Globally, poultry has fourth largest number of breeds (606) after goat (951), sheep (920) and cattle (757). India is one of the richest poultry genetic resource countries in the world with 20 indigenous breeds and various subtypes out of 72 breeds found in Asia. Poultry genetic resources in India can be broadly classified into three categories. The first consists of 20 indigenous pure breeds present in small numbers mostly with some fanciers and non-descript indigenous birds with their derivatives in the countryside, thriving as scavengers and constituting about 14 percent of the total poultry population. The second category is those of exotic pure breeds/ lines and grand parents (GPs) imported by the private sector and institutions that have been used as pure breeds/ crosses. Institutions and private sector breeders have extensively used pure lines and GPs to develop commercial broiler and layer crosses which are sold by different brand names and constitute the industrial chicken forming the third category and accounts for about 85% of the present poultry population. Despite many fold increase in egg and meat production the per capita availability is 42 eggs and 1 kg in India as compared to 250 and 26 kg in developed countries. There exits a vast gap for the per capita availability of eggs in rural and urban areas, which needs to be bridged to improve the nutritional status of rural masses. This challenge can be met to a large extent by improving productivity of the indigenous germplasm under low input rural poultry production system as has been done in China and Bangladesh. The indigenous chicken is a storehouse of genetic diversity along with a number of genomes and major genes of tropical relevance. All breeds of poultry of India are facing extinction due to their replacement with high yielding exotic stocks (Prasad et al., 2000). A five step strategy for conservation of animal genetic resources as suggested by FAO/UNEP which includes establishment of genetic data banks and gene banks, initiation of conservation projects and training courses and making of inventories should be adopted.
Source : IPSACON-2005