Institute Researches Breed for Arid Conditions

BRAZIL - The National Semi-Arid Institute is studying cattle of the Pé Duro breed, which survives well in warm climates. Genes may be used to adapt other breeds to global warming.
calendar icon 17 September 2010
clock icon 3 minute read

The National Semi-Arid Institute (Insa) has at its experiment unit, in the city of Campina Grande, Paraíba, a small herd of 102 head of a breed called Pé Duro (Hard Hoof). Not only the name is exotic, and the animals are not there by chance. They are being studied by the Insa as they develop well in dry areas – also due to their hard hooves, appropriate for the semi-arid – and may collaborate to the establishment of herds that are more adapted to global warming.

The Pé Duro breed survives well in semi-arid conditions
Picture: Isaura Daniel/ANBA

According to Insa researcher, Geovergue Medeiros, the Pé Duro genes may be used in breeding with other cattle breeds to make them more resistant to a warmer climate, which the world may be faced with due to global warming. The cattle arrived in the Brazilian semi-arid during European colonisation and have lived with the drought since then, making it resistant to the climate.

The Insa, however, does not work in the offering of genes for breeding. The institute's concern is preserving the breed, which has been inbred or crossed with other breeds of cattle and is facing extinction.

"The breed is resistant to the climate, kind of soil, heat and kind of vegetation. It eats little and can survive, even reproduce," said Dr Medeiros.

The researcher adds that Pé Duro is more appropriate for beef than for dairy and explains that the animal's productivity is not high. If the climate conditions where it is raised are taken into consideration, however, the performance is good. In the near future, the Insa, according to Dr Medeiros, should issue a comparative study, showing the differences in performance of Pé Duro and other brands, like zebu, in the semi-arid region.

Dr Medeiros estimates that in Brazil there may currently be around 8,000 heads of Pé Duro. The Insa started breeding the herd and observing the animals at its testing grounds in 2006. The animals, however, are originally from the state of Piauí.

At the testing unit where Pé Duro is studied, apart from the work with the cattle, other studies and experiments are also developed, like, for example, studies on plants adapted to the semi-arid and on medicinal properties of vegetation of the region.

The institute, connected to the Ministry of Science and Technology, is also building offices in Campina Grande where it will concentrate administrative functions, and also include research areas. The construction should cost approximately five million Brazilian reals (BRR; US$3 million). Another BRR2 million ($1.2 million) should be turned to the local infrastructure. Research laboratories should also be built at the testing grounds. Investment in the laboratories should total BRR10 million ($6 million), according to Insa director, Roberto Germano Costa.

The Insa has also issued a call to tender, in partnership with the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), for the selection of technological development and innovation projects for conservation, recovery and use of the natural resources of the semi-arid. Enrolment is open until 30 September and funds of up to BRR12.5 million ($7.5 million) should be made available. Each project, depending on the line of research, may receive investment ranging from BRR50,000 to BRR400,000 ($29,000 to $234,000).

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