Vietnam has a rich diversity and is blessed with a large number of livestock breeds. Citing the report by the Government of Vietnam, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) says that there are more than 20 pig breeds in Vietnam. Recently, some of these breeds have drastically decreased in number and crossed with other breeds resulting in a situation where some of the native rare breeds are becoming or already in extinction.
In view of the widespread porcine diseases in Asia, conservation of native pig breeds is an urgent task from bio-diversity point of view. Development of sustainable measures for improved livelihood of small-scale farmers is an equally important priority.
The project on the stablishment of cryo-bank system for Vietnamese native pig resources and sustainable production system to conserve bio-diversity starting in May 2015, completing in May 2020 has been aimed at establishing a conservation system for identification, assessment and utilization of Vietnamese native pig have been implemented.
Chief advisor of the project Kazuhiro Kikuchi said that a database with identification, classification, characterization of Vietnamese native pigs in 22 provinces and a semen cryo-banking system were established. Basic technologies for prevention and control of infectious diseases, improvement of feeding and raising management have been disseminated to farmers raising native pigs in Hoa Binh province in order to increase productivity.
How was the project formed and started?
Kazuhiro Kikuchi: I learned that there are 26 native pig breeds in Vietnam. It was quite surprising to know that there are so many breeds in Vietnam, as there is only one breed in Okinawa, Japan. I also learned that some of these breeds are already extinct or near extinction as husbandry sector seeks increased efficiency for economic development. Each and every breed has its own genetic characteristics and traits, both already known and unknown yet. The genetic characteristics and traits can’t be restored once lost.
Being aware of this and the danger of losing the native pig resources, both Vietnamese and Japanese researchers discussed how these breeds can be conserved and decided to apply for a science and technology research partnership for sustainable development program project whereby joint researches and activities may be undertaken by both Vietnam and Japan.
What are the main activities of the project?
Kazuhiro Kikuchi: The project has four main components. The first one is survey of Vietnamese native pig and establishment of cryobanking system, including survey of phenotype and genetic characteristics; cryopreservation of semen and establishment of semen banking system, also known as genebanking system. The second is development of reproductive techniques in vitro production of embryo, vitrification of oocytes and embryo and cloning.
In genebanking system currently established at Vietnam's National Institute of Animal Science, only semen is cryopreserved. For future application, however, researches were carried out to establish techniques of in vitro production of embryo, vitrification of oocytes and embryo. In addition, researches to establish a technique for somatic cell nuclear transfer, or more widely known as cloning technique has been carried out.
The third is disease survey at Vietnamese native pig farms and the last is improved raising management of Vietnamese native pigs for increased productivity. These two components were undertaken with experiments in selected model farmers in Hoa Binh province. Dissemination activities were undertaken for prevention and control of diseases and improved feeding and raising management.
What are some of the new findings you learned through studies of Vietnamese native pigs?
Kazuhiro Kikuchi: First of all, Vietnamese native pigs are tolerant to poor raising conditions as they can live by raw food, and its meat is tasty. This is very important for food, as it increases chances of “brand” pork meat.
Secondly, many of the Vietnamese native pig breeds are small in size, which means they can serve as animals for medical use/medicine testing, which may offer a potential demand and future industrial opportunity. In this way, Vietnamese native pig resources have various potential.
There is only one native pig resource in Japan and there are only a few of them in the Philippines. In both countries, brand pork industries are already developed and established. Whereas in Vietnam, there is still a rich diversity of resources.
What would you expect your Vietnamese counterparts to continue to work on after the project is over?
Kazuhiro Kikuchi: So far during the project, the Japanese researchers were members of the researches. From now on, Vietnamese side will have to continue on their own. I expect that our Vietnamese counterparts will make every effort to conserve genetic resources and share the importance of conservation with those outside researchers. The important thing is to put into practice what you know for conservation and continue with it.
What did you think about the spread of African swine fever (ASF) since last year?
Kazuhiro Kikuchi: Spread of ASF posed various threats to the implementation of the project. We tried to take countermeasures to deal with the epidemic situation, which took more efforts and time. Some of the planned activities had to be cancelled.
However, breeding activities at Thai Nguyen Center were not affected due to the preventive and control measures, and this gave confidence to us that ASF can be prevented if timely and effective measures are taken. ASF spread also gave us an important message of conservation of genetic resources, as once genetic resources are lost by serious infectious diseases, there’s no ways to recover.
How about finding and breeding of pigs which are resistant to virus infection?
Kazuhiro Kikuchi: There is a potential to find such pigs in the rich genetic resources. However, as of now, such individual or group has not yet been proved. Continued surveys and researches are needed.
What is your view on the cooperation between Vietnam and Japan and institutions engaged in the project?
Kazuhiro Kikuchi: Cooperation and collaboration is essential in researches and projects. While I have the impression that Vietnamese institutions tend to work vertically, strengthened horizontal collaboration among research institutions is deemed to bring more benefits to researches and projects.