The East Java administration has announced a hybridization program involving Balinese cows (Bos javanicus f. domestica) and Javanese bulls (Bos javanicus) in a bid to help improve the quality and productivity of new breeds.
The program would see 10 Balinese cows bred with the Javanese bulls in an effort to bolster domestic supply, thus making the country less dependent on imported beef.
Five cows are reportedly already pregnant. “We are expecting one of them to give birth within the next one to two months,” Ivan Chandra, an official of the Safari Indonesia Park (TSI) II Prigen, said in a recent interview.
The park hosts the crossbreeding program, which began in June 2011.
The male bull, who was transported from the Baluran National Park in Banyuwangi, has been incarcerated under a specialist’s care “in order to maintain his wild nature”.
The new breeds resulting from the mixed mating process are expected to have better performance and productivity compared to the existing Balinese cows, which are considered to be decreasing in productivity due to years of inbreeding among Balinese cows.
“Genetically, Balinese cows are indeed the offspring of Javanese bulls. During further development, however, Balinese cows became smaller in size and weight due to inbreeding,” he said.
According to Ivan, the hybridization is expected to yield cows each in weight of up to 450 kilograms — some 50 percent larger than an ordinary Balinese cow, which normally weighs only about 300 kilograms.
The new offspring is also expected to be more resistant to the Jembrana virus, which makes cows vulnerable to infections when they are transported to new places.
“They [new breeds] still carry genes typical of Balinese cows, which have high-adaptability and are resistant to poor food supplies and heat,” Ivan said.
East Java Husbandry Agency head Suparwoko said that the hybridization program was focused on supporting the central government’s policy to limit imported beef by 2014.
According to the data, Indonesia consumes 2.7 million tons of beef annually. Some 25 percent of the beef consumed domestically is imported.
Suparwoko claims to have a surplus of 93,000 tons of beef annually. Agency data shows that the province has a population of 4.7 million cows, or higher than that of Sumatra (2.7 million), and Bali and Nusa Tenggara (2.1 million).
Suparwoko also said that apart from helping create domestic self-sufficiency in beef, the hybridization program was looking to helping conserve the Javanese bulls in Baluran, East Java, and Ujung Kulon, West Java.
“If this turns out to be a success, hopefully the bulls will no longer be hunted,” he said.
Baluran National Park data from 2009 shows that the population of Javanese bulls in the park presently stood at only 20 — miniscule compared to the figure back in 1980’s when reportedly there were still hundreds roaming in the wild.
Within another original Javanese bull habitat, Alas Purwo, the figure is just as concerning. According to researcher Sandy Novianto of Yogyakarta-based Gadjah Mada University’s School of Forestry, there were only 27 of the animals left at Alas Purwo.