed depends to a great extent on its economic and sustainable production. Malaysia is blessed with several indigenous breeds but improper and non-structural breeding program as well as inappropriate and non-specific national livestock policy, has led their poor development. For the past 40 years, statistics has shown that self-sufficiency level for beef, mutton and milk has remained almost static. The increased demand for livestock products drives efforts to increase their production. The development of ruminant industry in Malaysia was carried out by occasional introductions of Bos indicus and Bos taurus, but the progress of the development of the industry is rather slow. None of these breeds became well established for our hot and humid tropical climate. Despite a long list of breeds imported into Malaysia (Table 1) for over 40 years, the population of these breeds in Malaysia appears indignificant. Crossbreeding between indigenous and temperate breeds was also carried out to overcome the shortage of ruminant production. However due to the complexity of ruminant industry with various limitation, the impact of the programme is insignificant. Nevertheless, the Brahman and its crosses are among the tropical breeds that have adapted effectively. Brahman and its crosses have since had an important role in overcoming the shortage of breeding population experienced by the beef industry. But with tremendous demands in meat, the high extraction rate had ruled out the breeding initiatives. Looking at the present scenario of the industry and taking economic viability as well as sustainability of the industry into consideration, Malaysia critically needs to develop and focus on specific national breed and not continue dependence on importation of livestock. Long term solution via development of national breeds is crucial for the sake of food security. The breeds identified should be indigenous based in order to survive and sustain in our hot and humid tropical climate.


Current challenge worldwide also may have severe consequences on local ruminant production including global warming, disease threats, diversity erosion, changes due to socio-economic factors, breed development intervention, focussing on single productive traits, natural disaster, global political instability and indiscriminate crossbreeding. With all these threatening factors, Malaysia is in a critical phase and breeding our own breed is the only plausible option left. Strategy for mass production and strict enforcement should be implemented over certain time period to avoid further genetic erosion. In fact, most of our indigenous breeds are already in the list of endangered species (Published by FAO). Eying the potential of indigenous breeds, Kedah-Kelantan cattle and Katjang goat are among the best candidates. Kedah-Kelantan and Katjang, both the forgotten and neglected breeds have huge potential. This breeds have survived over the years despite poor attention, financial and strong support as well as competition with massive importation. Although phenotypically ill-favoured, especially in terms of body size and weight gain, their survivability under harsh climate and feeding conditions as well as other embedded valuable genes and important economic traits such as higher fertility, make them suitable breeds for sustainable long term production.


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