Buffalo - Many aspects, One animal
Of all the domestic animals, the Asian water
buffalo holds the greatest promise and potential for production. The buffalo had
been severely neglected by the authorities until 1974, when the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) first signposted the water
buffalo as the most neglected animal. In the intervening years, FAO has more than made up
for it by providing leadership and inspiration to national and international organizations
in developing water buffalo production.
Still, much knowledge and original thought remains
locked in the secretive silence of the non-communicator. What Peter Curtis calls
the "failure-to-publish" syndrome, impeding the transfer of technology.
The production of buffalo milk in the Asian-Pacific region exceeds
45 million tonnes annually of which over 30 million tonnes
are produced in India alone. With selective breeding, improved management and the
establishment of more dairy herds, milk yields are increasing worldwide. The individual
3,000 litre-per-lactation female, considered a record 30 years ago, is now common. There
are many which yield 4,000 litres in a lactation of 300 days. And, some have even attained
a record of 5,000 litres. The potential for increased milk
production, therefore, exists.
||The high-yielding Murrah is the Holstein-Friesian of the buffalo world.
There is no reason why the Murrah and other riverine breeds should not exceed the
volumetric yield of the best milk cows. Buffalo milk
contains about twice as much butterfat as cow milk. There is no physiological need for
concentrate feed to maintain this level. When concentrates are fed, the fat content rises.
When fed ad lib, it can exceed 15 per cent. Fed to excess, this figure can be much higher.
The buffalo, in fact, releases unwanted fat in the milk and stores
only a minimum in the body tissues.
Work, buffalo: Buffaloes are labor intensive and
cost-effective. They are the most versatile of all work animals in the variety of tasks
which they can be taught to undertake. All buffalo breeds have a strong milk/meat entity. However, presently the output of thousands of buffaloes is in the form of work energy rather than
the direct provision of food as milk or meat. In economic terms, buffaloes are
productive and efficient, especially in those agricultural countries
where there is ample manpower and little motivation for mechanization.
Recent investigations and trials have convincingly established the fact that when a buffalo is fed well and managed for early slaughter ( at a
liveweight of 350 to 450 kg ), a yield of palatable, high-grade meat
can be obtained at a competitive cost. A buffalo carcass has less fat, less bone
and a higher proportion of muscle than a cattle carcass. Furthermore a buffalo carcass does not need the customary and costly chill hanging for a specific
period to ensure the "eatability" of the product.