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Measures to avoid inbreeding in livestock

By Grace Chomba

A farmer prepares to inseminate a cow at Kehancha, Kuria East, Migori County on January 21, 2020. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

Inbreeding in livestock happens when closely related animals mate.

Animals from a certain breed are closely related and will pass their undesirable traits to the offspring through mating. All animals including the very best in any breed carry desirable and undesirable genetic traits.

Disaster arises when the cow and bull have the same undesirable traits. There is a probability of the offspring to have doubled the undesirable trait or carry it in their genes.

Why it needs to be avoided

It causes inbreeding depression which declines the animal’s performance. The offspring will acquire undesirable traits and also carry it in their genes. When the offspring has the undesirable traits in their genes, it will become a disaster since the yields will not only be expressed on the offspring but to every animal conceived.

It is a danger to the continuous productivity of the livestock where their young ones might have stunted growth, be less productive, high incidents of deformities and low disease resistance.

Farm animals are likely to undergo inbreed and full sibling mating which leads to a decrease in viability and fertility.

Inbreeding reduces calves’ survival rates as most calves are likely to die at birth or shortly thereafter.

Measures to avoid inbreeding

According to, here are some cost-effective measure to follow in efforts to avoid inbreeding:

Keep close breeding records of all animals on the farm.

Make sure parents don't breed with the offspring and the siblings do not breed with each other. This is achievable by separating the older cows and young cows to reduce the chance of a cow being breed by its site, avoid keeping a bull for too long or make sure the bull is kept in a different breeding pasture.

Crossbreeding make it easy to identify the offspring, it reduces inbreeding rates in your herd. Crossbreeding is the process of mating two different pure breeds. It will give you, for example, a white-faced calf from a solid-coloured cow and a Hereford bull hence making it easy to identify their offspring.

Use of artificial insemination or natural mating and noting down the name of the site providing semen at each artificial insemination service or the bull mating the cow.

Make sure the same site semen is not used on its offspring.

To be on the safe side, ask your artificial insemination provider to bring different origin semen every time.

Although inbreeding cannot be avoided to a hundred per cent in cases where the animals are pastured together, a farmer with a good breeding strategy can totally reduce inbreeding cases. One will also achieve higher productivity, better meat and milk yields and good disease resistance.

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