Chasing developments in animal genetics

Apologies for ruining Mr Geography’s pen pal dreams, but I didn’t come back from the sticks married to an emu farmer.

I did, however, learn some interesting facts about Rod Hull’s special friends:

1. They are growing in popularity in this region of India because they are incredibly efficient animals. More than 90% of every bird can be used, from the meat, to the skin (used for bags and shoes), to the bones (which are rendered for bonemeal)

2. Emu’s feathers can apparently be plucked and then spun into wool. The emu farmer I met reckons emu wool makes smashing shawls.

3. Emu meat is incredibly good for you. It’s low in fat and high in iron, and is being touted as a health food here in India.

and finally: 4. Emu meat taste like chicken. Though doesn’t everything.

I’ve been pretty impressed about the type of livestock I’ve seen being reared and bred here in India. From the buffalo and chickens I saw around Delhi, to these birds and the cattle I saw yesterday in Maharashtra.

These dairy cows, at the KVK research centre, are bred from Australian and Canadian genetics.


They’ve also been mixed with a native breed (I can’t remember the name off the top of my head, if anyone’s desperate to know, email me and I’ll make something up for you), meaning they’re high-yielding milkers, but able to cope with the 45 degree+ temperature it reaches in summer over here .

And the developing interest in animal genetics doesn’t stop at bovine. These fellas on the left have been imported from Australia. Famed for growing a lot of flesh quickly, their semen is being turkey-basted into the scrawny-looking gals on the right, who are rubbish at producing meat, but nimble enough to walk the rocky land in the region and and can handle the heat.


The result? A hardy goat that offers more milk and more meat, helping farmers become more profitable.

It’s really interested me to see just how much technology from Europe, Australia and the US is being used in India. Before I came here I assumed the majority of farmers were working on a subsistence basis and wouldn’t be as developed as they are. Admittedly, they still have a long way to go and there are lots of farmers who still just have a couple of scrawny heifersĀ  tied to their front door, but most of the farmers I’ve met know a great deal about international markets and the technologies they are developing and using, and they want to catch up.

If only they could harvest some of their emu’s speed, they’d be a force to be reckoned with in no time at all.

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