A comprehensive note on animal improvement

MEANING AND AIMS OF Animal Improvement

Animal improvement refers to the conscious attempts by man to improve and produce better breeds of farm animals to satisfy human needs. 
The aims of animal improvement can be outlined as follows:
1. To increase the productivity of animals: Farm animals are improved upon in order to obtain higher returns or output from animals. For instance, quantity of milk in dairy cattle, mohair in goat, litter size in pigs, number of eggs per bird, etc can be improved upon for more profitable livestock business. 
2. To improve he quality of animal products; for example, yolk size in poultry, hair quality in sheep and goat, beefiness in cattle and leanness of meat in pig, butter fat content in milk etc. 
3. To develop animals with increased ability to withstand adverse environmental conditions such as extreme heat or cold and draught. 
4. To develop animals that are resistant to pests and diseases. 
5. To produce animals that are early maturing, that is animals with higher growth rate and efficient food conversion ability. 
6. To produce animals that can be used for specific purposes, for example bull for work, dogs for hunting and detective operations, and other purposes. 

Processes Of Animal Improvement Introduction

  This entails bringing exotic or foreign breeds of animals into a new place or environment. Introduction could be from a foreign country and it involves the physical movement of the animal or it semen from its original place to a new place. 
   Introduction can be used in upgrading the performance of local breeds of animals. It also leads to the introduction of better characteristics like high yield, early maturity. 
 However, the process could be hampered by problem of acclimatization, that is, the animal may not be able to adapt to its new environment. Also, it can lead to the introduction of new pest and/ or diseases, especially where there are no quarantine services. The method is expensive due to transportation cost and in terms of the special care which the animal must be provided initially to enable it survive. Animals that have been introduced into Nigeria include Holstein Friesian from Holland, N,dama from Guinea, Rhode Island, Red Fowl from the United States of America. 
  • Selection

This is the picking or choosing of one or more animals from a group for the purpose of obtaining higher performance. Usually, the animals that satisfy the farmer’s needs are picked and the effort is a conscious one which follows observations made, and records kept by the animal breeder. Selection is normally followed by breeding to obtain better results. 
Selection could be:
  1. Pedigree Selection : This is the selection of animals that is based on parental record. Progeny Selection: In this type, selection is based on the records of the offspring performance. 
  2. Family Selection : This is the selection which is based on the overall performance of the members of one family, that id the parents and siblings (offspring). 
  3. Individual Selection : In this type of selection, animals are picked simply on the basis of individual performance within the group. 
  4. Mass Selection : This is the selection of a number of animals that are found to perform better than the average of the entire group. 

   Selection is the simplest and cheapest process or method of animal improvement. It can be done by the illiterate farmer. However, the process could be too slow for animals that have long generation intervals or period. 
  • Breeding

 This is the mating of animals of the same species. The essence is to combine or transfer desirable qualities found to be present in two different animals. 
  1. In-breeding: This involves mating closely related animals like brother and sister, mother and son, father and daughter. This used to perpetuate a desirable quality in the animals. 
  2. Out-breeding: Here, far related animals within a breed are matted, for example, second cousin with second cousin. 
  3. Cross-breeding: This involves mating of unrelated animals, that is animals belonging to different breeds but of the same species. For example, N’dama cattle with Muturu or white Leghorn with Rhode Island Red. This is used to combine desirable qualities existing in different breeds like disease resistance, high productivity and other qualities. 
  4. Line breeding: Mating of less closely related animals but belonging to the same lineage. For example half brother with half sister. 

      Breeding, particularly cross breeding leads to the development of heterosis or hybrid vigor in animals. Heterosis is the dominance of genes responsible for the desired characteristics and the corresponding excessiveness of the genes that are unfavorable for such character or quality. With breesing, qualities found to be present in two different animals can be brought together and this leads to the development of new breeds that are better performing than the already existing ones. 
However, the process is highly scientific and technical, requiring knowledge in breeding patterns and cycles of the animals. Thus, it cannot be practiced by all farmers except those technically trained. Also hybrids may not breed true-to-tyoe and mutation (deviation from the normal generic constitution of the animal) may occur thereby evolving breeds of animals that will not satisfy the breeder’s interest. In addition, it could spread diseases among animals especially venereal diseases. The process is too slow for animals that have long gestation, maturation and generation periods. 
  • Artificial Insemination

 This instrument of animal breeding involves the artificial introduction or insemination of male semen into the female reproductive tract. It does not involve mating or or coition between make and female animals. The semen collected from male with the aid of a teaser (artificial vagina) or from the tract of a freshly mated female animal. It is diluted and stored in deep freezer at a very low temperature until it needed. Injection of the female into the vagina can be done with a syringe. 
  For artificial insemination to succeed, the oestrus cycle, and especially the relationship between ‘heat’ period and ovulation must be known. This is important because in most animals (except poultry), sperms can only be alive for few hours after insemination into the female reproductive tract. Sperms may be wasted if insemination is done at the wrong time.  

Artificial insemination has several advantages. These include :

1. It is cheaper to import or transfer animal sperm than a whole live animal. 
2. It is an economic way of using only a few proven males for many. 
3. Many females of different sizes can be services. 
4. It reduces the risk of transmitting diseases particularly veneral diseases. 
5. The semen of a good bull can be collected, stored and used over a long time even if it dies. 
On the other hand, the process requires considerable capital in terms of equipment, storage and management of the animals. Also, it is highly technical and only trained farmers can practice it. The method had a high demand on the farmer in terms of time and labour because he has to be present at all times to detect animals on heat’s and then inseminate them. 
This is so because if heat’s period is not accurately determined, the method is bound to fail and all efforts wasted. 

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