Buffalo farming is not a new concept in the new world. Wild water buffaloes were domesticated in the Indian subcontinent about 5000 years ago, and about 4000 years ago in China. There are two types of water buffaloes which are raised by the farmers. These two types are recognized based on morphological and behavioral criteria. These recognized two types are the river buffalo and the swamp buffalo. The river buffaloes are found in the Indian subcontinent and further west to the Balkans and Italy. And the swamp buffaloes are found from Assam in the west through Southeast Asia to the Yangtze valley of China in the east.
The river buffaloes which are present today are the result of complex domestication processes involving more than one maternal lineage and a significant maternal gene flow from wild populations after the initial domestication events.
Buffalo farming is very important for some people in the Indian subcontinent, especially India. There are currently at least 130 million domestic buffaloes exist throughout the world, and more than 95.8 percent of this population are found in Asia. Total buffalo population in India is over 97.9 million head in 2003, representing 56.5 percent of the world population.
People in India and some other Asian countries depend on buffalo farming than on raising any other domestic animal. The buffaloes are especially very suitable for tilling rice fields, and their milk is richer in fat and protein than that of dairy cattle.
How to Start Buffalo Farming Business
Starting buffalo farming business is just like starting cattle farming business. But the exact husbandry system depends on the purpose for which they are bred and maintained. Most often the buffaloes are raised by the farmers who work on small farms in family units. Most often their buffalo live in very close association with them, and are often their greatest capital asset. In small farms, the milking buffaloes are generally kept and maintained by the women and girls in India, and the men and boys are concerned with the working animals. The buffaloes are actually ideal animals for work in the deep mud of paddy fields because of their large hooves and flexible foot joints.
The buffaloes are often referred to as ‘the living tractor of the East‘. It probably is possible to plough deeper with buffalo than with either oxen or horses. They are the most efficient and economical means of cultivation of small fields. But after modernization of agriculture, uses of buffaloes reduced dramatically. And currently the buffaloes are raised either for milk or for meat. However, here we are describing about the steps for starting buffalo farming business.
Select Suitable Area
Selecting a suitable area is very important for starting buffalo farming business. An area with all require facilities will be good for successful buffalo farming business. Following facilities will be good for the buffaloes.
- A calm area with fencing will be good for commercial business.
- Source of clean drinking water is mandatory.
- Grazing land.
- Land for cultivating feeds will be very good. Feeding the buffaloes with purchased food will cost you too much.
- Availability of all required equipment.
- Availability of labor. Full time labor will be good for buffalo farms.
- Availability of vet is also mandatory.
- Good transportation service.
- Market nearby, so that you can purchase required commodities easily. And a nearby market is also helpful for marketing your products.
Select Good Breed for Your Business
Success in buffalo farming business also depend on selecting good quality breeds. Select good breeds depending on your production purpose. Some breeds are good for producing meat or milk, and some are good for other agricultural purposes. Some well known and popular buffalo breeds are Murrah, Surti, Jafarabadi, Anatolian, Nili-Ravi, Egyptian, Mediterranean, Pandharpuri, Nagpuri, Bhadawari and Romanian buffalo. Select and purchase buffalo breeds depending on the availability in your area.
The buffaloes don’t don’t have special requirement in terms of housing. They will be fine and stay happy if you can arrange basic requirements for them. Just like domestic cattle, around or up to 40 square feet housing space will be enough for each buffalo.
The buffaloes can thrive on a wide variety of foods. They can thrive on many aquatic plants, and during flood they will graze submerged raising their heads above the water and carrying quantities of edible plants. They eat reeds, Arundo donax, a kind of Cyperaceae, Eichhornia crassipes, and Juncaceae. Some of these plants are of great value to local peoples.
Adequate green fodders are mandatory for raising buffaloes. And green fodders are widely used for intensive milk production and also for fattening purpose. Many farmers conserve many fodder crops as hay, chaffed or pulped. Fodders include alfalfa, the leaves, stems or trimmings of banana, cassava, Mangelwurzel, esparto, Leucaena leucocephala and kenaf, maize, oats, Pandanus, peanut, sorghum, soybean, sugarcane, bagasse, and turnips. Citrus pulp and pineapple wastes have been fed safely to buffalo. In Egypt, whole sun-dried dates are fed to milk buffalo up to 25% of the standard feed mixture.
Swamp buffaloes generally become mature and start breeding at an older age than the river buffalo breeds. The young males generally mate first within their 3-3.5 years of age (although they are mated as early as 2 years in some country). Successful breeding behavior of male may continue until the animal is 12 years of old or even more. Generally a good and healthy male can impregnate 100 females in a year. A strong seasonal influence on mating occurs (heat stress reduce libido).
Reproductive efficiency of the buffaloes show wide variation throughout the year. The females exhibit a distinct seasonal change in displaying oestrus, conception rate and calving rate. The age at first oestrus of heifers varies between breeds from 13-33 months depending on the breed. But mating at the first oestrus is often infertile and generally deferred until they are 3 years of old. Gestation of the buffaloes generally lasts from 281-334 days (but most reports give a range between 300 and 320 days). Swamp buffaloes generally carry their calves longer then the river buffaloes. Average lifespan of the buffaloes can reach up to 40 years.
Swamp water buffaloes generally prefer to wallow in mudholes which they make with their horns, and they acquire a thick coating of mud during wallowing. While the river buffaloes generally prefer deep water. Both types are well adapted to a hot and humid climate with temperatures ranging from 0-30°C in winter and greater in the summer. And during the hot climates water availability is very important. Some breeds are also well adapted to saline seaside shores and saline sandy terrain.
Products and Uses
Buffalo farming is good for producing many types of milk, meat and skin products. But mostly the buffaloes are used for producing dairy products. Buffalo milk is of very good quality containing high amount of fat and protein. The milk is generally used for making cream churns, butter, ghee, fermented milk products, whey, soft chese, hard chese, yogurt etc.
Meat of water buffalo is not much popular like the beef. It is sometimes called as ‘carabeel‘, and is often passed off as beef in certain regions. Buffalo meat is also a major source of export revenue for India. The meat is less preferred in many Asian regions due to the toughness.
Hides of the buffalo provide tough and useful leather which is often used for making shoes. The bones are often made into jewellery (especially earrings). The horns are used for the embouchure of musical instruments (such as ney and kaval).
Good marketing strategies ensure good for profit for each business, and success in buffalo farming business also depend on good marketing strategies. Before starting the business, ensure availability of good market in your area. Generally marketing meat can be a problem in some area. But marketing milk or other products is actually not a problem.
Diseases and other health problems are generally less in buffaloes. Although you need to keep contact with a vet for handling urgent situation.
Buffalo farming business can be profitable and a great source of income if you can manage everything perfectly. Buffalo milk is of very good quality and has a great demand. So if you can do everything from management to marketing, then you will be able to make good profit from this business. Good luck!