The first cloned carabao in the Philippines may be born next
year and is counted on to give birth to an industry with superior
breed of carabaos that will raise local dairy yield or carabao
Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) Executive Director Libertado
P. Cruz is optimistic the Philippines can have a productive
carabao cloning technology.
"We are very close to it. Maybe by next year, we can
produce them already," said Cruz in an interview.
Cloning aims to replicate a superior breed which for carabaos
may be the production of as much as 25 to 30 liters of milk
daily instead of just the average eight liters.
A carabao's embryo develops in its mother's womb for 310
days. But it may take four more years after birth to test
if the cloned carabao possesses the same superior characteristic
of the animal where its cell comes from. That will be once
it begins producing milk itself.
Cloning, which was successfully done by the Roslin Institute
in UK in "Dolly", the first mammalian (lamb) clone,
gives the advantage of choosing parents without the traditional
In an embryo transfer of ET, an egg cell and a sperm cell
go through fusion in an animal laboratory and then the embryo
may be embedded inside an animal's womb or "en vivo." Then
the one-celled embryo multiplies into many cells - two, four,
eight, 16, 32 - until all the body parts-arm, brains, ears
- are present and mature for the animal to be ready for birth.
In cloning, scientists reverse the process. From the multiplied
cell or any somatic cell which may come from the ear, finger,
nose, the order is retrogressed so that the somatic cell
goes back to the fertilized egg.
"If you conduct a nuclear transfer, imagine a chicken's
egg, get an egg that has not yet fertilized. Take out the
egg yolk which will be the genetic material. Then put the
somatic cell in it and you will multiply it into a nuclear
transferred embryo. Then put the embryo in a surrogate mother," he
In the present cloning, PCC is already in the process of
embryo transfer, although it is continuing to look for an
ideal surrogate mother which should be healthy and should
live in unstressed, normal condition so that pregnancy will
PCC has used a Bulgarian buffalo producing 17 liters per
day, more than double the eight liters per day yield of the
local carabao. The somatic cell used is a Bulgarian buffalo's
ear skin cell which is easy to extract without hurting the
animal. The skin cell is cultured so that cells come out
individually fused to an egg cell of a carabao whose nuclear
material was removed.
PCC, which has a P5 million fund for cloning, is assisted
by the Tsukuba University and Hokkaido University of Japan.
The benefit of a successful carabao clone in the country
could be perceived when one puts in mind the value of the
carabao industry. At P7 billion, this consists of the P3.7
billion meat production, P400 million dairy production, and
the remaining value is the P3 billion draft animals that
till the soil.
"The benefits are huge. Where can you see an animal
giving 30 liters per day?" Cruz said.
The Philippines has been receiving technical assistance
from India for its carabao program since the native carabao
traditionally has poor milk production. But Murrah buffaloes
from India are considered milk and meat animals with high
genetics. India has been helping the Philippines in embryo
Since there are just a few Murrahs in the country, these
are propagated through the use of Philippine carabaos as
surrogate mothers of Murrah by embryo transfer.
Elaine Lanting, Buffalo Livestock Research chief at the
Philippine Council for Agriculture Forestry Natural Resources
Research and Development, said that it will require at least
20 years to produce purebred Murrah using Philippine carabao
through artificial insemination.
But embryo transfer is a fast practical method of producing
it, although efficiency, safety, and reliability using local
carabaos as surrogate mother is still being studied.
Under this method, high genetics embryo from India are cryopreserved
and transported to the Philippines, and implanted in a Philippine
carabao surrogate mother.
"With in vitro embryo production-vitrification transfer,
it is possible to propagate purebred Murrah in very short
period of time at the villages using farmer-cooperators'
carabao. This enhances farmers' owning the purebred for milk
and meat production which could help them improve their livelihood," reported