close this bookThe Water Buffalo: New Prospects For An Underutilized Animal (1984)
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View the documentPanel on Water Buffalo
View the documentPreface
View the document1 Introduction
View the document2 Meat
View the document3 Milk
View the document4 Work
View the document5 Adaptability and Environmental Tolerance
View the document6 Nutrition
View the document7 Health
View the document8 Reproduction
View the document9 Management
View the document10 Environmental Effects
View the document11 Recommendations and Research Needs
Open this folder and view contentsAppendixes

6 Nutrition

Most buffaloes are located in countries where land, cultivated forage crops, and pastures are limited. Livestock must feed on poor-quality forages, sometimes supplemented with a little green fodder or byproducts from food, grain, and oil seed processing. Usually feedstuffs are in such short supply that few animals have a balanced diet, but the buffalo seems to perform fairly well under such adverse conditions.


Growth Rate

Insufficient measurements have been taken to allow unequivocal state. meets about the relative growth rates of cattle and buffaloes. However, many observations made in various parts of the world indicate that the buffalo's growth is seldom inferior to that of cattle breeds found in the same environments. Some observations are given below.

· Trials in Trinidad in the early 1960s involved buffaloes grazing pangola grass (Digitaria decumbens) together with Brahman and Jamaican Red cattle. Over a period of 20 months the buffaloes gained an average of 0.72 kg per day, whereas the cattle on a comparable nearby pasture gained 0.63 per day(Experiments performed by P. N. Wilson. -Information supplied by S. P. Bennett.).

· In the Orinoco Delta of Venezuela unselected Criollo/Zebu crossbred cattle gained 0-0.2 kg per day on Paspalum fasciculatum, whereas the water buffaloes with them gained 0.25-0.4 kg per day(Cunha et al., 1975).

· In the Apure Valley of Venezuela, 100 buffalo steers studied in 1979 reached an average weight of 508 kg in 30 months, whereas the 30-month old Zebu steers tested with them weighed 320 kg. The feed consumed was a blend of native grasses (25 percent of the diet) and improved grasses (such as pangola, pare, and guinea grass)( Information supplied by A. Ferrer). In the same valley 200 buffalo heifers (air freighted from Australia) produced weight gains averaging 0.5 kg per day over a 2-year period (and 72 percent of them calved). Government statistics for the area record average weight gains in crossbreeds between Zebu and Criollo cattle as 0.28 kg per day (with 40 percent calving).

· In the Philippines, buffaloes showed weight gains of 0.75-1.25 kg per day, the same as those of cattle.

· Daily weight gains of over 1 kg have been recorded for buffaloes in Bulgaria and Yugoslavia.

· Liveweight gains of 0.80 kg per day have been recorded for buffaloes in Papua New Guinea. In a very humid, swampy area of the Sepik River coastal plains liveweight gains by males averaged 0.47 kg per day and females 0.43 kg per day for more than a year. The average weight of 30 4-year-old female buffaloes was 375 kg, while the average weight of 4-year-old female Brahman/ Shorthorn crossbred cattle was 320 kg.

· At the research station near Belem in the Brazilian Amazon weaned Murrah buffaloes, pastured continuously on Echinochloa pyramidalis (a nutritious grass), gained 0.8 kg daily and reached 450 kg in about 18 months.

· Liveweight gains of 0.74-l.i kg per day have been obtained in Australia. Buffalo steers grew as fast or faster than crossbred Brahman cattle on several improved pastures near Darwin, but on one very poor pasture, 40-year-old buffaloes each weighed only 400 kg, whereas the Brahman crossbred steers reared with them weighed 500 kg. The reason for this is not clear.


Efficiency of Digestion

Indian animal nutritionists have investigated water buffaloes intensively over the past two decades. Many have reported that buffaloes digest feeds more efficiently than do cattle, particularly when feeds are of poor quality and are high in cellulose.One trial revealed that the digestibility of wheat straw cellulose was 24.3 percent for cattle and 30.7 percent for buffalo. The figures for berseem (Trifolium alexandrinum) cellulose were 34.6 percent for cattle and 52.2 percent for buffalo. In another trial the digestion of straw fiber was 64.7 percent in cattle, 79.8 percent in buffalo.

Other nutrients reported to be more highly digested in buffaloes than in cattle (Zebu) are crude fat, calcium and phosphorus, and nonprotein nitrogen.

Recent experiments in India suggest that buffaloes also are able to utilize nitrogen more efficiently than cattle. Buffaloes digested less crude protein than cattle in one trial but increased their body nitrogen more (and they were being fed only 40 percent of the recommended daily intake of crude protein).

The ability of buffaloes to digest fiber efficiently may be partly due to the microorganisms in their rumen. Several Indian research teams have published data indicating that the microbes in the buffalo rumen convert feed into energy more efficiently than do those in cattle (as measured by the rate of production of volatile fatty acids in the rumen).

Also, in laboratory studies samples of buffalo rumen contents produced volatile fatty acids more quickly from a variety of animal feedstuffs than did samples from the rumen of cattle

No single reason alone explains the buffalo's success in using poor quality forages. Rather, it is a combination of reasons that differ with the breed and conditions used. Studies by other researchers suggest that additional causes might include:

· Higher dry matter intake;

· Longer retention of feed in digestive tract;

· Ruminal characteristics more favorable to ammonia-nitrogen utilization;

· Less depression of cellulose digestion by soluble carbohydrates (e.g., starch or molasses);

· Superior ability to handle stressful environment; and

· A wider range of grazing preferences.


Calf Growth Rates

Although the buffalo's gestation period is more than a month longer than that of cattle, the calves are born weighing 35-40 kg, or about the same as that of a newborn Holstein calf. But because buffalo milk has about twice the butterfat of cow's milk, the calves grow very quickly. They also suffer more shock at weaning and have to be slowly changed to their new feeding program. Buffaloes can be marketed as full-grown animals for beef at the age of 2-3 years, sometimes even earlier.

Table 5 Some Coarse Grasses and Forages Palatable to Buffaloes but Less Readily

For example, in Indonesia it has been found that buffalo steers can be marketed 6 months before Zebu steers because they may be 100 kg heavier. In Egypt some buffalo calves given feed supplemented with concentrates weighed 360 kg at 1 year of age. At Ain Shams University near Cairo, buffalo calves weaned at 7-14 days of age gained 0.7 kg per day from weaning to slaughter at 18 months of age and weighed 400 kg. Rice straw comprised 50 percent of the finishing diet.

Buffaloes on Italian farms have reached 350 kg in 15-18 months and some year-old calves weighed 320 kg.

Grazing trials on native pasture (with mineral supplementation) in the Brazilian Amazon indicate that buffalo calves grew faster than cattle. At 2 years of age Mediterranean-type buffaloes averaged 369 kg, Swamp type, 322 kg, and Jafarabadi type, 308 kg. The Zebu cattle tested with them averaged 265 kg and the crossbred Zebu/Charolais, 282 kg.


Feed Preferences

Buffaloes graze a wider range of plants than cattle. During floods near Manaus in the Brazilian Amazon when cattle become marooned on small patches of high ground, many suffer from foot rot and many starve to death. Their buffalo companions on the other hand-bodies sleek and full-swim out to islands of floating aquatic plants and eat them, treading water. Also, they dive almost 2 m to graze beneath the floodwaters.

University of Florida buffaloes in a lakefront voluntarily consumed vines, sedges, rushes, floating aquatic weeds, and the leaves and shoots of willows and other trees along the water's edge. Few of these plants are voluntarily grazed by cattle. In northern Australia water buffaloes graze the very pickily leaves of pandanus; they also graze sedges, reeds, floating grass, and aquatic weeds. Hungry buffaloes will eat bark, twigs, and other unpalatable vegetation.

Because of the variety of their tastes they have been used in northern Queensland, Australia, to clear pastures of woody weeds left untouched by cattle. In some countries cattle are used to graze the palatable tops of pasture plants and are followed by buffaloes to graze the less desirable lower parts.


Selected Readings

Afifi, Y. A., El-Koussy, H. A., El-Khishen, S. S., and El-Ashry, M. A. 1977. Production of meat from Egyptian buffaloes. I. The effect of using different sources of roughages on rate of gain, gross and net efficiency during the growth and finishing periods. Egyptian Journal of Animal Production 17(2).

Appleton, D. c., Dryden, G., and Kondos, A. C. 1976. A comparison of the digestive efficiency of the water buffalo and the Brahman and Banteng cattle. Proceedings of the Australian Society of Animal Production 11.

Bhatia, L S. 1967. The Study of Factors Affecting the Utilization of Low Grade Roughages and Production of Volatile Fatty Acids in the Rumen of Indian Cattle. Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, India.

Chalmers, M. 1.1974. Nutrition. In: The Husbandry and Health of the Domestic Buffalo edited by W. R. Cockrill. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Rome, Italy.

Charles, D. D., and Johnson, E. R. 1975. Live weight gains and carcass composition of buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) steers on four feeding regimes. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 26:407-413.

Chaturvedi, M. L, Singh, u. B., and Ranjhan, 5. K 1973. Comparative studies on the efficiency of feed unitization in cattle and buffaloes. Indian Journal of Animal Science 43(12):1034.

Chutikul, K. 1975. Ruminant (Buffalo) nutrition. In: The Asiatic Water Buffalo. Proceedings of an International Symposium held at Khon Kacn, Thailand, March 31April 6, 1975. Food and Fertilizer Technology Center, Taipei, Taiwan.

Cunha, E., Alvarez, F., Larez, O., and Bryan, W. B. 1975. Pasture and Livestock Investigations in the Humid Tropics: Orinoco Delta, Venezuela. 4. Beef Cattle and Water Buffalo Grazing Trials with Native and Introduced Grasses. IRI Research Institute, New York, New York, USA.

Davendra, C. 1979. The potential value of grasses and crop by-products for feeding buffaloes in Asia. Extension Bulletin No. 126. Food and Fertilizer Technology Center, Taipei, Taiwan.

de Guzman, M. R., Jr. 1975. A summary of research into buffalo feeding in the Philippines. In: The Asiatic Water Buffalo. Proceedings of an International Symposium held at Khon Kaen, Thailand, March 31-April 6, 1975. Food and Fertilizer Technology Center, Taipei, Taiwan.

Dunkel, R. 1981. Animal production using nutrient-deficient fodders in the tropics and subtropics. Animal Research and Development 13:32-39.

El-Ashry, M. A., Mogawer, H. H., and Kishin, S. S. 1972. Comparative study of meat production from cattle and buffalo male calves. I. Effect of roughage: concentrate ratio in ration for rate of gain and feed efficiency of native cattle, Friesian and buffalo calves. Egyptian Journal of Animal Production 12(2) :99 -107.

Grant, R. J., Van Soest, P. J., McDowell, R. E., and Perez, C. B. 1974. Intake, digestibility and metabolic loss of Napier grass by cattle and buffaloes when fed wilted, chopped and whole. Journal of Animal Science 39(2):423.

Ibrovic, M., Cvetkovic, A., Smrcek, A., and Janevski, K. 1972. A contribution to the knowledge of metabolism of carotene and seasonal dynamics of vitamin A in the buffalo. Veterinaria 21(4) :511.

Ichhponani, J. S., Makkar, G. S., Sidhu, G. S., and Moxin, A. L. 1962. Cellulose digestion in water buffaloes and Zebu cattle. Journal of Animal Science 21:1001.

Ichhponani, J. S., and Sidhu, G. S. 1966. Effect of urea on the voluntary intake of wheat skew in Zebu cattle and the buffalo. Indian Veterinary Journal 43:880-886.

Ichhponani, J. S., Makkar, G. S., and Sidhu, G. S. 1969. Biochemical processes in the rumen. 111. Effect of different carbobydrates on in vitro digestion of cellulose and utilization of urea nikogen by rumen micro-organisms from zebu and buffalo. Indian Journal of Animal Science 39 :27-32.

Ichhponani J. S., Makkar, G. S., and Sidhu, G. S. 1971a. Studies on the biochemical process in the rumen. Vl. In vivo digestion of cellulose in buffalo and cattle. Indian Veterinary Journal 48:267-271.

Ichhponani, J. S., Makkar, G. S., and Sidhu, G. S. 1971b. Studies on the biochemical process in the rumen. VII. In vitro digestion of cellulose in cattle and buffalo. Indian Veterinary Journal 48:583-586.

Ichhponani, J. S., Makkar, G. S., and Sidhu, G. S. 1972. Studies on the biochemical processes in the rumen. VIIL The significance of molar proportions of acetic and propionic acids in the rumen on the growth rate of buffalo and Zebu. Indian Veterinary Journal 49:995-1000.

Ichhponani, J. S., Gill, R. S., Makkar, G. S., and Ranjan, S. K. 1977. Work done on buffalo nutrition in India-a review. Indian Journal of Dairy Science 30(3): 173-191.

Langar, P. N., Sidhu, G. S., and Bhatia, I. S. 1969. Utilization of nitrogen and production of volatile fatty acids in the rumina of buffalo (Bos bubalis) and zebu (Bos indicus) at different time intervals, under a feeding regimen deficient in carbohydrates. Indian Veterinary Journal 46:593-598.

Ludri, R. S., and Razdan, M. N. 1975. Effect of level and source of dietary nitrogen on water metabolism in cows and buffaloes. Indian Journal of Dairy Science 28:107109.

Ludri, R. S., and Razdan, M. N. 1980. Efficiency of nitrogen utilization by Zebu cows and buffaloes. I. Nutrient utilization and nitrogen balances on preformed protein diets. TropicalAgriculture (Trinidad) 57:83-90.

Makkar, G. S., and Sidhu, G. S. 1964. The fractionation of carbohydrates in Indian feedstuffs and the digestion of different fractions in the rumina of cattle and buffalo. Journal of Research, Ludhiana 1:56-66.

Misra, R. K., and Ranhoka, G. S. 1969. Influence of energy levels on the utilization of peanut protein-urea nikogen by cattle and buffalo. Journal of Animal Science 28: 107-109.

Mullick, D. N. 1964. Review of the investigations on the physiology of Indian buffaloes. Indian Journal of Dairy Saience 17:45-50.

Naga, M. A., El-Shazly, K., Deif, H. I., Abaza, M. A., and El-Faham, R. H. 1975. Relationship between nitrogen balance, digested nitrogen and dry matter digestibility in ruminants. Journal of Animal Science 40(2):366-373.

Nangia, O. P., Aggarwal, V. K., and Singh, A. 1972. Studies on the utilization of dietary protein in cattle and buffaloes. Indian Joumal of Dairy &ience 25: 1-5.

Nascimento C. N. B., Moura Carvalho, L. O. D., and Lourenco, J. B. 1979. Importdneia do Bufaio para a Pecubria Brasileira. Agricultural Research Center for Humid Tropics (CPATU), Belem, Para, Brazil.

Nascimento, C. N. B., and Velga, J. B. 1973. Weight gains in stabled buffaloes of the Mediterranean breed. Boletim Tecnico do Instituto de Pesqutsas e Experimentacao Agropecuarias do Norte 58:24-72.

Ponnappa, G. G., Nooruddin, M. D., and Raghavan, G. V. 1971. Rate of the passage of food and its relation to digestibility of nutrients in Murrah buffaloes and Hariana cattle. Indian Journal of Animal Science 41:1026-1030.

Punj, M. L., Kochar, A. S., Bhatia, I. S., and Sidhu, G. S. 1968. In vitro studies on the cellulolytic activity and production of volatile fatty acids by the inocula obtained from the rumen of Zebu cattle and Murrah buffalo on different feeding regimens. Indian Journal of Veterinary Science 38 :325-332.

Raghavan, G. V., Kakkar, B., Rao, M. V. N., and Mullick, D. N. 1963. Effects of air temperature and humidity on the metabolism of food nutrients in cattle and buffalo bulls. Annals of Biochemistry and Experimental Medicine 23 :23-28.

Ray, S. N., and Mudgal, V. D. 1962. Rumen metabolism studies in cattle and buffalo. Proceedings of the 16th International Dairy Congress, Copenhagen. A:105-l11.

Sahai, L., Johri, P. N., and Kehar, N. D. 1955. Effect of feeding alkali and water-treated cereal straws on milk yield. Indfan Journal of Veterinary Science 25:201-212.

Saini, B. S., and Ray, S. N. 1964. Comparative utilization of coarse fodders in cattle and buffalo. Annual Report of the National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal, India.

Schottler, J. H., Boromana, A., and Williams, W. T. 1977. Comparative performance of cattle and buffalo on the Sepik Plains, Papua New Guinea.AustralianJournal of Experimental Agriculture and Animal Husbandry 17(87) :550 -554.

Sebastian, L., Mudgal, V. D., and Nair, P. G. 1970. Comparative efficiency of milk production by Sahiwal cattle and Murrah buffalo. Joumal of Animal Science 30:253256.

Sharma, C. B., and Mugdal, V. D. 1966. Studies on the lignin and cellulose contents of fedder crops and effect of lignification of cellulose digestion. Indian Journal of Dairy Science 19:100.

Sidbu, G. S., Kochar, A. S., and Makkar, G. S. 1967. Effect of supplementing Bajra stalks with lucerne and concentrates and their part replacement by urea on the production of volatile fatty acids in the rumen of cows and buffaloes. Journal of Research, Ludhiana 4:104-110.

Singh, B. K., and Mudgal, V. D. 1967. The comparative utilization of feed nutrients from lucerne hay in buffalo and crossbred zebu heifers. Indian Journal of Dairy Science 20: 142-145.

Tandon, R. N.' Sharma, D. D., and Mugdal, V. D. 1972. Effect of feeding urea with different levels of energy on the biochemical changes in the rumen of cows and buffaloes. Indian Journal of Animal Science 42: 174-179

Upadhyaya, R. S., Singh, U. B., and Ranjhan, S. K. 19i3. Digestibilit of nutrients and VFA concentation in zebu cattle and buffalo calves fed on green cowpea and maize. Indian Journal of Animal Science 43 :5 83-s 88.

Verma, M. L., Sidhu, G. S., and Kochar, A. S. 1968. Effect of frequency on the production of VFA in the rumen by zebu cattle and buffalo. Journal of Research, Ludhiana 5(3) :1 -6.

Verma, M. L., Singh, N., Sidhu, G. S., Kochar, A. S., and Bhatia, I. S. 1970. The in vitro cellulose digestion and VFA production from some of the common Indian feeds using rumen inocula from Zebu cattle and buffalo. Indian Journal of Dairy Science 23:155 -160.



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