How to make Fish Balls

By Pinoy Farmer | January 31, 2008



fresh fish – any of the following species: kalaso, dalagang bukid, labahita, shark, bidbid, torsillo and bisugo

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Topics: Agri-Business, Food Processing, How to | No Comments »

Grouper or Lapu-Lapu Culture

By pinoyfarmer | January 31, 2008


Grouper or Lapu-Lapu Culture
(Epinephelus spp.)

Locally known as lapu-lapu, grouper has been cultured in ponds and cages in Southeast Asia for more than a decade. It is one of them most expensive fish in the market and is valued because of its texture and taste as well as its great potential in the aquaculture market. The demand of the grouper in the international market is fast growing particularly in Hongkong, Japan, and Singaore.

In the country, grouper culture in cages have been succesful in Pres. Carlos Garcia, Bohol. The Sto. Rosario Fishermen’s Association of this municipality has established market links with buyers based near Cebu City. The Cagay Multi-Purpose Cooperative in Roxas City has also been succesful in culturing grouper. Raising grouper is therefore another significant earner for the country.

Grouper Species

There are about 40 species of groupers distributed in tropical water and there are 2 species cultured commercially. These are:

1. Epinephelus coioides or Orange-spotted grouper – They have yellowish-brown dorsal body, shaded to whitish on the side of the belly, and they have numerous brownish orange or brownish-yellow spots unevenly scattered on head, body and fins. Whitish or creamy white chin or underside of the head and belly.

2. Epinephelus malabaricus or Black-spotted grouper – Body color is light brown on the upper part o the body, belly and ventral side light grey. The body has 5 distinct broad dark brown oblique bars which tend to bend. The head and the body with numerous small well-separated blackish spots on the chin. The fins are also has small black spots.

Source of Stock

At present, supply of grouper fry for commercial cage/pond production still depends on the wild. However, institutes like SEAFDEC/AQD and other progessive finfish hatchery operators are refining their broodstock and production techniques.

Grouper fry are collected in nominal quantities using various devices, eg scare lines or brush piles. The size of fry varies from 1-9 cm and is collected by fish traps from coastal waters near mangrove areas. In the Philippines, the major source of grouper fry are in the provinces of Pangasinan, Cavite, Mindoro, Quezon, Masbate, Bulacan, Cagayan, south Cotabato, and Negros Occidental.

Site Selection

The site should:

a. Be in calm water like sheltered lagoons, coves, islets, bay, behind an island or a river mouth. This is to avoid damage caused by strong winds, waves and current.
b. Have salinity ranging between 32-34 ppt
c. Have water depth not less than 3 meters during low tide.
d. Have good water exchange to maintain good water quality
e. Be relatively free from any source of pollution and protected from environmental hazards such as typhoons, floods, erosions, etc. It must be accessible but secured from vandals and poachers.

Cage Specification

A floating cage is usually composed of 4-12 compartments supported by a framework. Consider the following when putting up a cage:

1. Cage frame – made of bamboo and durable enough to withstand stress caused by wave action and increased weight during culture operation.
Cage dimensions – it should be 5m x 5m x 3m x 3m x 3m x 3m.
2. Maintain water column at 2.5m
3. Sinkers – Use small concrete blocks as sinkers suspended by ropes, placed at the bottom of the 4 corners of the cage for rigging.
4. Catwalks – Attach lumber to the framework to serve as walks.
5. Floaters – Use plastic drums as floaters on each side of the cage between the bamboo pipes. Tie the drum to the cage frame using a rope 5 mm in diameter to stop the drum from drifting, especially during strong wave actions.

Cage Netting

Nets are placed like an inverted mosquito net or hapa. Each cage is supported with polyethylene rope (5 mm) inserted along the sewed borders of the net and held using a clove hitch with overhand knot.

Each cage should have double-layered nets to avoid loss of stock due to tearing and other mechanical damage.


The rope length from the floater to the anchor should be the same as the water depth at high spring tide. The raft structure needs 14 concrete blocks (0.5 – 1 ton each) with 8 placed at the ebb end (ebb tide being stronger than flood tide), 4 at the flood end and 2 in the mid-section.


Groupers need a place to hide; unlike other fishes. To provide a place for groupers to hide, use sawed-off bamboo, 5 cm in diameter and 15 cm in length (for nursery cages) and 10 cm in diameter and 30 cm in length (for grow-out cages) tied in triangular bundles and suspended in strategic areas inside the net cages.

Nursery Cage Operation

Use nursery cage for fry 2-10 cm long. Stocking rate should be 60-100 fish per cubic meter. Feeds include shrimps and/or finely chopped trash fish given at the rate of 10% of the average body weight per day. Divide the feeds equally and give 2-4 times each day.

Install a 50-watt incandescent lamp (hover type) inside the cages, about 0.5 m above the waterline at night to attract live food like mysids, copepods, and other smaller fishes.

Grow-out Cage Operation

Use a grow-out cage to stock sizes of more than 10-15 cm in total length. Stocking rate should be 30-60 fishes per cubic meter. Give trash fish at the rate of 5 percent of the average body weight per day. Divide the feeds equally and give twice a day.


Take a few samples of the stock every 15 days to determine feed requirement and growth rate of grouper stock. Scoop out 10-15 samples and measure the weight and length of each sample. Always inspect the nets for tears. Remove dirt, debris, and fouling organism attached to the nets. Repair or replace damaged nets.

Health Management

It is recognized that many diseases in fish culture are often associated with stress. Stressed fish can easily be infected with disease-causing agents and this affects growth. The following tips may minimize stress on fish and prevent disease outbreaks:

1. Observe any unusual swimming behavior, especially during dawn or late afternoon. Fish gasping for air usually indicates low levels of dissolved oxygen. Should this happen, thin-out stocks by transferring some of them into another compartment.

2. Weak fish – those refusing to school with other fishes and those losing balance while swimming should be separated from healthy stocks immediately. Stocks found to have sudden loss of appetite and with red spot-like wounds on the skin and fins are likely to have a bacterial infection. Use a Povidone-iodine solution (eg. Betadine solution) at 15 parts per million for 5-10 minutes for 3 alternate days, as an effective treatment for bacterial infection. Methylene blue can also be used by swabbing. Transfer treated fish to a new compartment.

3. Maintain a distance of 1 meter between compartments to ensure easy and continuous water flow and maintain ideal water quality for the fish.


Starve the fish 24 hours before harvesting. Harvest depends on the demand of the local and export market.

Post Harvest

Scoop live marketable size groupers (400 g and up) from the cage. Hold grouper temporarily inside the conditioning tank and provide aeration for about 1-2 hours. Adjust water temperature gradually to 18 degrees Celsius by adding packed ice. Place 3-5 fish inside an oxygenated double-sheet plastic bag, with water at 3-5 cm or at least covering the nostrils of the fishes. Place crushed ice on top of plastic bags to maintain the water coolness during transport.

Place plastic bags inside the styrofoam with carton cover having a tag “live fish” and then ready for transport.

Before transporting harvested stocks a “freshwater dip”, or short bath in freshwater for 2-10 minutes is advisable. The dip will not increase parasite infection and lessen the incidence of disease and mortality during transport.

Source: Grouper Culture in Floating Cages BFAR; Livelihood Options for Coastal Communities, IIRR and SMISLE Publication

Topics: Aquaculture | 41 Comments »

A Guide to Duck Raising

By pinoyfarmer | November 1, 2007

A male Muscovy duck

Duck Raising

Duck raising is a lucrative livestock industry in the Philippines because of its egg. Its most important product, the balut (boiled incubated duck’s egg), is sold daily throughout the archipelago for its delicious flavor and nutritive value.

Duck raising is especially recommended in baytowns like those bordering the shores of Laguna de Bay, where there are abundant supplies of fresh water snails which make good duck food.

Ducks are generally raised for eggs but when snail food gets scarce, they are sold for meat.


Native or Pateros Duck

The native or Pateros duck, commonly called itik, is the most popularly raised locally. Although smaller than imported breeds, they are good layers and non-sitters. Their eggs are large.

Its predominant colors are black and gray. Some are barred (bulek), others are brown or have white feathers mixed with black/green. Males have coarer heads and heavier bodies than females. Males emit shrill high-pitched sounds. They have curly feathers on top of their tails.

Females emit low-pitched quaking sounds. Their tail feathers lie flat or close to the bodies.

In all commercial duck hatcheries, sexing ducklings determining the sex is done at the age of 2 or 3 days.

Khaki Campbell Duck

Khaki Campbell ducks have characteristic brown color, have extremely active habits, do well in good range and show little desire for swimming.

These ducks are good layers; they lay as many as 300 or more eggs a year which are fairly large, thick-shelled and weigh 70 to 75 grams each.

Muscovy Duck

Muscovy Duck (Pato) is easily identified by its carunculated face or red, knobby nodules along the eyes and above the base of the bill.

Muscovy is a heavy breed. It has plump body and yellow skin. It has three varieties: the white, the colored and the blue.

Unlike other breeds, Muscovy ducks prefer to stay on land. They are good forgers, so they require less care and can subsist on what they can pick up in the field supplemented only with palay and corn.

Muscovy has low egg production but is more self-sustaining than Pateros duck. It hatches her eggs in 33 to 35 days.

The objection to this breed is its tendency to fly far away from home and get lost. It is therefore necessary to clip their flight feathers regularly. Clip only those of on wing to remove the bird’s balance in flying.

Pekin Duck

Pekin duck is a native of China belonging to the meat type of ducks. Sometimes it is mistaken for a goose because it carries its body rather upright. It is docile and well-adapted to Philippine climate.

Pekin ducks are good layers, and ducklings are ready for market at 2 or 3 months old.

Cherry valley Duck

Cherry Valley ducks originated from Singapore and grown both for meat and egg. Compared to Muscovy ducks, Cherry valley ducks are heavier and superior in size. Its average weight is 3.2 kilos.


Build your duck house in a quiet, cool place and near as possible to a stream or pond. Local materials like a bamboo, nipa and cogon are cool.

Provide each duck with at least 3 to 4 square feet of floor space. Cover the floor with rice hulls, corn cobs, peanut hulls or similar materials to keep it dry and clean and help prevent spread of pests and diseases. A house of 100 ducks measures 4×4 meters and 3 meters high or high enough to let a man stand inside.

You may provide a swimming pond 10 feet wide and 20 feed long for 50 birds. However, the pond is not necessary in duck raising as they lay just as many eggs without it.

House ducks in groups according to size or age to facilities management and to avoid quarrels common among ducks of different ages. Older ducks tend to push out younger ones from feeding troughs.

Separate duck houses from one another by bamboo fences low enough to go over them from one pen to another. Fence should extend down to the shallow edge of the water to prevent ducks from staying away too far.


Select vigorous breeding stock. Select breeders when birds are about 8 weeks old, and again at 4 to 5 months old before they are placed in breeding pens.

Eggs for hatching purposes should come ducks not less than 7 months old to insure better fertility, hatchability and livability of offspring.

Drakes (Male duck) should have the same age as ducks or even a month older. They should be raised separately from ducks. They are put together only when ready for mating.

One drake may be mated to 6 to 10 ducks. Heavier breedings, however, should have a closer ratio of males to females than light breeds.

Pateros ducks start laying when they are 4 to 6 months old. Muscovy and Pekin ducks start laying et 6 to 7 months sold.


The period of incubation for duck eggs is 28 days, except Muscovy which is 33 to 35 days. Breeds of ducks that have high degree of laying are non-stters and their eggs are hatched through artificial incubation.

The Muscovy is a natural mother. She hatches and breeds her own ducklings with none or little assistance from man. Native or Pateros duck is a non-sitter, so her eggs are incubated under the native method of incubation called balutan.

The balutan or hatchery is a simple one-room house made of bamboo, wood or hollow blocks and roofed with nipa or galvanized iron. Or some convert the first floor of their house into balutan, commonly called kamalig or barn. It is provided with only one door to avoid drafts; some have windows that are opened only during hot months. Its floor is of hard earth or concrete and covered with 3-inch layer of rice hull.

Egg containers are wooden boxes (kahon) measuring 3 x 4 x 4 feet.


Ducklings need to be brooded or warmed either by natural or artificial method until they are one month old. Most ducks are non-sitters and are not expected to brood. Hens may be made to sit on duck eggs and brood ducklings.

After removing ducklings from incubator, transfer them to hardening boxes. Place these boxes in the brooding room that is draft-free and rat-proof. Woven bamboo mats or sawali may be used as floor mat.

Heat is necessary when brooding ducklings at least during the first week. When nights become cooler, especially during the months of January and February, artificial heat may be necessary for at least 10 days. Kerosene lamps or electric bulbs may be used for brooding.

The brooder should have a temperature of 950F for the last week; 85-900 F for the second week; 70-85 0F for the third week; and 700 F for the last week.

The behavior of ducklings is a good indicator whether brooding temperature is correct. Ducklings huddle close together toward the source of heat when temperature is correct; but panting and moving away from the source of heat when temperature is too hot.

A good brooding area is at least 1 square foot per duckling during the first week. Increase the area by about 1/2 square foot every week until the fourth week.

When ducklings show signs of sickness, add 3 tablespoons of nexal for every gallon of water for 2-3 days. Skip or withdraw after 3 days. Then continue for another 3 days. Terramycin poultry formula can also be used. Follow instructions on the package carefully.

To prevent Avian Pest disease, immunize your ducks with Avian Pest vaccine which can be obtained from the bureau of Animal Industry.


Ducklings are sexed before placing in the brooder. This is done by pressing the region of the crop inward, and with two fingers, press the vent slightly outward. By this process, the male organ protrudes and is exposed to view, while in the female, this remains flat.

If you desire to fatten extra males or meat purpose, raise them separately from females. When ducklings are 6 weeks old, they can be transferred from brooder to growing house. Transfer the layers to laying house when they are 4 months old.


Feed ducklings with wet starter mash for 8 weeks. Native ducklings raised the native way are fed moistened boiled rice for the first 33 weeks, 4 to 5 times a day. During the first few days, give feed at night. Start giving water in drinking troughs or fountains on the 2nd day. On the fifth day, add finely chopped small shrimps to boiled rice. Increase their feeds as ducklings grow older.

At the age of one month, feed ducklings with tiny fresh water snails and boiled unhulled rice or palay. Give only enough feed to be consumed as they tend to spoil when left long in the troughs.

Mash feed for ducklings is composed of corn, soybean meal, fish meal, dried whey, rice bran with oyster shell and bone meal with vitamin-mineral supplements. Feed one day to 6-week old ducklings with starter mash with 10-21% crude protein; for 6 week old to 4 month old ducklings with grower mash with 16 % crude protein; and 4-month old ducks and above with layer mash or ration with 16% crude protein.

If mash feed is preferred, give only enough to be consumed quickly at one time for 10 to 15 minutes. Wet mash tends to spoil when left long in hoppers. If feed is given at intervals, ducklings learn to eat more readily and their appetites are developed to stuff themselves in between drinks, digest food quickly and be ready to eat their fill for the next feeding time.

Four to five feedings a day are sufficient for ducklings over 2 weeks old. Provide plenty of clean, fresh water as ducks drink after every mouthful of food.

Ducks are wasteful and slovenly while feeding. Provide proper adequate feeding hoppers to prevent much waste of food.

Fine gravel or grit is necessary to growing ducks to help them grind their feed. After the 5th week, given green feed such as chopped leaves of kangkong, camote, ipil-ipil and legumes at least 3 times a day or 10 grams of chopped green leaves perduck per day.

As a feed-saving device, the pellet system of feeding has been introduced in duck nutrition. Pellets of each kind of feed are recommended for duck feeding but the size of particles must be suitable to duck’s age.

Sample Rations for different growth stages of ducks using local indigenous feedstuffs:


Starter Ration

Grower Ration


Ground yellow corn




Rice bran




Grated coconut




Ipil-ipil leaf meal




Shrimp meal








Vitamin-mineral premix













Starter ration is given when ducks are 1 day to 6 weeks only.

Grower ration is given when ducks are 6 weeks old.

Developer or fattening ration is given when birds are above 6 weeks old.

Formula for a practical general purpose ration:

First class rice bran (darak)55 kg (kilograms)
Ground corn or binlid20 kg
Shrimps or snails25 kg
Wood ash or ground charcoal1.5 kg
Ordinary table salt250 grams
Ground limestone or shells250 grams
Afsillin or Aurofac250 gram

Feeding Tips for layer/breeder pellets

  1. Before feeding pellets, keep waterers well-supplied with fresh clean water. A good waterer enables duck to sink its head under water.
  2. Feed pellets twice a day. Give only measured amounts that ducks can conveniently consume in 15 to 20 minutes. Discarded automobile or truck tires, cut in halves, make excellent, cheap, durable and easy-to-clean feeders. Add or deduct pellets for the next feeding time according to birds’ appetite. Don’t leave uneaten feeds in feeders, they attract flies, rats and vermin.
  3. Pelleted feeds are expensive, so always have a 2-week supply in your feed stock room. Old stock pelleted duck feed may develop molds especially when stored carelessly in wet and humid surroundings. New Ducks are very susceptible to Aflatoxin coming from moldy feeds and there is no cure of antidote for aflatoxin poisoning in ducks. When in doubt about the condition of duck pellets, do not feed it to ducks. Give the feed instead to chickens or pigs, or as feed to fishes.
  4. Give layer ducks more feed in the afternoon than in the morning. Give the evening meal two hours before sundown, even if you have an extra night feeding to give a feeling of fullness.
  5. When your layer/breeder duck flock is in the peak of egg production (80-90+%), an extra night feeding of pellets is helpful. Or give extra feed during dusk. Wild Ducks are by nature night feeders.
  6. Give chopped grasses or any green plant once a week, depending on the availability of green feeds. Cut these finely (the size of corn or palay) at noontime when drinking water is refilled.
  7. When ducks are in the process of molting (“nanlulugon”), give fresh grated coconut, chopped whole coconuts or even sapal at the rate of one average – sized nut for every 10 ducks to make their feathers grow faster and shinier and their plunge water-repellent-a condition duck needs during rainy season.
  8. Avoid frightening ducks when feeding pelleted feeds. Pellets are artificial or unnatural feed so its body needs solutide and quiet to digest it. Sudden bright lights, barking stray dogs, and strange noises frighten laying ducks easily
    and upset their digestion. Egg production goes down and will take time to cover.
  9. When palay price is reasonable, give palay liberally in the afternoon and pellets in the morning. Palay can be stored in sacks for as long as one year and this means big savings. Palay will not fatten the layers, but corn will.
  10. Place a sign “Forget Me Not” over your duckery door and attend to the wants of the birds, or your substitute caretaker.

If you provide a swimming pond for your ducks, limits their playing in the water to 1 to 2 hours a day. Too much playing in the water will tire them and make them eat more feeds.

When birds isolate themselves from the flock and refuse to eat, remove them at once and keep in separate confinement under observation for diagnostic symptoms to identify the disease. Consult a veterinarian and take the birds to the clinic before any major flare-up of the disease occurs.

Aside from vaccines, give prophylactic agents against diseases when ducks are still strong and healthy to counteract infection that may suddenly attack the flock.

Pateros ducks weigh about 2 1/2 kilograms at 6 months and lay about 250 to 280 eggs in one year.

Pekin ducks weigh about 3 1/2 to 4 kilograms at 6 months and lay about 180 to 200 eggs in one year.

Star growing your replacement ducks when your layers are in their second year of laying. Dispose of your poor layers and retain the good ones.

Balut Making

Select duck eggs using the pitik system – tap eggs with the fingers to cull out eggs with cracks or thin-shelled. Eggs with cracks have hollow sound; thin-shelled eggs have brittle sound.

Only thick-shelled eggs are used for balut making because these can withstand stresses of egg placement and removal in cylindrical baskets called “toong”. These are open on both ends, 34 inches high and 21 inches in diameter; spaces around are filled with rice hull up to 4 inches from the brim. Ideally, eggs made into balut should not be older than 5 days from the time these are laid by ducks.

Cloth bags in which eggs are placed in bathes are called tikbo, made of nylon measuring 2 x 2 (4sq.feet). Each tikbo can hold 125 eggs.

Heat is needed to develop the embryos. Roast or heat palay to a temperature of 1070F or 430C in an iron vat or cauldron. Remove when you can still hold the palay in your hand when you remove it.

Eggs bags are then placed in the toong; These are alternated with heated palay bags. The number of heated palay bags is one for every egg bag. However, place two heated palay bags on the bottom and two on the top level of the toong to ensure heat conservation.

For every toong containing 10 layers of eggs, you would need 13 bags of roasted palay. Each toong can hold 10 bags or tikbo. Cover with jusi sacks to conserve heat further.

Candling is the process of holding egg against the hole of a lighted box in a dark room to separate infertile eggs from fertile one. Infertile eggs are called penoy; these are also boiled like balut but fetch a lower price.

First candling is done on the 11th day after eggs are placed in toong. Candling is again done on the 17th day to separate. Eggs with dead embryos (abnoy) and those that are ready to be sold as balut.

Eggs with weak embryos take 18 to 20 days to be released; these are hard-boiled and sold.

Eggs intended for hatching are left in the balutan for 28 days when ducklings will hatch. After 20 days, palay bags are not heated anymore since embryos can generate enough heat to keep them warm.

When using kerosene or electric incubators for hatching duck eggs, maintain a temperature of 1000F and humidity from 550F to 600F.

Do not hatch duck and hen’s eggs together in one incubator as duck eggs require a temperature of 10F but a higher rate of humidity. A pan of water kept in the bottom of the incubator helps maintain humidity level.

During incubator period, turn eggs at least 3 to 4 times a day to obtain better percentage of hatchability.

Clean hatching eggs with slightly moist, clean rag before storing to prevent contamination of the developing embryos, or newly hatched chicks.

How to make salted red eggs (itlog na maalat)

Eggs with fissures are sold as sariwa or fresh duck eggs. Eggs with thin shells but have no cracks are made into salted red eggs.

Dip eggs in a mixture of salt, garden soil, and water. As a starter, put 3 canfuls of salt (using common powdered milk can) to 1/2 pail of garden soli that have been strained. Add water gradually.

Stop adding water to soil when mixture sticks to your fingers when you dip these in the salty muck. Coat eggs with soil-salt mixture and store for 18 days. On the 19th day, wash and hard-boil the eggs. Finally, dip salted eggs in a solution or red dye.

The next batch of eggs can be processed using the previous mixture, but add one can full of salt. Eggs are store in a box measuring 14 x 21 inches.

Department of Agriculure – Philippines

Topics: Livestock | 17 Comments »

Guide and Tips on Horse Raising

By pinoyfarmer | September 24, 2007



The horse has existed on earth for millions of years but domesticated only about 5,000 years ago. And since then, the horse has been an invaluable servant to mankind.

Horses provide man with transport, farm power, entertainment, and even food and clothing. Not surprising therefore, we hold this versatile and invaluable creature in high esteem; immortalizing its character and beauty in art and literature, and treasuring it as a companion and friend.

For those who love horses, their companionship and friendship is something special, for the horse is an animal without vanity, envy, malice, and greed, and indeed unsurpassed creature of beauty and grace, with gentle strength, innocence, patience and kindness.

As faithful servant, the horse endure so much and is always generous in his desire to fulfill the needs of his owner for work and entertainment. So, it would be a very hard-hearted person that can not find within himself or herself admiration and love for such a selfless, versatile, and wonderful being.

The natural state of horses (Equus caballus) is roaming freely, grazing herbage of its choosing as and when available, breeding by natural selection in which only the fittest and strongest surviving and living sociably in herds both for company and protection. So, in the care and management of the horses their natural state should be approximated as much as possible.


The basic formula to successful horse care and management is to recognize the individuality of horses, both physical and mental, and then adopt your stable routine to suit the horse individual needs.

There are four main ways of keeping horses:

1. Stable all, or most, of the time.
2. Out at grass all, or most, of the time.
3. Combination of the above-two methods
4. Yarding or “open stabling”

I. Stabled Horses

In this method, horses are complete prisoners. Not only that they do not have freedom but they are rendered completely dependent on their human attendants for absolutely everything i.e. food, water, exercise, grooming, environmental control, and access to company.

With stabled animals, it is best to establish a fairly strict stable routine to ensure that everything is done. This places considerable responsibility on the caretaker. This person should make time available to exercise the horse, this being one commodity of which stabled animals are often short of. It is generally accepted that two hours exercise daily is sufficient for a healthy horse, to keep both body and mind ticking over in good shape.

Natural social contact is another commodity that stabled horses often lack. Being kept in individual boxes or stalls, they may not even have “chat holes” or grilles so they can “talk” to their neighbors.

Knowing that there are animals in neighboring stables and being able to see or even touch them would help a lot in making the horse accept its confinement lifestyle and would regard its stable as home where it will find safety, food, water, bedding, and attention. It is when confinement is excessive or exercise too little, contact with other horses minimal, getting hungry or thirsty very often, and very little to interest the animal, that stabled horse system of management fails. When this happens, it is the fault of the people running the system, not the system itself, as they have not administered it accordingly to the horse’s real needs.

II. Keeping Horses at Grass

This system is less labor-intensive than stabling entirely. There is no mucking out, no precisely strict feeding times, no compulsion to exercise the horse unless you are training or conditioning it, and no thorough body brushing when grooming. However, you should still check the horse daily, dandy it over, sponge face and dock, pick out feet, and feed when appropriate. The horse will always be dirtier than a stabled horse, but it has good company and good shelter, it will certainly be healthier and more content.

III. The Combined System

This is the one that offers the best for the horse. The horse spends part of the day stabled and part at grass. The best system is for the horse to be out during the colder portion of the day, i.e. morning up to 10:00 o’clock and afternoon from 3:00 o’clock to early evening. During extremes of heat and cold and when there is inclement weather, the horse should be sheltered. However, much depends on your routine and requirements. You can vary the in-and-out hours as much as you wish.

The advantage are that the horse has the shelter, privacy, peace and quiet of its stable when needed but also gets plenty of opportunity to exercise and play in the paddock and is able to enjoy the natural social company of other horses, if it is turned out with companions. Most horses really thrive on this system of management. They can be made very fit, kept clean, and fed a reasonably controlled diet. They are normally happy and healthy on this system.

IV. Yarding

The animals are kept in large, covered barns on partly roofed enclosures, the surfaces of which are either normal bedding or something such as earth, sand, woodchips, etc. They can be kept inside entirely, or be allowed to wander in and out of the outdoor area or even given access to pasture as well, which is the best system from the horse point of view.

Horses kept this way can be made extremely fit, kept clean, as the materials used for surfacing enclosures brush off easily, and can have their diets minutely controlled. They benefit from the natural, social company, the space and freedom needed by all horses, exercise taken at will and the moral support of constant company from their peers.


To keep a horse healthy and contented, an owner or manager must consider six basic things: food, water, shelter, company, personal space, and freedom to move around.


In common with most other grazing and browsing animals, the horse is a trickle feeder which has evolved to survive best with an almost constant supply of food passing through its digestive system in small amounts. The horse is not a ruminant like cattle which takes in fairly large quantities of foods and swallows it almost at once, regurgitating it later as cud to chew at its leisure. The horse chews the grass as it goes along and then swallows it, never to be seen again until the undigested remains emerge as droppings.

Grass, leaves and other herbage are high in fiber and water but contain relatively few nutrients in proportion to the bulk consumed. This means that the horse is designed to take in large quantities of fiber and water and its digestive system has evolved to cope well with this situation. The stomach itself is fairly small but the system as a whole is very capacious. In fact, it has reached the point where it cannot function satisfactorily without large quantities of bulky roughage.

A high concentrated, rich diet is not natural to the horse and can be the cause of many physical or behavioral problems in domesticated horses, such as swollen or inflamed joints, colic, “corn sickness” where horses that have been over-fed on concentrates go off feed because of chronic slight indigestion; crazy behavior due to an excessive intake of energy-rich food which cause high levels of toxins to circulate in the body affecting both metabolism and behavior, azoturia, lymphangitis, and other disorders.

Your aim should be to give the horses a more or less constant supply of good hay or forage feeds, with extra concentrates given as frequently as possible in small amounts each day, if necessary. Feeding forage adlibitum is nothing new, but it does not seem to be a popular system now. Thousands of horses and ponies are kept for many hours each day with no food available to them – a highly unnatural and dangerous situation for an animal with a digestive system like that of a horse. It is no wonder that colic and other digestive and behavioral problems that stem from indigestion, physical discomfort, mental frustration and boredom are so common.

The practice of some to remove all feed and water for several hours before physical exertion is wrong, damaging to the horse and cruel.


Depending on its age and condition, the horse body is composed of about 70% water. Water is contained in most parts of the body.

In the wild, equidae often trek many miles to find water. Observations of feral horses and ponies indicate that they seem to prefer drinking in the morning and evening and will journey to water sources at those times if their feeding area is not near water.

Domesticated horses usually have access to water all the time. And most owners observe that their horse does not only drink in the morning and evening but whenever it feels like it. Water is now believed to stimulate the digestive juices and not to hamper digestion as once thought. Horses that always have water by them often take a short drink immediately after a feed and sometimes during a feed. In fact, some vets and nutritionists feel that depriving a horse of water at feeding times may develop indigestion if not colic.

It is also now known to be bad for horses to be denied water for hours before hard work such as a competitive event. They can safely drink up to an hour before hard work and this will help prevent dangerous dehydration. This is especially important in warm or hot weather.

If water cannot be provided at all times, it would be safe to let the horses drink their fill at least twice a day. A horse may need up to 12 gallons of water a day, depending on its work and the weather. It would be safest to let them drink before feeding in the case of stabled animals. Grass-kept horses do not gorge themselves on their ever-present food, so they can be watered anytime. When horses are led to water, they often take a long drink, then raise their heads and rest, perhaps looking about the surroundings. Do not take this as a cue that they have finished. Wait, and you will almost certainly find that they take another long drink before moving away from the water on their own accord. Only then can you be sure that they have fully quenched their thirst. For grass – kept or yarded horses, water can be supplied in troughs, while stabled horses can be supplied through automatic waterers or buckets in holders. Whatever method you use, the water must be kept clean, fresh and readily available.


This is one aspect of management that is often overlooked. Many say that their horses never use shelter but they are wrong. Horses will always use a shelter whenever they feel the need, provided that they are not afraid to do so.

In fields and paddocks, a shelter shed should have its back to the prevailing wind on the highest and driest part of the field, preferably with an open aspect as horses do not like to be closed in. The entrance should be high, wide, and welcoming, and the shed be light inside, clean, and if possible, with roughage in rack or in nets so that the horse will regard it as a place where to rest in comfort and where to find fresh food waiting. A sturdy, roomy shelter shed for two horses should be about 5 x 10 meters wide and 2.5 meters high. Consider the fact that the horse may reach a height of about 3.0 meters if it rears. Lack of room or height in a shed is common reason for horses not daring to use it. In some instances, there are natural shelters such as hedges and trees but a good shelter shed is still the best way to protect horses from the elements.

Good shelter is an essential part of good horse management and is cheaper in the long run than treating an afflicted horse.


Like many other creatures, horses maintain a strongly felt personal space around them, which even other horses, let alone alien species like humans, intrude upon at their own risk. Observing a group of grazing horses will demonstrate that the only animals allowed to get close will be a horse’s particular friends, a mare’s fool or a stallion who may be allowed to cover a mare in season.

Because of the shape of the horse’s body, the invisible border of its personal space is oval in shape and extends to around 4.0 meters (14 ft.) around the horse. It is then obvious that most stables come well inside the horse’s natural personal space boundary and this is a factor to consider when housing horses. Most people would find it impractical to provide stables large enough to accommodate this space, but steps can be taken to respect the horse’s feelings.

For a start, horses should only be stabled next to friends, or at least not next to enemies. Even if a horse cannot actually see its neighbor, it will know from the sounds and smell that it is there. It has been proven scientifically that an enemy constantly within the horse personal space, even if separated by wall, creates stress that will adversely affect its contentment, behavior and physical well-being.

The need for space around it is so ingrained in the horse’s psyche that they feel insecure or even frightened in small spaces. They may not show it obviously (although an observant eye or sensitive hand on a neck may detect uncertainty or slight tremble), so don’t automatically assume they are calm and accepting. As ever, confidence and quietness in us are valuable cues that many horses will follow if they trust humans.


Horses are herd animals and their whole evolution is geared to this kind of life. There is safety in numbers and they still instinctively feel this. Our animals may not be preyed on by wild cats and hyenas but they still retain the instinct to herd together for safety.

Of course, horses have to learn to work alone but this is quite different from being kept in solitary confinement or being turned out alone. Although some horses do get used to this unhappy state of affairs, many do not and may constantly get into trouble through trying to jump out to go in search of other horses, or wandering up and down fences and pinning the gates.

Conscientious owners and managers always take into account the horse’s mental as well as its physical needs, and company is one of the greatest. Even when horses are kept mainly stabled, being turned out daily with congenial company should be an important part of their routine, and not regarded as a special treat when it is convenient.

Freedom of Movement

The need for freedom does not mean that horses at liberty spend a lot of time moving around at faster gaits. Normally, they amble around, grazing, swinging their heads from side to side as they crop the grass. They mostly walk-thus the old advice to spend most of a horse exercise at walk, do not trot much, and use canter as a natural gait for traveling from one area to another. Of course, all gaits are also used occasionally during normal social communication and when playing, while gallop is used both during play or when escaping from danger.

It is inappropriate to give the horse a lifestyle comprising about 22 hours a day confinement and forced idleness in a stable broken up by 2 hours or less of relatively hard work. This is not a natural state of affairs for the horse, which actually requires just the opposite, i.e. several hours a day of steady walking around at liberty for most of the time, with fast or intensive physical work taking up a very short period of time.


It is unfortunate that many domesticated horses receive 3 meals a day, often with many hours between feeding, with roughage usually given only at night and in the morning. This leaves horses many hours without food at all, a situation that is unnatural to them and therefore usually creates physical discomfort and boredom, and possibly favor “unexplained” colic and stable vices.

The Digestive System

The digestive system of the horse is capacious and divided into various compartments which have individual jobs to do.

In general, digestion is achieved through the action of various chemicals, enzymes and microorganisms referred to as “gut microflora” and bacteria. The microorganisms operate in the larger intestine, fermenting and breaking down plant cellulose, a kind of carbohydrate present in roughage. And because, the digestive system of the horse is geared to function on this kind of food, this fermentation is obviously vital to the horse’s health.

Lignin is another type of bulky material, woody in nature, that is found in grass, hay, straws, and so on. It has no nutritional value but is needed to fill out the digestive tract, giving the horse that satisfied feeling we all expect after a meal. Undigested lignin is seen in the droppings as little splinters of fibrous materials. If a horse’s droppings appear smooth and barely break on hitting the ground, this may be sign that the horse is not being fed enough roughage. But roughage if given alone, is minimal in food nutrients that even if given in big amount may not supply the needed nourishment of the body especially during hard work and breeding period. Thus the giving of concentrate feeds to supplement the deficiency from roughage is essential. The problem though is that the horse finds large amounts of concentrates difficult to digest as usually the practice of giving relatively large amount of concentrate feeds at several hours interval.

The tiny microorganisms are living creatures actually living out of the horse’s own food. They also need constant supply of food, albeit mainly cellulose. Erratic arrival of food can cause many of them to starve to death or become seriously weakened so that their numbers drop and may not be enough anymore to process the next lot of food which may arrive several hours later. This condition may hamper the efficiency of the system.

To avoid this, horses should receive adlib supply of roughage, and when concentrates are fed, should be given in small amounts many times per day. Under this system, the organisms responsible for digesting the various foods will have constant supply of food to carry out their work.


The main food constituents are carbohydrates, proteins, fats or oils, fiber, vitamins, minerals and trace elements:


This elements is the sources of energy and heat of the body. The body stores excess amounts as fat in various storage “depots” in the body and as glycogen in the muscle cells and the liver.


This element builds body tissues. But it is no longer considered the main criterion in choosing foods. Instead, energy level is now the primary consideration. Excess protein in the diet can be harmful. Although small excesses can be stored as fat, they lose their tissue-building properties and are then re-used by the body as extra energy: This is a very expensive way of providing energy, because protein is more costly than carbohydrates.

Fats or oils

Fat produces heat and energy and is a good feed for very hard-working horses as it provides one and a half times more energy than carbohydrates.

A fairly high-fat diet may be prescribed for a very thin horse. It is also good for horses in endurance – type of work such as endurance riding, eventing, hunting and competitive carriage driving or for horses whose owners simply like going for regular, long, active hacks/riding. Fats also help condition the skin, hair and horn or hoof.


This is the material that makes up the outer husk of grain and the stalks of hay and straw, forming the cell walls and giving plants a shape in the same manner skeletons serve our bodies. Without adequate fiber, roughage or bulk, more concentrated food would clog up into a doughy mass that the digestive juice could not penetrate. This mass will then ferment or rot and block up the digestive system, and the horse could die in agony. Fiber also stimulates peristalsis, the wave-like movements of the digestive tract which pummel food around and move it along the tract.

Vitamins, Minerals and Trace Elements

Vitamins, minerals and trace elements are vital nutrients that are often needed in only small amounts but are essential nonetheless. All foods contain different amounts of different kinds of different purposes. Physical, mental and emotional disorders may arise as a result of deficiency or overdose. And supplement feeds containing them should never be administered without the advice of the Veterinarian or Nutritionist. If is decided that you do need a supplement, you must be careful to give it only as advised. Stick to the dose recommended, otherwise, feeding less may be pointless, and feeding more could be dangerous. Also, never mix different supplements together unless advised to do so by a Nutritionist or Veterinarian.


- Feed little and often is the most important rule. In addition, it is wise to remember that the horse has a small stomach so that, if you are feeding concentrates, you should give no more than 2 kgs. in one feeding. Give as many small feeds per day as you can possibly manage to ensure maximum digestion.

- Water before feeding. The thinking here is that if horses do not have water always available, a large drinks taken after meals could wash undigested food on through the digestive tract before they are digested and may cause colic. Horses with water always available are unlikely to suffer from this.

- Make any changes in the diet gradually. When changing from one batch of food to a new delivery, don’t use up all the old but start mixing the old and the new (whether hay, concentrates, whatever) 2 to 3 weeks before the existing supply is due to run out to give the digestive organisms chance to adapt. Put in a single handful per feeding for a few days and then very gradually change over, as required.

- Use good quality feed. The horse family has a delicate digestive system and can easily become ill if given bad food- if it is eaten at all. Horses will often go hungry first before they will eat what they consider as rubbish.

- Do not work immediately after feeding. For stabled horse that has just had a full concentrate feed, wait an hour before working and then stick to walk for the first half-hour. With horses on adlib feeding system and grass-kept horses, this is less crucial but it is advisable to keep to walk for the first hour. If a full stomach is moved around by hard or fast work, there may be indigestion and full stomach may press against the lungs.

- Feed plenty of roughage. You will rarely go wrong by giving a horse as much good roughage as it wants and you may be surprised to find out consequently how few concentrates it needs, if any. Conversely, generous amount of concentrates can easily make a horse physically ill or mentally and emotionally “crazy”.

- Try to keep to the same feeding times each day. A horse missing an entire meal while out at a show or other activities will have its digestive system very upset. Always try to get some feed into your horse, even if you only pack your bag with nuts or whatever it normally has, to keep the digestive organisms happy. Also, it is not a crime to let horses nibble a bit of grass during a check or a break. The small amount taken is unlikely to cause problems rather, it will make the horse feel much better.


Department of Agriculture – Philippines

Topics: Livestock | 2 Comments »

Guide to Quail Raising

By pinoyfarmer | September 20, 2007



The quail, locally known as pugo, is a small game bird found in temperate and tropical regions throughout the world.

The true or Old World quail is a migratory bird that can be found in Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. The American quail (sometimes called “patridge”) and is non-migratory.

In the Bible, (Exodus, Chapter XVI, verse 13), quail was served by the Lord to the fleeing Israelites. During the present critical period of population explosion, with rampant malnutrition and unrelenting price rises for both cereal and meat, the quail is an answer to the consumer’s need for cheap eggs and meat, just as it was during that critical Biblical time.

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Many people are unfamiliar with the breeds of quail being raised in the Philippines Today. Some are surprised to learn that there is a white quail.

All the popular breeds used for eggs and meat commercial production are sub-varieties of the Corturnix species, which is able to produce eggs throughout the year.

The different breeds found in the Philippines are:

1. Native – Found in the fields and forests; the common “pugo”. This quail is not suitable for commercial production.

2. Japanese Taiwan – Popularly known as “Chinese Quail”. It has dark brown feathers mixed with white and gray. The female has a gray underside flecked with darker feathers, while the male has many reddish feathers on the underside.

3. Japanese Seattle – This is as an American breed similar to the Japanese Taiwan; it has jersey (rust-maroon) feathers at the base of the heads.

4. Negro – Black or grayish black.

5. Tuxedo – Black with a white spot on the breast.

6. Silver – White with black eyes; from the Canaan Valley, Egypt.

7. Brown Cross No. 1

8. Brown Cross No. 2

The Japanese Taiwan breed is commonly raised in the Philippines. However, its eggs are small compared to those of improved breeds, and egg production is lower. It has also been found to be susceptible to respiratory diseases. The six other breeds listed are all good. They are heavy egg producers and are resistant to diseases.

For beginners, the Japanese Seattle is recommended as it is a heavy egg producer and the male can be easily recognized by the color of its feathers as early as 30 days of age. This means a saving on feeds, as the male can be culled and sold as broilers.

To insure success, select a good breed and buy stock from a reliable breeder. Good chicks will cost about P 8.50 day old. Some selected breeders may cost as much as P 35.00 each.


Quail are easy to raise and the housing required is not as complicated as for chickens. A 4 feet x 8 feet x 1foot high cage can house 250-300 layers. The flooring and all sides are made of 1/2-inch mesh welded wire while the top or cover should be of lawanit to prevent the birds from flying. The quail has a tendency to fly upwards if the top of the cage is made of mesh wire, and this may cause head injuries.

Cages can also be made smaller (2 feet x 4 feet x 1 foot) and stacked in four decks, with 3 to 4 inches between the decks. A large number of birds can thus be raised in a very small space. The cage can be placed under any roof, under an elevated house, or in a garage.

The cages should be rat-proof; rats are the greatest enemy of the birds.


Quail can be fed with any available chicken feed at the rate of one kilo for every 50 quail layers per day. Add finely ground shell (limestone) to produce stronger and thicker egg shells. Best results were found when chicken broiler starter mash (22% protein) was fed to both layers and broilers.

A 1/2-inch mash welded wire should be cut to fit the feed trough and laid directly on the feed to prevent the birds from scratching out the feeds. Another one inch mesh welded wire should be used to cover the trough to prevent the birds from dusting themselves with the feeds.

Keep feed in the troughs all the time, as feeding should be continuous 24 hours every day to get higher egg production. Light should be provided so the birds will continue to eat at night. If this is done, some birds may lay two eggs in 24 hours.


Quail, unlike some other fowl, are not delicate birds. They can be raised in any suitable and comfortable place in the house. The birds do not easily contract fowl diseases common to poultry, especially chickens.

Vaccination is not needed and the drugs usually given to chickens do not have to be added to quail feed or drinking water. However, should any disease outbreak occur, the drugs used for chicken can be used. Deworming of the breeders is done at least every four months or three times a year. Use the same dewormers as for chickens, but follow the direction on the package for smaller birds.


Normally, “pugo” will hatch their own eggs, but the imported breeds mentioned will not brood to incubate their eggs; an incubator must therefore be used. For a table-type electric-operated incubator, a temperature of 1010 – 1030 F should be maintained during the incubation period. For the forced-draft incubators, the temperature should be kept at 98-1000 F. Further instructions on operating an electric incubator will be found at the end of this pamphlet.

Candling is done on the 11th day of incubation. From setting, quail eggs will hatch on the 18th day.


The brooder should be a closed compartment, 2 ft. x 4 ft. x 6 inches. The flooring, top and three of the sides should be made of lawanit or boards while the front side should be made of 1/4-inch mesh welded wire for ventilation. This is adequate for 500 chicks. A bigger brooder may be made to fit the raiser’s requirements.

A 50-watt bulb should be placed a little away from the middle of the brooder to allow room for the chicks to stay away from the heat source in case there is over-heating in the brooder.

Brooding procedures are similar to those for day-old chicks:

1. Prepare the brooder; lay old newspapers on the floor of the brooder, covering it entirely.

2. Prepare a drinking trough; you can improvise with plastic glasses and plastic covers, or lids large enough to overlap 1/4 of an inch around the glass rims. Bore a hole in the top rim of the plastic glass to allow water to flow out when inverted over the plastic cover. This makes a good drinking trough for the chicks. Commercial waterers for chickens with their deep, wide edges are not advisable for pugo because they might drown in them.

3. Spread feeds for the chicks over the newspapers and place the waterers away from the light bulb. Leave the space under the bulb free for the chicks to lay down or crowd together. Do not place feeds in that area as the chicks will lay down and blind themselves while under the heat of the bulb.

4. See to it that there is always plenty of water. Replace feeds and water as they are consumed.

5. Observe the chicks – if they crowed under the bulb, there is insufficient heat; if they move away from the bulb, there is too much heat. Remedy the situation by changing the bulb, as required, using a lower watt bulb for less heat.

6. On the sixth or seventh day, move the chicks to another compartment but with the short sides open (screened with wire mesh). The chicks now need more space; only 250 to 300 will fit in a 2 feet x 4 feet x 6 inches cage.

7. When the birds are 15 days old, transfer them to growing cages. By this time they are fully feathered.


On the 30th day, males of the Japanese seattle breed can already be recognized by their feathers, so they can be segregated and sold as broilers. Males of the other breeds can be recognized by their throaty hoarse cry and the protruding upper vent with a cream-like substance coming out of the vent when it is pressed upwards.

Females have a blackish or grayish vent and a sharp, high pitched, long shrilling, melodious chirp.

After 41 days from hatching, the birds should start laying eggs. Remove the males not intended for breeding and the undeveloped females and sell them as broilers.


The early laying birds may be segregated for use as breeders, while late layers are raised for table egg production.

Experience has shown that if female quail do not answer the throaty cry of the male they are not happy. The right proportion of males in the flock is necessary for a high percentage of hatchability. The usual ratio is 70 females to 30 males. Too many males in the flock is indicated when females have bare backs with the feathers worn off, while an inadequate number of males causes fighting among the females.

However, females will not fight if there is no male at all among them, as proved when table egg layers are kept separately with no males.


The demand for quail eggs and meat is so great that marketing is no problem. This is a project where buyers come to you, especially for the eggs. In streets, stores, restaurants, hotels and bars, quail eggs and meat are in great demand.

Quail eggs can be sold fresh, boiled, salted, pickled or as balut. Quail meat can be served barbecued, fried, as adobo, guinataan, or in any way chicken is cooked.

Some reputable bakeries use quail eggs for baking and for making leche flan.

Hard-boiled eggs are sold by hawking vendors in plastic bags. The popular nido soup in restaurants comes to your table garnished with quail eggs.


With the advent of the “instants” like instant coffee and tea, soft drinks, instant soup, etc., quail eggs and meat can also follow.

From egg to egg production is barely two months, or 57 days to be exact. For meat production, the time is even shorter. A quail egg is hatched in just 16 days and the hen is ready to lay eggs after 41 days. Isn’t that instant?

Nutrition-wise, this is an answer to the quest for a source of economical protein for malnourished children.

Economically, it is a very promising project. If you raise 100 layers with 70% egg production there will be 70 eggs a day. The birds will consume two kilos of feeds a day, say worth P 3.00. If the eggs are sold at P 0.10 each, there will be P 7.00 from daily sales. Less the P 3.00 feed cost, this means P 4.00 profit daily. Multiply this by twice or thrice the number of layers. Won’t it be very nice additional income? Why don’t you try it?


In order to get a higher hatching efficiency, the electric incubator/hatcher should be properly operated. The following guidelines should be strictly observed in the incubation of quail eggs.

1. Check and recheck wire and wire connections of the incubator. Check also the electric voltage (220V) before plugging in the incubator. Fill all water pans for humidity control and place egg trays without eggs inside the incubator.

2. Run the incubator for two days or until the desired temperature (1010 to 1030F) is maintained. Slowly adjust the thermostat by turning the control knob clockwise to lower the temperature and counter clockwise to raise the temperature. Usually, the incubator is pre-tested and the thermostat adjusted before shipment, but slight adjustments will still be needed, depending on the place and weather conditions.

3. Arrange the eggs in the egg tray, allowing room for turning. Do not load the tray tightly as the eggs may be broken when turning.

4. Before placing the trays of eggs in the incubator, check the water pans under the trays for humidity control. These should be properly covered with wire screen to prevent drowning if a chick drops from the egg tray.

5. On top of the incubator, place a reminder chart of the activities to carry out during incubation:

a. Turn the eggs three times a day by passing the hands lightly over the eggs to the right in the morning, to the left at noon, and downward in the afternoon.
b. Candle on the 11th day.
c. Expect hatching on the 16th to the 18th day.

Other features may be added to the chart, like percentage of infertile eggs and hatched chicks.

1. Three days before hatching, stop turning the eggs. On hatching day, when the chicks are out of the shells, the air vents on top of the incubator should be fully opened to increase ventilation and to hasten drying of the feathers.

2. Transfer the chicks to the brooder after their feathers are dry on the 17th or 18th day.

3. Clean the trays. Remove all egg shells and late-hatch or unhatched eggs in preparation for the next batch of eggs for incubation.


Department of Agriculture – Philippines

Topics: Farming Methods, Poultry | 167 Comments »

Growing and Raising Goats

By pinoyfarmer | September 20, 2007



The optimum potential of the goat as one of the main sources of milk and meat has not been fully tapped in the Philippines. The goat is popularly known as the poor man’s cow because children and old folks who cannot afford cow’s milk prefer drinking goat’s milk. Aside from being cheap, goat’s milk is more digestible compared to cow’s milk.

The goat is a clean animal and its male odor is only present during the breeding season. Female goats do not smell. Contrary to myth, goats do not eat trash. They do, however, lick the labels of the tin cans to taste the glue on the label’s back.

Goat raising is undertaken mostly by small farmers or backyard raisers. An average of one or two heads are raised by every farmer. Only a handful of commercial- scale goat farms can be found in the country. Annex 1 gives a list of commercial goat farms.

In the Philippines, the goat population is estimated at 2,120,110 as of 1988. This figure shows a minimal increase 0f 5.19% as compared to the previous year.

In a study conducted by a government agency, it was found out that goats are multi-purpose ruminants producing 58.4% milk, 35.6% meat, 4.3% hide, and 1.7% fiber. According to them, these small ruminants can provide the answer to improve nutritional requirements of the predominantly rural farm families scattered all over the archipelago.


There are many breeds of goats worldwide but the available breeds in the Philippines are as follows:

Dual Purpose

1. Nubians -Basically a tropical breed successfully adapted and raised in the western countries; distinguishing features are dropping, pendulous ears and a “Roman nose’.

2. Jumna Pari - from India; thrives very well in the topics.

Dairy Breeds

1. Saanen – Originated from Switzerland, pure white to off-white in color, has the highest milk production.

2. Toggenburg - Also from Switzerland; smaller than the Nubian and Saanen; distinguishing features are white markings on the face, legs and tail; erect ears like the Saanen.

3. Alpine - Also a European breed; colors range from off-white to red to black.

Selection Criteria

A. Does

Does should preferably be purchased from your locality or from an area with similar climatic conditions.

Larger size native or grade does, not less than 25 kilos in body weight and those that have given birth at least once should be selected. Avoid buying initial stocks from stock markets, for adult does sold from these are generally productively undesirable or are poor in character. The reason for this is that farmers sell to the stock market only does which he no longer likes because of obvious reasons. The udder should be palpated for size, and for detection of lumps and abnormalities. General well being can be easily gauged from appetite and from the eyes which would be alert and the pupils well formed.

B. Bucks

A minimum of two purebreed bucks of different breeds is mandatory. The generally accepted buck to doe ratio is 1:35. Progeny bucks or bucks that have successfully mated, and at least a year old are desirable. Select a buck with a good producing line based from the records of the farm sources. Demand for its records and pedigree when purchasing one. This way you can avoid buying a replacement buck which may be of the same family. Do not sacrifice price for an inferior buck. Replace bucks as often as possible, preferably every three years, to prevent inbreeding.


Goats are social animals. Family relationships often remain for the whole life of the species. It is usual to see an offspring always at the side of the mother even when rearing a kid of its own. Their pack character is also very evident, with the oldest buck or doe on the highest part of the sleeping area. They also have maintained their mountainous character. Goats prefer an elevated area for resting. The arrangement and feature of the housing, including management practices, must then be adapted to these characteristics.

Goats can be expected to live up to 13 to 15 years, with an average economic lifespan of 6 to 8 years.

In temperate countries goats kid only once a year, with the breeding season from late summer to early winter. In the Philippines, does come in heat year round with an average kidding interval of about 8 to 9 months. This is an advantage, for more kids can be expected.

To effectively manage goats, therefore, basic facts, feeding, and reproductive characteristics must be taken into consideration before planning a management operating procedure. Attempts to raise goats in a commercial way like what is done to pigs, poultry and cattle without considering the above characters have mostly failed.

There is, at present, an ongoing argument on whether to raise goats in pasture or under confined feeding. Comments and observations have been made and shown the property dewormed goats on pasture tend to perform better than those under close confinement. This can be traced to the fact that under range conditions, goats have liberal access to a variety of forage, which very well suits their feeding character. However, this entails a wider pasture land requirement, resulting to lesser breeding and herd supervision and a more frequent deworming schedule, which in the long run will prove more costly than the confined feeding method. Attempts have been made by several commercial raisers to combine the two methods, that is, grazing the goats during a limited time of the day and feeding in confinement for the remaining hours. They found goats to perform more creditably when grazed in the early morning from sunrise up to 9 AM and then fed in confinement for the rest of the day. Such schedule can be effectively utilized depending on available land and labor.

A. Housing

Whether on range or confined feeding, housing provisions are necessary. Basically, a goat house or shed must be built to provide shelter for the animals against the elements and from other animals. All goats are afraid of rain and wetness, as these make them prone to pneumonia. Goats also prefer to sleep in elevated areas, such that elevated sleeping platforms, like a stair type arrangement, must be provided. It must be well ventilated, well drained and easy to clean. Feeding racks (silage, water, mineral and concentrate) should be accessible to both goats and caretaker, preferably in the front of the aisle. Flooring should be included and elevated at least about 15 degrees to facilitate cleaning and drainage.

Separate pens should be provided for lactating does, dry does, kids, growers and bucks. The buck pen should be placed in such a way that it will always be visible to the breeding does yet far enough as to avoid transfer of the typical goat smell in case of lactating does when milk is to be sold.

Space Requirement for Goats

Floor space (sq. meter )
Does, bucks and adults – 0.75 – 1.50
Growing - 0.50 – 0.75
Kids – 0.20 – 0.50

Feeding space (linear cm.)
Does, bucks and adults – 15.24 – 25.40
Growing – 10.16 – 15.24
Kids – 7.62 – 12.70

A loafing area, fenced beside the goat house must be provided ( 100 to 150 sq. m./50hd.) complete with feeding racks and water troughs. This must be continuous with the goat house to allow them to loaf when preferred.

Any building material will do, depending on availability and financing, but the flooring must always be of cement to facilitate drying of the floor.

Cogon and nipa roofing materials are preferable in hot and humid areas. Ventilation is of utmost importance. Majority of puemonia cases can be traced to excessively warm and humid interior and sudden changes in temperature. Allow a 0.5 to 1 ft. clearance between floor to wall and wall to beam to create an adequate circulation and to lower draft. It is desirable to maintain an interior temperature of 28 to 30 degrees centigrade. It has been established that above 30 degrees centigrade, ruminants are inhibited from eating.

Lighting may also be provided in the barns during the night. Goats consume up to 30% of the day’s intake during the night when light is provided.


Nine-eye hog wire is the cheapest and most effective fencing available locally. Posts must be staked every 2 meters. Goats are fond of pounding their feet and scraping their bodies on the fences so it must be sturdily built. Barbwire fencing requires a minimum of four strands so it becomes more costly besides making goats prone to wounds.


A well developed/improved pasture can carry up to 15 head/ha. When a combines grazing confinement method is observed, provision of a developed 3 ha./50 hd. pasture divided into 9 paddocks will be desirable. Separate pasture paddocks should be provided for the dry doe, lactating doe, buck, kids and growers. Pasturing during the cool times of the day is commonly due.

B. Care of dry and Pregnant Doe

If the doe is being milked, dry (stop milking) at least 1 and ½ to months before kidding date. This will give her enough reserve for the next lactation. Put all dry does in one compartment. One week before kidding, place her in a separate kidding pen. This can be predicted by swelling and discharge from the vulva, engorgement and waxing of the teats and constant lying down of the doe. Avoid any form of noise in the kidding area. Sometimes it is necessary to help the pregnant doe during the kidding, especially to native does bred with pure bucks because the kids are bigger. Dystocia, or difficult delivery, is common in this cases. Be sure that the presentation is right before attempting to pull out the kid. In anterior presentation, both front legs and head are presented and in posterior presentation, both hind limbs come out at the same time. Oversized kids should be pulled out with an even, continuous pressure. In difficult cases it is best to see a practicing veterinarian.

C. Care of the lactating Doe and newborn Kids

Immediately after delivery, wipe the kid’s mouth, nose and body with a clean, dry cloth and massage the thoracic area to initiate breathing. Normally, this is done by the mother, but sometimes the mother is too weak to do it. Be sure no mucus is clogging the airways. The kids must be able to suck within one hour. They may need to be propped up. For every weak kids, feeding colostrum thru a stomach tube usually produces dramatic results.

First-time mothers sometimes are reluctant to suckle their young due to udder pain caused by over engorgement of milk. Restraining the doe for the first suckling will usually relieve udder pain. If colostrum in the udder is not fully consumed by the kid, stripping (Manually milking out excess ) will be necessary to prevent mastitis. The placenta must come out within 24 hours from expulsion of the fetus.

Tie the umbilical cord with a sterile string and apply disinfectant. Allow the kids to suckle for the first 4 to 5 days. It the doe is to be milked, separate the kids from the mother and start feeding using a baby bottle ( 8oz. size ). Refer to feeding guide for dosage. If the doe is not to be milked, the doe can be taken out of the pen for feeding and returned to the kid three times a day and the whole night. This method will ensure greater livability to the kid by not exposing it to the elements, and proper feeding of the doe. Does weaned early (4 to 5 days) usually return to heat after 1 to 2 months.

When the doe comes into heat, introduce it to the buck, not vice-versa. Two services a day for two days is optimum. It the doe not conceive, heat may return in 8 to 12 days. Higher conception is accomplished in the secondary heat. It breeding is successful, milk production drops after one month and the right side of the abdomen starts to fill up.


Goats, like cattle, usually adapt to a routine. Milking periods must be established and strictly adhered to. If milking is done twice a day, say 6 AM and 6 PM, the process should not be delayed or advanced. If possible, the same personnel should be used. Goats can withhold their milk, so unnecessary changes in the routine should be avoided.

Milk quickly and continuously. Milk let down can be initiated by washing the udder with lukewarm water and wiping with a clean towel. All milking utensils, especially the milker’s hands, must be thoroughly clean.

Feed concentrates during milking. This serves as incentive to the goats for them to enjoy and look forward to.

Contrary to popular beliefs, properly drawn and processed goat milk has no offending smell.

During milking the buck should not be near the doe in order to avoid transfer of the typical goat smell to the milk.

D. Care of Weanling and Growing kids

Place all weaned kids in a separate pen, and if possible, according to size. If male kids are to be raised for meat, castrate as early as possible, preferably within the first month. If females are to be raised for milking, check for excess teats and have them removed. Horn buds usually appear within the first to third month. Dehorn when buds reach the size of a fingernail. Separate males from females at the age of four months. Goats sometimes reach puberty at this age.

Start breeding females at 8 to 10 months. Bucks can start breeding at the same age.

E. Care of the Breeding Buck

The breeding buck must always be confined separately but always visible to the does. The buck is the source of the typical goat smell such that direct contact with the doe must be avoided. Provide a loafing area. A one to two year old buck can make 25 to 50 doe services a year, an older buck more.

F. Breeding

The following are some reproductive characteristics of goats:

Age of puberty – 4 to 8 months
Cycle of type – Polyestrus
Cycle length – 18 to 21 days
Duration of heat – 2 to 3 days (secondary heat 8 to 12 days after)
Gestation period – 150 + 5 days
Best breeding time – Daily during estrus

Does reach puberty from 4 to 8 months. Best breeding age will be 10 to 12 months, depending on desired weight. Limit yearling buck services to 25 doe services/year. Older bucks can cover up to 75/year. Buck to doe ratio is normally 1:35.

The following are signs of heat or estrus:

1. Mucus discharge from the vulva, causing matting of tail hair.
2. Uneasiness, constant urination, lack of appetite and bleating.
3. Seeks out or stays near the buck and lets herself be mounted.

When breeding, always introduce the doe to the buck, not the buck to the doe herd. Particularly when bucks have not been used for a long time, it will be dangerous to mix it with a herd of pregnant does for they will breed indiscriminately. Two to four breeding during the heat period will suffice.

It is highly impractical if not economical to raise pure-breed goats, unless the main purpose is to sell breeders. The preferred method will be to upgrade local native or grade does with pure bucks. Cross breeds usually perform much better than pure ones under local conditions. Infusion of two or more bloodline into the native doe will elicit a better product due to hybrid vigor. Crossing a native doe with a buck of occidental breed, e.g. Saanen, Alpine or Toggenburg, produces a higher rate of hybrid vigor. Three-way crosses between the native, any of three Occidental breeds and the Nubian have produced a greatly superior animal than any of the three under our conditions. Higher milk production should be the main consideration for it will not only mean bigger kids but also more milk production should be the main consideration for it will not only mean bigger kids but also more milk for human consumption. A maximum infusion of 75% foreign blood line must be observed to retain the natural resistance of the native. Never practice inbreeding unless fully knowledgeable in breeding techniques. On the other hand, intensive culling, especially in milking herds, will largely be beneficial.

Dystocia is very common in crossing natives with large pure breeds due to the invariably large size of the unborn kids. Crossbreed birth weights of up to four kilos for multiple births and up to six kilos for single births have been observed while native birth weights reach only 2 and 4 kilos for multiple and single births, respectively. Thus, in cross-breeding, large native does with a minimum weight of 25 kilos or more and those that have given birth at least once, should be used. Providing human assistance during birth will also be of help in saving kids but this should be done only when necessary.

Anestrus, or failure to come in heat, is a common problem most particularly with high-producing does. Vitamin, mineral and other nutrient deficiencies, infections of the genital tract and hormone deficiencies are some of the various causes. Several hormones, like prostaglandin, progesterone sponges and implants and pregnant mare serum (PMS) have been used with varying rates of success. Routine administration of oxytocin right after kidding and before weaning 95 days) aids in faster expulsion of the placenta, uterine fluids and in the rapid regression of the uterus. Routine Vitamin A, D & E injections to breeding herds also contribute to reproductive well-being.

Fifty percent of breeding problems can be traced to the buck used. Routine check up of the buck’s health condition, especially of the genito-urinary tract, should be done. Preputial scraping, blood tests and sperm motility tests are some very useful procedures to follow in successful buck management. Always consult a trained veterinarian to do these tests.

Goat A.I.

Remarkable strides have been made in the field of goat artificial insemination, a method of breeding which enables goat raisers to utilized far-away proven bucks for impregnating their in-heat does. In the Philippines this has been successfully done at the National Rural Life center (NRLC) in Dasmariñas, Cavite where the first kid by goat. A.I. was born. The method is also being tried in Iloilo, which receives shipments of frozen goat semen from the NRLC.

G. Other Routine Management Practices

Hoof Trimming

Goat hooves under confinement are usually overgrown. Trimming is then required. A rose pruner and a small curved knife are adequate tools. Cut excess hoof until level with the frog (white center part). Untrimmed hooves will cause lameness and make it prone to foot rot. Bucks refuse to mount when having sore feet.


Especially in milking herds, dehorning is essential. A dehored animal is more docile than a horned one. It will also eliminate unnecessary wounds due to fighting. Dehorn when horn buds appear (2 to 4 mos.) using hot iron cautery. A ½-inch GI pipe is an effective and cheap material for cauterizing. Chemical cautery is not preferred because kids tend to lick one another and may therefore lead to cauterized or burned tongues.


Castration of unwanted male goats is preferable within the first month of age. The testicles at this age are still not developed, thus there is lesser bleeding and stress. Castrated males grow faster than uncastrated males and are free of the goaty male odor.

Tattooing Ear Notching and other Forms of Identification

In order to keep track of individual animals, a positive identification is needed. No recording is possible without this. Ear notching is done more commonly because of permanence and easy identification. Refrain from using plastic tags. Tattooing causes no deformities but requires special tools that may be costly.


For a good breeding herd program, a proper and well kept recording system is necessary. The record must reflect all the essential data of individual animals.

Below is an example:

Goat No. or NameDate of Birth
SireBirthweight, Kg.
SexLittermates – Single, Twins, triplets
Method of DisposalWt. At disposal – Kg


The other herd data that can be gathered from the above are the kidding rates, kidding frequencies, reproductive pattern, superior buck to doe combinations among others. Additional data are forage production, forage and concentrate intake, health and treatment situations and all others which may seem trivial but could be of value in the future. Each caretaker must have his own record book, aside from the herd record for cross checking.


A. Recommended Pasture Grasses and Legumes

Goats, like other livestock require the same nutrients such as protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, vitamins, and water but their need for some of these nutrients is not as critical. Bacteria and protozoa in the rumen of the goat have the ability to manufacture and make available many of the nutrients from such feeds as silage, hay-silage, and other fibrous feedstuffs. Goats are known to relish Paragrass, Stargrass, Napier grass, Guinea grass and Centrosema over many improved tropical grasses and legumes. It is also known that goats can browse on leaves of shrubs and bushes for their feed requirements.

B. Feed Requirements

A practical feeding program for goats, being ruminants, should be based on the type and quality of roughage available. This is because the quality of roughage available determines both the amount and the quality of concentrates needed to supplement the diet.

Lactating Does

Confined goats should be given good quality forage for free choice, ad libitum. To increase water consumption, concentrates can be added at the rate of 1 kg./20 liters of drinking water. Provide vitamin-mineral and salt, ad libitum.

Pregnant Dry does

Pregnant dry does should be adequately fed with quality feeds to build reserves for the coming lactation and to nourish the developing fetuses. Does should be allowed liberal access to good quality forage and roughage, vitamin-mineral plus concentrates at a level of 0.20 to 0.70 kg./day depending on the body condition of the does.

Four months old and above

They should be fed enough for maintenance and for desirable growth, but not for fattening them. Generally, a liberal supply of good quality forage/roughage plus 0.20 to 0.50kg./day of concentrates is enough to obtain desired growth rate. Under complete confinement, goats may be fed with quality forage plus vitamin-mineral, and salt, ad libitum.

Breeding Bucks

Bucks should be maintained on good pasture alone when not used for breeding. Two weeks before and during the breeding season, the ration of the breeding bucks should be supplemented with 0.2 to 0.7 kg. of concentrates. Forage, vitamin-mineral mix, and water should be given ad libitum.

C. Practical Feeding Guides

The general herd should be pastured most of the time to lower the cost of feeding and maintaining them. Provide enough space for grazing, but be sure that the pasture is rotated frequently, i.e., the herd is moved to another pasture after one pasture lot has been grazed for sometime. This will keep a pasture from being overgrazed and polluted or heavily infested by parasites. Even if the pasture has abundant feed, it may become a breeding place for parasites if the goats are allowed to graze on it for so long.

Breeding goats, as well as the growing and fattening stock, can be raised solely on pasture feeds. Goats enjoy feeding on a large variety of plant growth so that brush land, together with the common pasture grasses, is an ideal combination for raising healthy goats.

Goats are also selective when it comes to grazing. They eat only what seems suitable to them; hence, there is little danger of their eating poisonous weeds. Goats will be able to live on grazing even if only grasses are available on the pasture. However, they can feed better and grow better if there are different species of plants on the pasture. Leguminous plants can also help improve the quality of the pasture.

During the rainy days, keep the goats shut in the barn, well protected from the draft and provided with a clean solid floor. Give them cut grass or hay to eat. If the weather is humid and cold, and especially if there are strong winds, cheap grain feeds, like rice bran, will help maintain body vigor among the animals.

Care of the herd also includes giving them clean water and salt. Place a watering trough in the pen where the goats can drink any time they like. Also, place enough salt in the pen for them to lick whenever they want to.

TABLE 1. List of Common Philippine Feedstuffs for Goat production


Dry Matter %(DM)

Total Digestible Nutrients % (TDN)

Crude Protein %(CP)

Digestible Crude Protein (DCP)
Copra Meal




Corn Gluten, Feed




Corn Grain




Rice Bran (cono)




Rice Bran (Kiskis)




Wheat Pollard




Soybean oil meal




Mollasses, cane




Corn bran





Green Roughages

Napier grass

21 days16.
42 days18.310.81.91.1
84 days19.610.91.00.4
105 days




Para grass (dry season)

28 days




56 days




84 days




Para grass (wet season)

28 days




56 days




84 days




Guinea grass (dry season)

21 days




42 days




84 days




Guinea grass (wet season)

28 days




56 days




133 days





28 days




56 days




133 days




175 days




Tree leaves/Browse Plants






































Source of Ca & P

% Ca

% P
Steamed Bone meal


Dicalcium Phosphate


Oyster Shell Flour




TABLE 2. Feed Requirements

Birth – 3 daysColostrumAd Libitum (3 to 5X feeding)
4 days – 2 weeksWhole milk(goat or cow milk)0.5-1.0 liter/kid divided into 3X feeding
 Vitamin-mineralAd Libitum
 WaterAd Libitum
2 weeks-16 weeksWhole milk or milk replacer0.5-1 liter/kid divided into 2X feeding
 Grass-legume hay or quality fresh foragesAd Libitum
 Vitamin-mineral mixAd Libitum
 WaterAd Libitum
 Starter (22%C.P.)Increasing amount w/o causing digestive upset
4 months – KiddingForage vitamin-mineral mixAd Libitum
 WaterAd Libitum
 Concentrates (18-20% C.P.) 
Dry, pregnant, bucksForage vitamin-mineral mixAd Libitum
 WaterAd Libitum
 Concentrates (16-18 % C.P. ) 
LactatingForage vitamin-mineral mixAd Libitum
 WaterAd Libitum
 Concentrates (16-18 % C.P. )0.3-0.5 kg/liter of milk produced



A. Health Management Practices


Have pens cleaned daily and washed at least three times a week. Disinfect at least twice a month. Accumulated feces and urine provides a good breeding ground for disease-causing microorganisms, provide a lagoon or pit to store waste for at least a month before spreading to the pasture. Use as fertilizer for orchards or vegetable garden.

Train personnel to observe sanitary procedures. Separate pens for diseased animals.

Limit visitors coming into the farm, including other animals. Quarantine newly arrived stock for at least a month before mixing with the main breeding stock.


Aside from pneumonia, parasites rank second in causing heavy mortality. From experience, tapeworms are the most debilitating worm problem in all ages of goats, Protozoa-like coccidia and amoeba are also common problems especially in young kids.

Have your goats checked regularly for specific worm load and deworm regularly depending on worm load and seasonal occurrences. Know what kind of internal parasite is affecting your herd before attempting to use a deworming product, or else it will be a waste of money and effort.

External Parasites

Lice and ticks are common problems. When these are observed, apply acaricide or chemicals against lice and ticks, in powder or dust form. This can be done by mixing the powder-form chemicals with 7 to 10 parts of starch or flour and apply as dusting powder. Refrain from using the liquid or spray form.

B. Common Infectious Diseases of Goats

Bacterial Pneumonia

Mode of Transmission
Direct contact from infected or contaminated udder; navel infection, genital or intra uterine infection of dam, contaminated environment.

* Fever, inability to suckle, nasal discharge, coughing and respiratory distress.
* Gradual emaciation may terminate as pneumonia-enteritis combination. Death common.

* Proper nursing in clean, dry environment necessary. Early cases respond to antibiotic treatment.

Infectious Arthritis

Mode of transmission
* Direct, through mouth, skin, open wounds or via umbilicus

* Swollen knees, lameless, pain if pressure is applied on affected joint. Fever may be present. Joints involved are hock, knee, elbow and stifle. Animal prefers recumbency, appetite affected with gradual deterioration.

Prevention and Control
* Minimize infection by treating wounds (castration and navel) dressing, hygiene management specially in areas of confinement. Treatment includes wide spectrum antibiotics and sulfa drugs.


Mode of transmission
* Direct or indirect

* Hot, painful and swollen udder. May become red due to inflammation later changing to dark reddish-blue indicating necrosis of udder tissue. Milk may be bloodstained, may contain flakes or clots. Fever, loss of appetite, depression and dehydration; gait or movement of doe is affected.

* Treatment: Intramammary infusion of antibiotics. Early and repeated treatment needed to prevent complications such as gangrene and toxemia.
* Prevention: proper treatment of injured teats with antiseptics; disinfecting udders for milking and proper milking technique. Monitor by surveillance to detect early cases for immediate isolation and treatment.

Sore Mouth/ORF/Contagious Ecthyma

* Characterized by papules, pustules, vesicles and scabs on the skin of the face, genitalia and feet, mucosa of the mouth, rumen, nostrils eyelids, gums, tongue, palate and middle ear. Occurs commonly to less than 1 year old sheep/ goat and feedlot lambs 3-7 months of age.

Mode of Transmission
* Contaminated equipment, fences, manure, beddings and feeds.
* Over crowding.
* Contaminated vehicles and workers.
* Infected suckling lambs, contaminated teats and udders of dams.

Prevention / Treatment
* Vaccinate feedlot lambs after entering the fattening facilities
* Vaccinate suckling lambs 1-3 days of age.


Mode of Transmission
* Direct and indirect contact with naturally infected animals, carriers, implements and other infected materials.
* Blister fluid, saliva and other bodily discharges highly infective.

* Fever vesicles, erosion in between hooves, cononary band (junction between skin and hoof), teats and udders oral mucosa and tongue.
* Raw ulceration follow rupture of vesicles, stingy or foamy salivation, smocking of the lips, difficulty in feed ingestion; staggering gait and lameness. Abortion in pregnant animals.

* Immediate notification of the authorities.
* Designation of quarantine areas and restricted movement of animals; disinfecting areas with virucidal agents (commercial disinfectant or lye caustic soda).
* Animal should be kept on dry ground and lesions treated with mild antiseptic (5% formalin).
* Mass immunization and effective restriction in movement of animals and carriers is necessary.


Mode of Transmission
* Ingestion of contaminated feed and water. Aborted fetus, Fatal membrance, placenta, urine and uterine discharge are main sources of infection.
* Infected males may transfer disease through natural/artificial breeding.

* Infertility, abortion, retained placenta, persistent vaginal discharge. In males, swollen and painful testicles with subsequent infertility/sterility.

* Blood tests and removal of infected animals.
* Vaccination may be tried.
* Antibiotic medication is found to be impractical.

Hemorrhagic Septicemia

Mode of Transmission
* Ingestion or inhalation of infective agent. May be normally present in the nasopharyngeal area but predisposition causes flare-up of infection.

* High fever, loss of appetite
* Respiratory distress, salivation, nasal discharge swelling of the throat and brisket congestion of mucous membrane, diarrhea becoming bloody later.

* Prophylactic vaccination.
* Removal of predisposition when possible.
* Early treatment with parenteral antibiotics and sulfa drugs.


Mode of Transmission
* Direct ingestion of infected material, biting flies.
* Indirect, through contact with materials and carriers.

* Sudden onset of fever, depression and loss of appetite.
* Swelling of chest, head, belly and legs, bloody diarrhea.
* Death common in early stages. Colic, abortion in pregnant animals, blood stained discharges, convulsions.

* Dead animals should be cremated or buried deeply under a layer of lime.
* Antibiotic treatments is only effective in early and less acute cases.


Mode of Transmission
* Infection initiated by trauma of the body and oral mucosa. Cases in larger ruminant maybe source of infection in the area.

* Sudden deaths in acute cases.
* Less acute: depression, fever, rapid respiration and suspended ruminatism.
* Typically, not painful swelling in thigh and leg muscles.
* Crackling sensation of palpation of swelling due to gas in tissues.
* Lameless in affected limb.

* Vaccination
* Cremation of carcasses.
* Early isolation and treatment with massive doses of antibiotics.


Mode of Transmission
* Direct infection due to introduction of organism in wounds.
* Castration, old ulcerating wounds, dehorning complications. Not contagious to other animals.

* Early stages characterized by rigidity and stiffness of muscles, stilthy gait.
* Late stages: with tetanic convulsions, prolapse of third eyelid, stiff tail, head and neck thrown back; hyper-excitability.
* Bloat and other nervous signs.

* Treat wound with oxidizing antiseptic (hydrogenperoxide) until completely healed; use clean instrument castration, dehorning.

Parasitic Gastroenteritis

Mode of Transmission
* Commonly through direct infection with parasitic larval stages through herbages, less commonly through skin penetration and intrauterine infection in some species.

* Poor body condition anemia, diarrhea,potbelly and weakness.
* Regular deworming with effective anthelmintics (tetramisole, parbendazole, thiabendazole, pyrantil, etc.)
* Pasture rotation and improve feeding practices.

Parasitic Pneumonia

Mode of Transmission
* Infection with the parasite in the larval stage through herbage.

* As in parasitic gastro-enteritis for general signs.
* Specific symptoms include persistent husky coughing, respiratory distress.

* Regular deworming with tetramisole, albendazole or oxfendazole.
* General prevention as parasitic gastroenteritis.

Tapeworm Infection

Mode of Transmission
* Through ingestion of plant mites which are intermediate hosts.

* Same as other internal parasitism, passage of tapeworm segments in the feces.

* Regular deworming (albendazole, niclosanide, lead arsenate, oxfendazole )

Liverfluke Disease

Characterized by unthriftiness, loss of weight, anemia and edema.


Four species of trematodes:
• Fasciola hepatica
• Fasciola gigantica
• Fascioloides magna
• Dicrocoelium dendriticum

Clinical Signs

Post Mortem Lesions
* Affected animals isolate from the flock
* Decline the feeds
* Distended abdomen is painful upon manipulation
* Lose weight and become unthrifty, anaemic and edematous in the lips and intermandilubar tissues
* Ascites may form
* The wool loses its flexibility and tensile strength

Two Clinical Forms of the disease
* Acute form – traumatic invasion of liver parenchyma by immature flukes.
* Chromic form – billiary fibrosis resulting from prolonged residence of adult flukes.

Prevention and Treatment
* Control of fluke infestations
* Prevent the animals from grazing on infected pastures
* Use flukicide/anthelmintics in treatment

Lice Infestation

Mode of transmission
Direct contact with infested animals or indirectly through environment or facilities.

Constant scratching and rubbing to relieve itching and irritation. Scurfy coat (dandruff) and encrustation of exudate with scabby deposit. Loss of hair, raw skin and bruises in severe infestations. Animals become unthrifty, poor thriving, weak and anemic.

Use insecticide (Asuntol, Ciodrin, Diazinon, Neguvon, Supona, nankor, etc.). In dust from or solution repeat treatment in 10-14 days to kill all nymps which hatch out. Also spray pens and litter. Isolate treated from untreated animals.


Mode of Transmission
Direct and indirect contact with infected animals.

Marked itchiness and irritation with animals constantly rubbing or licking affected areas. Maybe patchy or generalized, skin becomes hairless, thickened or scabby.

* Periodic examination to detect early cases.
* Regular spraying with effective acaricides such as Malathion, Trichlofon,Fenthion, Diazinon, Crotoxyphos or Coumaphos. Interval of treatment should be 7-10 days with 2-3 applications to destroy mites that have hatched after each treatment.


Retention of gas in the rumen, characterized by increased intra-abdominal and intra-thorasic pressure caused by interactions of plants, animals and microbial factors.

1. distention of the abdomen
2. animals become uneasy
3. may alternate between standing and reclining positions.
4. breathing becomes difficult, rapid and shallow
5. ruminal movement are prominent

Kinds of Bloat

1. Green legume bloat – results from eating fresh chopped green grasses.
2. Hay legume bloat – results from feeding whole, chopped, ground or pelleted grasses which is conducive to bloat.
3. Free-gas bloat – result from inability of the animal to eructate usually associated with systemic disease or due to foreign bodies and abscesses, inflammatory swelling, enlarged thoracic nodes, and also dysfunction such as atrophy of the muscles that interfere with escape of gases and favor its accumulation.
4. Grain concentrate bloat – results from feeding bloat producing concentrate such as corn, soybean meal and barley.

Prevention and Treatment

1. Good Management and medicinal regiment in feeding
2. Avoid grinding the hay and other components too finely.
3. Stomach tube should be passed into the dorsal part of the rumen to remove any free gas.
4. Administer 0.5 to 1.0 liters of mineral oil or vegetable oil.

Acute Indigestion or grain Overload

Mode of Transmission

Signs appear from 10-36 hours after dietary changes. Depression, loss of appetite, abdominal distention causing pain and discomfort. Diarrhea develops. Rapid respiration and pulse, incoordination, weakness, coma, and death.

Avoid sudden dietary changes. Treatment generally unsatisfactory. Early cases may respond to high antibiotic levels given orally to reduce population of acid-forming bacteria, (Acidosis) indigestion maybe treated with anti-acids like baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), magnesium carbonate or magnesium hydroxide given orally in warm water ( 1 gm/kg body weight) to neutralize rumen acidity. Systematic acidosis requires intravenous injection of acid neutralized like 5 % sodium bicarbonate repeatedly given.


A. Backyard Operation


1. Goat house
2. Purchase of breeding stock

Operating Expenses

Veterinary medicines, vaccines, additional feed supplements besides the usual goat concentrates.

B. Commercial/large-scale operation

1. Fixed Investment
a. Goat house
b. Water pump
c. Feeding trough
d. Spade
e. Wheel barrow
f. Pasture grass species
g. Ropes
h. Fences
i. land

2. Purchase of Stocks
a. Breeding Does
b. Breeding Bucks

3. Operating Expenses
a. Veterinary medicine, drugs vaccines, feed supplements and goat rations.
b. Labor, Fixed or seasonal
c. Repair & maintenance of building and pasture


Department of Agriculture – Philippines

Topics: Farming Methods, Livestock | 26 Comments »

Growing and Raising Rabbits

By pinoyfarmer | September 20, 2007


Rationale and Present Status

Rabbits are fun to raise. You may have different reasons for raising them – enjoyment, education, business, show, laboratory, meat, fur, and the bi-products they produce, such as fertilizer and fishing worms.

Don’t expect to make a profitable business raising rabbits. Only a small minority of those who raise rabbits are capable of making a living out of it. Consider it, rather, an enjoyable hobby that can help pay for itself. Raising rabbits gets in your blood. Once you’ve had some good rabbits, you want to keep them around. However, raising too many and didn’t have enough markets is too costly.

Sad to say but rabbit raising in the Philippines is concentrated only to those people bent on utilizing abandoned chicken houses and converting them into rabbit hutches. This is the present situation in parts of Batangas and Cavite where chickens have gone rabbits may be better.

Of all mammals raised for meat, the rabbit has the highest reproduction rate. Because the female does not have any fixed estrous cycle, ovulation is rather induced, making it possible for rabbits to be bred anytime and have four or five litters a year.

With the soaring prices of beef, pork and poultry meat, more people, especially in the areas where meat is scarce, will turn to rabbit as a cheap source of animal protein – high in nutrients and low in cholesterol. When cooked rabbit meat is indistinguishable from chicken meat, hence, it is also called white meat.

Compared with poultry and other farm animals. Little research has been carried out on rabbits, although methods of production have undergone considerable change during the last few years, there is still much to learn.

Selection of Breeds

On the first thing that the prospective rabbit breeder must decide on is the breed or breeds in which to concentrate, The main characters influencing the choice should include prolificacy, growth rate, feed conversion, and yield of meat.

Rabbit breeds in greatest use for meat production are the New Zealand White and the California. Both these breeds are white fleshed and strains bred for meat are rapid growing, good feed converters and have a high ratio of meat to bone.

Nevertheless, females of breeds like the Belgian Hare, Flemish Giant, Giganta and Beveren can be crossed with heavy white bucks to produce meat rabbits.

Age of Stock at Purchase

Potential breeding stock can be bought from eight weeks of age up to maturity and does can be purchased already mated. Preferably stock should be purchased at about 12 weeks of age so that it may become accustomed to changes in diet, etc. before being expected to reproduce.

Housing and Equipment

For beginning raisers, use wire mesh for cage floors, bamboo or wood for sides and frames. Provide nylon curtains or empty feed sacks in front and back of cage to protect rabbits from rain and strong wind. Roll up curtain during daytime when there is no rain.

The type of hutch floor used by a breeder should be ascertained. Many strains of rabbits housed on solid floors do not take kindly to wire floors. Does developing sore hocks on wire floors may, because of being stressed, abort or drop their young over the wire rather than in the nest box.

As the rabbit grows and multiply, increase their living quarters. One buck and 6 does are sufficient to keep for breeding to produce food and sell to neighbors. For city residents one or two pairs will do.

Nest boxes are necessary, particularly for rabbits in wire floored cages. A simple box with the top and one side open is adequate, though the open side should have a retaining board 15 cm from the floor to prevent the young leaving the next prematurely. Boxes 40 cm long x 30 cm wide x 30 cm hi8gh are suitable for large breeds, but giants need something slightly larger.

Drinking equipment should be easy to clean and simple to operate. Dog bowls to supply water may be used by small producers. These bowls with a wide base are not easily tipped over and be place inside the cage.

Feeding equipment. Feed hoppers fixed to the outside of the cage with the trough projecting into it is use in large units. On small units where met mash is fed, glazed earthenware pots are commonly used to hold feed water.


A small breed doe is normally ready to mate when she is 5 months old, and a buck is ready at 6 months. The medium size doe is ready to breed when she is 6 months old and the buck at 7 months. The heavy breed doe is ready at 8 months and the buck is ready at 9 months.
It’s usually a good idea to select rabbits to breed whose ancestry has evidence of good productivity and good genetics. That’s where productivity records and pedigrees listing show winnings come in handy. Keep productivity and show records of your herd just for this purpose.
You may keep a ratio of one buck to 10 does if you wish. The buck may be bred up to 7 times a week effectively. Sometimes, you can use the buck twice in one day. The most I use a buck is twice a week.

When a doe is in heat, take it to the buck, never the reverse. At the start the buck will refuse to mate with the doe. Withdraw the doe and return it to the bucks cage 3 0r 4 hours later. Ten days after the first mating, the doe should be palpated for pregnancy.

The doe gestates for 29 to 32 days. Three or fours days before giving birth, it prepares its nest, sheds some of its fur for lining the nests. Upon noticing this, the raiser should clean and disinfect the animal’s cage and put clean straw beddings. The other rabbit will make her own nest.

Pregnancy can be diagnosed from 14 days onwards by “palpation technique”. [by gently moving the thumb and finger, embryos can be felt between the hind legs and in front of the pelvis].

Separate the pregnant doe and observe it closely to be able to assist it when it gives birth.

Feeds and Feeding

Feed rabbits with vegetables, corn, sorghum and rice. Subsisting on cabbage trimmings, kale and crops and cruciferous vegetables, rabbit can be more vigorous and healthier.

An adult animals need 115 to a70 gms of concentrate feed or chicken mash or grains daily. Commercial feed for poultry and swine are also good for rabbits. Pellet feed for rabbit is now available in many feed stores.

Always provide drinking water and salt. Provide gestating and lactating does with vitamins and minerals supplements, and more feed than bucks and dry does. This will ensure that does and their young healthy and resistant to disease.

Common Rabbit Diseases and Ailments

1. Coccidiosis

a] Intestinal coocidiosis – the most acute form of disease which damages the bowel wall.
b] Hepatic coocidiosis – a more chronic disease which attacks the liver and badly affected the young ones.

2. Enteritis - a form of disease in which large quantities of tenacious mucos are present in the bowel, and particularly common in young rabbit.

3. Respiratory diseases – disease of nasal cavities [snuffles] and the lungs [pneumonia] often occurs in rabbittries when environmental conditions are poor.

4. Disease of the ears and skin – Ear mange [canker] is a disease that can be easily and effectively treated if it is detected in the early stages. Affected rabbits have crusty reddish brown scales in the ear cavities and on the skin of the ears. Skin mange is due to presence of other species of mites which burrow in the skin and cause intense irritation. Generally, it occurs on the head and shows its presence by the appearance of yellow scabs on the nose, lips and face.

5. Sore hocks – the disease is due to bacterial infections, and this is common to suckling does. The mammary glands of the affected animal become hard and reddish blue in appearance.

6. Mastitis – the disease is due to bacterial infections, and this is common to suckling does. The mammary glands of the affected animal become hard and reddish blue in appearance.

7. Myxomatosis – this is common in wild rabbit and the affected one develops a discharge from the eyes and the eyelids swell and become denuded of hair.

8. Pseudotuberculosis – this is a bacterial disease frequently carried by rats and mice. Symptoms are very variable. It may caused by the contamination of food by affected vermin, by introducing a carrier animal or by the use of secondhand infected equipment.

These notes on some of the common diseases of rabbits provided examples of the interaction of poor managers and disease. To control an outbreak of disease and prevent further occurrence it is necessary to establish a correct diagnosis.


Department of Agriculture – Philippines

Commercial Rabbit Production
Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, London, 1985

Rabbit Raising Brochures
Dr. Vito F. del Fierro, Jr., Deputy Exec. Director, LDC

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Topics: Farming Methods, Livestock | 19 Comments »

Water Buffalo (Carabao): New Prospects for an Underutilized Animal – Part 1 of 3

By pinoyfarmer | August 12, 2007


The water buffalo is an animal resource whose potential seems to have been barely recognized or examined outside of Asia. Throughout the world there are proponents and enthusiasts for the various breeds of cattle; the water buffalo, however, is not a cow and it has been neglected. Nevertheless, this symbol of Asian life and endurance has performed notably well in recent trials in such diverse places as the United States, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Trinidad, Costa Rica, Venezuela, and Brazil. In Italy and Egypt as well as Bulgaria and other Balkan states the water buffalo has been an important part of animal husbandry for centuries. In each of these places certain herds of water buffalo appear to have equaled or surpassed the local cattle in growth, environmental tolerance, health, and the production of meat and calves.

Although these are empirical observations lacking painstaking, detailed experimentation, they do seem to indicate that the water buffalo could become an important resource in tropical, subtropical, and warm temperate zones in developing and developed countries.

If this is the case, then it is clear that many countries should begin water buffalo research. Serious attention by scientists could help dispel the misperceptions and uncertainties surrounding the animal and encourage its true qualities to emerge.

This report describes the water buffalo’s attributes as perceived by several animal scientists. It is designed to present the apparent strengths of buffaloes compared with those of cattle, to introduce researchers and administrators to the animal’s potential, and to identify priorities for buffalo research and testing.

The panel that produced this report met at Gainesville, Florida, in July 1979. It was composed of leading water buffalo experts (particularly those from outside Asia who have directed the beginnings of water buffalo industries in their countries) and leading American animal scientists, many of whom are also familiar with the animal.

This report complements The Husbandry and Health of the Domestic Buffalo, edited by W. Ross Cockrill and published in 1974 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Cockrill’s 933-page book is a “bible” of water buffalo knowledge and provides details of breeds, world distribution, physiology, and an extensive bibliography.

The present report is an introduction to the water buffalo and its potential. It is written particularly for decision makers, as well as scholars or students, in the hope that it will stimulate their interest in the animal and thereby increase the appreciation of, and funding for, buffalo research. The report includes much empirical observation, largely from the panel members. Some of these observations may, in the long run, prove not to be universally applicable. Much benchmark information needs to be obtained.

Since its creation in 1971, the Advisory Committee on Technology Innovation (ACTI) has investigated innovative ways to use current technology and resources to help developing countries. Often this has meant taking a fresh look at some neglected and unappreciated plant or animal species. The committee assembles ad hoc panels of experts (usually incorporating both skeptics and proponents) to scrutinize the topics selected. The panel reports serve to draw attention to neglected, but promising, technologies and resources. (For a list of ACTI reports, see page 115.) ACTI reports are provided free to developing countries under funding by the Agency for International Development (AID).

Program costs for this study were provided by AID’S Office of Agriculture, Development Support Bureau, and staff support was provided by the Office of Science and Technology, Development Support Bureau.


The domesticated water buffalo Bubalus bubalis numbers at least 130 million-one-ninth the number of cattle in the world. It is estimated that between 1961 and 1981 the world’s buffalo population increased by 11 percent, keeping pace with the percentage increase in the cattle population.

Although there are some pedigreed water buffaloes, most are nondescript animals that have not been selected or bred for productivity. There are two general types-the Swamp buffalo and the River buffalo.

Swamp buffaloes are slate gray, droopy necked, and ox-like, with massive backswept horns that make them favorite subjects for postcards and wooden statuettes in the Far East. They are found from the Philippines to as far west as India. They wallow in any water or mud puddle they can find or make. Primarily employed as a work animal, the Swamp buffalo is also used for meat but almost never for milk production.

River buffaloes are found farther west, from India to Egypt and Europe. Usually black or dark gray, with tightly coiled or drooping straight horns, they prefer to wallow in clean water. River buffaloes produce much more milk than Swamp buffaloes. They are the dairy type of water buffalo. In India, River buffaloes play an important role in the rural economy as suppliers of milk and draft power. River buffaloes make up about 35 percent of India’s milk animals (other than goats) but produce almost 70 percent of its milk. Buffalo butterfat is the major source of cooking oil (ghee) in some Asian countries, including India and Pakistan.

Although water buffaloes are bovine creatures that somewhat resemble cattle, they are genetically further removed from cattle than are the North American bison (improperly called buffalo) whose massive forequarters, shaggy mane, and small hindquarters are unlike those of cattle. While bison can be bred with cattle to produce hybrids,( This is not, however, very successful, the male progeny (at least of the F 1 generation) are sterile).there is no well-documented case of a mating between water buffalo and cattle that has produced progeny.

Parts of Asia and even Europe have depended on water buffaloes for centuries. Their crescent horns, coarse skin, wide muzzles, and low-carried heads are represented on seals struck 5,000 years ago in the Indus Valley, suggesting that the animal had already been domesticated in the area that is now India and Pakistan. Although buffaloes were in use in China 4,000 years ago, they are not mentioned in the literature or seen in the art of the ancient Egyptians, Romans, or Greeks, to whom they were apparently unknown. It was not until about 600 A.D. that Arabs brought the animal from Mesopotamia and began moving it westward into the Near East (modern Syria, Israel, and Turkey). Water buffaloes were later introduced to Europe by pilgrims and crusaders returning from the Holy Land in the Middle Ages. In Italy buffaloes adapted to the area of the Pontine Marshes southeast of Rome and the area south of Naples. They also became established in Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia, Greece, and Bulgaria and have remained there ever since.

Villagers in medieval Egypt adopted the water buffalo, which has since become the most important domestic animal in modern Egypt. Indeed, during the last 50 years, their buffalo population has doubled to over 2 million head. The animals now supply Egypt with more meat-much of it in the form of tender “veal”-than any other domestic animal. They also provide milk, cooking oil, and cheese.

Other areas have capitalized on the water buffalo’s promise only in very recent times. For instance, small lots of the animals brought to Brazil (from Italy, India, and elsewhere) during the last 84 years have reproduced so well that they now total about 400,000 head and are still increasing, especially in the lower Amazon region. Buffalo meat and milk are now sold widely in Amazon towns and villages; the meat sells for the same price as beef. Nearby countries have also become familiar with the water buffalo. Trinidad imported several breeds from India between 1905 and 1908, while Venezuela, Colombia, and Guyana have been importing them in recent decades. During the 1970s Costa Rica, Ecuador, Cayenne, Panama, Suriname, and Guyana introduced small herds. By 1979 the buffalo in Venezuela numbered more than 7,000 head.

Across the Pacific, the new nation of Papua New Guinea has found the water buffalo well suited to its difficult environment. For 9 years the government has attempted to run cattle on the Sepik and Ramu Plains on Papua New Guinea’s north coast, where the temperatures are high and the forage of poor quality. But the cattle remain thin and underweight. In the 1960s animal scientists began evaluating water buffaloes already living in Papua New Guinea and, encouraged by the results, introduced additional buffaloes from Australia. These have performed remarkably well, producing greater numbers of calves and much more meat than the cattle in the region. The buffaloes appear to maintain appetite despite the heat and humidity, whereas cattle do not. The government of Papua New Guinea has since imported more water buffaloes and today has thriving herds totaling almost 3,500 head.

The United States has been slow to recognize the water buffalo’s potential, but the first herd (50 head) ever imported for commercial farming arrived in February 1978.(Air-freighted from the wilds of Guam, the U.S. island possession on the western Pacific, by panel member Tony Leonards. Prior to that time (in 1974), four head of water buffalo were imported to the Department of Animal science’ university of Florida, for study. The only other water buffaloes in North America were a few animals in zoos.) The humble water buffalo, normally considered fit only for the steamy rice fields of Asia, is now proving itself on farm fields in Florida and Louisiana. As a result, interest in the animal is on the rise in U.S. university and farm circles.

From experience accumulated in Asia, Egypt, South America, Papua New Guinea, Australia, the United States, and elsewhere, animal scientists now perceive that many general impressions about the water buffalo are incorrect.

For example, it is widely believed that the water buffalo is mean and vicious. Encyclopedias reinforce this perception, and in the Western world it is the prevalent impression of the animal. The truth is, however, that unless wounded or severely stressed, the domesticated water buffalo is one of the gentlest of all farm animals. Despite an intimidating appearance, it is more like a household pet-sociable, gentle, and serene. In rural Asia the care of water buffaloes is often fumed over to small boys and girls aged about four to nine. The children spend their days with their family’s gentle buffalo, riding it to water, washing it down, waiting while it rolls and wallows, and then riding it to some source of forage, perhaps a grassy field or thicket. It is not uncommon to see a buffalo patiently feeding, with a young friend stretched prone on its broad gray back, asleep.

Perhaps the notion about the viciousness of water buffaloes stems from confusing them with the mean-tempered African buffalo Syncerus caffer, actually a distant relative with which they will not interbreed and which is classified in a different genus.

Ferocity is the most blatant misconception concerning the water buffalo, although other fallacies are widely reported as well.

One generally held belief is that water buffaloes can be raised only near water. Actually, buffaloes love to wallow, but they grow and reproduce normally without it, although in hot climates they must have shade available.

Another belief is that the water buffalo is exclusively a tropical animal. River-type buffaloes, however, have been used to pull snow plows during Bulgarian winters. They are found in Italy (over 100,000 head), Albania, Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey, the Georgia and Azerbaijan areas of the Soviet Union (almost 500,000 head) and other temperate-zone regions as well. They are also found in cold, mountainous areas of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nepal.

World Distribution of Water Buffaloes

Yet another misconception is that the water buffalo is just a poor man’s beast of burden. In addition to providing fine lean meat, buffaloes in fact provide rich milk. Mozzarella cheese, one of the most popular in Europe, comes from the buffaloes in Italy. Buffalo milk has a higher content of both butterfat and nonfat solids than cow’s milk does. It therefore often brings higher prices than cow’s milk. Throughout much of India it is in such demand that cow’s milk is sometimes hard to sell.

Many of the misconceptions generally held about buffaloes are based on little data and much prejudice. For instance, it is widely believed that water buffalo meat is tough and less desirable than beef. However, when the animals are raised for meat, buffalo steaks are lean, as tender as beef, and in appearance it is difficult to distinguish the two. In taste-preference tests at the University of Queensland, buffalo steaks were preferred over those from Angus and Hereford cattle. Tests conducted in Trinidad, Venezuela, the United States, and Malaysia produced similar results.

Australia has shipped water buffalo meat to Hong Kong, the United States, Germany, and Scandinavia. Buffalo meat is now available in stores in Australia’s Northern Territory, where demand exceeds supply. It sells at competitive prices and is particularly sought for barbecues and the famous Australian meat pie. In the Philippines, two-thirds of the meat consumed in homes and restaurants is actually water buffalo, a fact that many Filipinos do not realize.

Compared with cattle, waterbuffaloes apparently have an efficient digestive system, one which extracts nourishment from forage so coarse and poor that cattle do not thrive on it. Thin cattle are commonly seen in Asia and northern Australia, for example, but it’s rare to see a protruding rib on a buffalo, even though it uses the same source of feed.

In Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, water buffaloes live on coarse vegetation on the marginal land traditionally left to the peasants. They help make human survival possible. An old Chinese woman in Taiwan once told panelist W. Ross Cockrill: “To my family the buffalo is more important than I am. When I die, they’ll weep for me; but if our buffalo dies, they may starve.”

A better understanding of the water buffalo could be invaluable to many developing nations. In particular, improved production of water buffalo meat offers hope for helping feed India, the second most populous nation on earth. Although India for religious reasons forbids the slaughter of cows, it has no prohibitions regarding slaughter of water buffaloes or the consumption of buffalo meat.

Most developing countries are in the tropics, and the water buffalo is inherently a tropical animal. It is comfortable in hot, humid environments. In the Amazon, for example, buffaloes are now common on the landscape and may even replace cattle completely.

Tropical countries have more serious disease problems than temperate countries do. Although susceptible to most cattle diseases, the water buffalo seems to resist ticks and often appears to be more resistant to some of the most devastating plagues that make cattle raising risky, difficult, and sometimes impossible in the tropics. Several researchers report that when water buffaloes are allowed to wallow, their mud-coated skin seems to deter insect and tick ectoparasites and they consequently require greatly reduced treatment with insecticides. Although the buffalo fly (Siphona exigua) affects the animals, other pests such as the warble fly and the screwworm, for example, seldom affect healthy buffaloes. Also, despite their inclination for living in swamps, Avers, and ponds, diseases of the feet such as foot rot and foot abscesses are rare.

Another benefit to developing countries is the water buffalo’s legendary strength. A large part of the total farm power available in South China, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, the Indochina states, India, and Pakistan comes from this “living tractor.” Dependable and docile, the animals pull plows, harrows, and carts with loads that weigh several tons. In the Amazon buffalo teams pull boats laden with cargo and tourists through shallows and swamps.

The petroleum crisis has forced many farmers to reconsider animal power even in some of the technically advanced countries. Buffaloes are not only extraordinarily strong, they can also work in deep mud that may bog down a tractor. Even up to their bellies they forge on, dragging both plow and driver through the mud. Although its average walking speed is only about 3 kilometers per hour, the buffalo, unlike its mechanical competition, doesn’t need gasoline or spare parts and its working life is often 20 years or more.


As already noted, the major genetic divisions of the water buffalo are the Swamp buffalo of the eastern half of Asia, which has swept-back horns, and the River buffalo of the western half of Asia, which usually has curled horns. There is also the Mediterranean buffalo, which is of the River type but has been isolated for so long that it has developed some unique characteristics. (Records of the buffalo in Italy date back 1,000 years, during which there have been no reported imports.) Mediterranean buffaloes are stocky, high yielding animals that combine both beef and dairy characteristics.

Although there is only one breed of Swamp buffalo, certain subgroups seem to have specific inherited characteristics. For example, the buffaloes of Thailand are noted for their large size, averaging 450-550 kg, and weights of up to 1,000 kg have been observed. Elsewhere, Swamp buffaloes range from 250 kg for some small animals in China to 300 kg in Burma and 500-600 kg in Laos.

Only in India and Pakistan are there well-defined breeds with standard qualities. There are eighteen River buffalo breeds in South Asia, which are further classified into five major groups designated as the Murrah, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Central Indian, and South Indian breeds. These are the five groups and main breeds:

MurrahMurrah, Nili/Ravi, Kundi
GujaratSurti, Mehsana, Jafarabadi
Uttar PradeshBhadawari, Tarai
Central IndianNagpuri, Pandharpun, Manda, Jerangi, Kalahandi, Sambalpur
South IndianToda, South Kanara

The best-known breeds are Murrah, Nili/Ravl, Jafarabadi, Surti, Mehsana, and Nagpuri. Most of the buffaloes of the Indian subcontinent belong to a nondescript group known as the Desi buffalo. There is no controlled breeding among these animals and most are quite small, yield little milk, and are variable in color.


The Swamp buffalo has 48 chromosomes, the River buffalo, 50. The chromosomal material is, however, similar in the two types and they crossbreed to produce fertile hybrid progeny. Cattle, however, have 60 chromosomes and although mating between cattle and buffaloes is common, hybrids from the union are unlikely to occur.( In 1965 a reputed hybrid was born at Askaniya Nova Zoopark in the Soviet Union (see Gray, A., 1971. Mammalian Hybrids, Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux, Slough, England, p. 126). Hybrids have also been reported from China (Van Fu-Czao 1959, Gibridy buivolc i krupnogo i rogatogo skota(buffalo and cattlehybrids)Zhivotnovodstro, Mosk., 21:92). Both of these reports seem doubtful because despite many attempts, no other hybrids have ever been claimed to have been produced).

Individual buffaloes show large variation in milk yield, conformation, horn shape, color, meat production, temperament, growth rate, and other characteristics. Selection for survival under adverse conditions has occurred naturally (those that could not stand adversity died early) and farmers have probably tended to select animals of gentle temperament. But systematic genetic improvement has almost never been attempted. It seems likely that further selection could quickly improve their productivity.

Unfortunately, the large bulls that would be best for breeding purposes are often being selected as draft animals and castrated, or sent to slaughter, or (as with some feral animals in northern Australia and on the Amazon island of Marajo) shot by hunters. The result is that the buffalo’s overall size in countries such as Thailand and Indonesia has been decreasing as the genes for large size and fast growth are lost.


The buffalo is still largely an animal of the village, and many of its reported limitations are caused more by its environment than by the animal itself. Moreover, much of the animal’s genetic potential is obscured by environmental influences. For example, for many breeds and types the genetic variations in milk yield and growth cannot be accurately determined because they are overwhelmed by the effects of inadequate nutrition and management.

Nevertheless, some inherent limitations of buffaloes can be identified. For instance, buffaloes suffer if forced to remain, even for a few hours, in direct sunlight. They have only one-tenth the density of sweat glands of cattle and their coating of hair is correspondingly sparse, providing little protection from the sun. Accordingly, buffaloes must not be driven over long distances in the heat of the day. They must be allowed time for watering and, if possible, for wallowing. Driving under a hot sun for long hours will cause heat exhaustion and possibly death; losses can be very high and can occur suddenly. Young calves are particularly affected by heat.

Buffaloes are also sensitive to extreme cold and seem less able than cattle to adapt to truly cold climates(A rule of thumb is that buffaloes don’t do well where the sun is inadequate to ripen, say, cotton, grapes, or Ace. Kaleff, B., 1942. Der Hausbuffel und seine Zuchtungsbiologie im Vergleich zum Rind. Zeitschsift Tierzucht Biologze, 51:131-178). Sudden drops in temperature and chill winds may lead to pneumonia and death.

The water buffalo is usually found m areas where there is ready access to a wallow or shower. This is not a necessity, but when temperatures are high the availability of water is important for maintaining buffalo health and productivity. It seems clear, then, that the buffalo is not suitable for arid lands.

Increasing buffalo productivity through breed improvement is just now beginning. Throughout Asia buffalo mating is almost completely haphazard, and so the animal lacks the quality improvement through breeding that most cattle have had. Therefore, most buffaloes are of nondescript heritage and genetic potential.

On poor quality feed water buffalo grow at least as well as cattle, but under intensive conditions they probably won’t grow as fast as the best breeds of cattle. In feedlots, therefore, the buffalo is likely to be less productive than improved cattle. Weight gains of about 1 kg per day have been recorded, some exceptional cattle may gain at almost twice that rate.

The buffalo has long been considered a poor breeder-slow to mature sexually, and slow to rebreed after calving. Accumulated experience now shows, however, that this is mainly a result of poor management and nutrition. Buffaloes are not sluggish breeders. Nevertheless, their gestation period is about a month longer than that of cows, buffalo estrus is difficult to detect, and many matings occur at night so that farmers are likely to encounter more problems breeding buffaloes than cattle.

Buffaloes are gentle creatures, but if roughly or inexpertly handled they can, through fear or pain, become completely unmanageable. Buffalo behavior sometimes differs from that of cattle. For example, most buffaloes are not trained to be driven. Instead, the herdsman must walk alongside or ahead of them; they then instinctively follow. Also, because of their innate attachment to an individual site or herd it is more difficult to move buffaloes to new locations or herds. In addition, buffaloes respect fences less than cattle do and when they have the desire to move they are harder to contain. (Electric fences, however, will stop them.)

Despite their general good health, buffaloes are probably as susceptible as cattle to most infections. However, the buffalo seems to be peculiarly sensitive to a few cattle diseases and resistant to a few others (see chapter 7). Reactions to some diseases seem to vary with region, environment, and breed, and the differences are not well understood.

Destruction of the environment is sometimes attributed to buffalo wallowing. This danger seems to have been overstated, except in cases where stocking rates were unreasonably high.(An ongoing study in Northern Australia of environmental degradation widely attributed to buffalo has now shown that the effects are caused by man and climatic changes and only very slightly by buffaloes. (information supplied by D. G. Tulloch.) ) However, buffaloes rub against trees more often than cattle do, and they sometimes de-bark the trees, causing them to die.

Unfortunately, some of the best genetic stocks of water buffaloes exist in areas where certain infections and viral and other diseases sometimes occur. Thus, many countries are reluctant to permit importation of water buffaloes, despite the fact that modern quarantine procedures under conditions of maximum security can essentially eliminate the risk.

Finally, it must be emphasized that because buffalo research has been largely neglected, most results reported in this and other buffalo writings cover small numbers of animals and short periods of time. Many are merely empirical observations that have not been subjected to independent confirmation.


The water buffalo offers promise as a major source of meat, and the production of buffaloes solely for meat is now expanding.

Because buffaloes have been used as draft animals for centuries, they have evolved with exceptional muscular development, some weigh 1,000 kg or more. Until recently, however, little thought was given to using them exclusively for meat production. Most buffalo meat was, and still is, derived from old animals slaughtered at the end of their productive life as work or milk animals. As a result, much of the buffalo meat sold is of poor quality. But when buffaloes are properly reared and fed, their meat is tender and palatable.

Water buffaloes are exported for slaughter from India and Pakistan to the Middle East and from Thailand and Australia to Hong Kong. Demand for meat is so great that Thailand’s buffalo population has dropped from 7 million to 5.7 million head in the last 20 years, a period in which the human population has more than doubled.

Carcass Characteristics

All buffalo breeds-even the milking ones-produce heavy animals whose carcass characteristics are similar to those of cattle.

Despite heavier hide and head, the amount of useful meat (dressing percentage) from buffaloes is almost the same as in cattle. Mediterranean type buffalo and Zebu cattle steers in Brazil yielded dressing percentages of 55.5 and 56.6 percent respectively. Swamp buffalo dressing percentages have been measured in Australia at 53 percent.

Buffaloes are lean animals. Although a layer of subcutaneous fat covers the carcass, it is usually thinner than that on comparably fed cattle. Even animals that appear to be fat prove to be largely muscle. Australian research on Swamp buffaloes reveals that buffaloes with more than 25 percent fat are difficult to produce, whereas average choice-grade beef carcasses may contain

In general, the buffalo carcass has rounder ribs, a higher proportion of muscle, and a lower proportion of bone and fat than beef has.

Buffalo hide is so thick that it can be sliced into two or three layers before tanning into leather.

Meat Quality

Buffalo meat and beef are basically similar. The muscle pH (5.4), shrinkage on chilling (2 percent), moisture (76.6 percent), protein (19 percent), and ash (1 percent) are all about the same in buffalo meat and beef. Buffalo fat, however, is always white and buffalo meat is darker in color than beef because of more pigmentation or less intramuscular fat (2-3 percent “marbling,” compared with the 3-4 percent in beef).

Eating Quality

Taste-panel tests and tenderness measurements conducted by research teams in a number of countries have shown that the meat of the water buffalo is as acceptable as that of cattle. Buffalo steaks have rated higher than beefsteaks in some taste tests in Australia, Malaysia, Venezuela, and Trinidad.

In taste-panel studies in Trinidad, cooked joints from three carcasses Trinidad buffalo, a crossbred steer (Jamaica-Red/Sahiwal), and an imported carcass of a top-grade European beef steer-were served. The 28 diners all had experience in beef production, butchery, or catering and were not told the sources of the various joints. All the carcasses were held in cold storage for one week before cooking. The buffalo meat was rated highest by 14 judges; 7 chose the European beef; 5 thought the crossbred beef the best; and 2 said that the buffalo and crossbred were equal to or better than the European beef. The buffalo meat received most points for color (both meat and fat), taste, and general acceptability. There was little difference noted in texture.( Information supplied by P. N. Wilson.)

Buffalo veal is considered a delicacy. Calves are usually slaughtered for veal between 3 and 4 weeks of age; dressed weight is 59-66 percent of live weight.

There is some evidence that buffaloes may retain meat tenderness to a more advanced age than cattle because the connective tissue hardens at a later age or because the diameter of muscle fibers in the buffalo increases more slowly than in cattle(Joksimonc, 1979) In one test the tenderness (measured by shearing force) of muscle samples from carcasses of buffalo steers 16-30 months old was the same as that from feedlot Angus, Hereford, and Friesian steers 12-18 months old. This gives farmers more flexibility in meeting fluctuating markets while still providing tender meat.


More than 5 percent of the world’s milk comes from water buffaloes. Buffalo milk is used in much the same way as cow’s milk. It is high in fat and total solids, which gives it a rich flavor. Many people prefer it to cow’s milk and are willing to pay more for it. In Egypt, for example, the severe mortality rate among buffalo calves is due in part to the sale of buffalo milk, which is in high demand, thus depriving calves of proper nourishment. This also occurs in India, where in the Bombay area alone an estimated 10,000 newborn calves starve to death each year through lack of milk. The demand for buffalo milk in India (about 60 percent of the milk consumed; over 80 percent in some states) is reflected in the prices paid for a liter of milk: about 130 paisa for cow’s milk compared with about 200 paisa for buffalo milk.

Twelve of the 18 major breeds of water buffalo are kept primarily for milk production (although males may be used for traction and all animals are eventually used for meat). The main milk breeds of India and Pakistan are the Murrah, Nili/Ravi, Surti, Mehsana, Nagpuri, and Jafarabadi. The buffaloes of Egypt, Eastern Europe (Bulgaria, Romania, Yugoslavia, and the USSR), and Italy are used for milk production and there are also herds used principally for this purpose in Iran, Iraq, and Turkey.


Buffalo milk contains less water, more total solids, more fat, slightly more lactose, and more protein than cow’s milk. It seems thicker than cow’s milk because it generally contains more than 16 percent total solids compared with 12-14 percent for cow’s milk. In addition, its fat content is usually 50-60 percent higher (or more) than that of cow’s milk. Although the butterfat content is usually 6-8 percent,( An analysis of 7,770 records of Nili/Ravi buffaloes in herds at the Pakistan Research Institute showed that average butterfat content was 6.40 (a mean based on 10 tests over 10 months). of all the samples tested, 77 percent ranged between 5 and 8 percent butterfat and 12 percent were below 5 percent butterfat. -information supplied by R. E. McDowell.) it can go much higher in the milk of some well fed dairy buffaloes and in the milk of Swamp buffaloes (which are not normally used for milking). Cow’s milk butterfat content is usually between 3 and 5 percent.

Because of its high butterfat content, buffalo milk has considerably higher energy value than cow’s milk. Phospholipids are lower but cholesterol and saturated fatty acids are higher in buffalo milk. Studies have shown that digestibility is not adversely affected by this. Because of the high fat content, the buffalo’s total fat yield per lactation compares favorably with that of improved breeds of dairy cattle; it is much higher than that of indigenous cows.

Normally the protein in buffalo milk contains more casein and slightly more albumin and globulin than cow’s milk. Several researchers have claimed that the biological value of buffalo milk protein is higher than that of cow’s milk, but this has not yet been proved conclusively.

Tables 1 and 2

The mineral content of buffalo milk is nearly the same as that of cow’s milk except for phosphorus, which occurs in roughly twice the amount in buffalo milk. Buffalo milk tends to be lower in salt.

Buffalo milk lacks the yellow pigment carotene, precursor for vitamin A, and its whiteness is frequently used to differentiate it from cow’s milk in the market. Despite the absence of carotene, the vitamin A content in buffalo milk is almost as high as that of cow’s milk. (Apparently the buffalo converts the carotene in its diet to vitamin A. The two milks are similar in B complex vitamins and vitamin C, but buffalo milk tends to be lower in riboflavin.)

Milk Products

Buffalo milk, like cow’s milk, can provide a wide variety of products: butter, butter oil (clarified butter or ghee), soft and hard cheeses, condensed or evaporated milks, ice cream, yogurt, and buttermilk. It is of great economic importance in India in preparing “toned” milk-a mixture of buffalo milk and milk made by reconstituting skim milk powder.

The richness of buffalo milk makes it highly suitable for processing. To produce 1 kg of cheese, a cheese maker requires 8 kg of cow’s milk but only 5 kg of buffalo milk. To produce 1 kg of butter requires 14 kg of cow’s milk but only 10 kg of buffalo milk. Because of these high yields, processors appreciate the value of buffalo milk.

Buffalo cheese is pure white. It many countries it is among the most desirable cheeses (mozzarella and ricotta in Italy, gemir in Iraq, the salty cheeses of Egypt, and pecorino in Bulgaria, for example). In Venezuela all the cheese produced from the small La Guanota milking herd in the Apure River basin (about 100 kg a day) is bought by the Hilton Hotel and sells for 15 bolivars per kg compared with 8 bolivars per kg for cheese made from cow’s milk.

Although much in demand for making soft cheese, buffalo milk is less desirable for making hard cheeses such as cheddar or gouda. During cheesemaking it produces acid more slowly than cow’s milk, retains more water in the curd, and loses more fat in the whey.

Cheeses are becoming increasingly popular throughout the world. Demand is rising at a rate that is among the highest for any food product. Cheese offers particular benefit to areas where refrigeration is not widely available, where transporting high-protein foods to remote areas is difficult, and where seasonal fluctuations affect milk supplies. Buffalo milk may make cheesemaking profitable on an even smaller scale than conventional dairying; it is more concentrated than cow’s milk and requires relatively less energy to transport and process (an increasingly important factor where fuels are limited).

Table 3 Highest Milk Yield (kg per Day) Recorded in the All India Milk Yield


In countries like India and Egypt, the milk yield of buffaloes is generally higher (680-800 kg) than for local cattle (360-500 kg). However, since selection for exceptional milk production is not conducted systematically, large variations in yield occur between individual animals, and milk production of dairy buffaloes falls short of its potential.

Nonetheless, some outstanding yields have been recorded. On Indian government farms, average yields for milking buffaloes range from 4 to 7 kg per day in lactations averaging 285 days. Daily yields of 12 kg have been reported for some Bulgarian buffalo cows and a daily production of over 20 kg has been reported for some remarkable animals in India. A peak milk yield of 31.5 kg in a day has been recorded from a champion Murrah buffalo in the All India Milk Yield Competition conducted by the Government of India (see Table 3).

At Caserta, Italy, a herd of 1,600 machine-milked, pedigreed dairy buffaloes has produced average yields of 1,500 kg during lactations of 270 days. In Pakistan an analysis of over 6,000 lactations of Nili/Ravi buffalo cows showed an average yield of 1,925 kg during lactations averaging 282 days(Average adjusted for year and season and calving. Cady et al., in press.) . In India the average milks yield of Murrah buffaloes in established herds is also reported to be about 1,800kg(*”Williamson and Payne, 1965.)Table 4 lists some outstanding lactation yields reported from different parts of the world.

As with cattle, the percentages of fat, protein, and total solids decrease as the milks yield increases.

The Swamp buffaloes of Southeast Asia are usually considered poor milk producers. They are used mainly as draft animals, but it may be that their milk potential has been underestimated. In the Philippines Swamp buffalo cows with nursing calves have produced 300-800 kg of milk during lactation periods of 180-300 days(*Philippines Council for Agriculture and Resources Research (PCARR). 1978. The Philippines Recommends for Caraboo Production, PCARR, Los Banos, Philippines)In Thailand Swamp buffaloes selected and reared for milk production have yielded 3-5 kg per day during 305-day lactations.(Information supplied by Charan Chantalakhana.)

Table 4 Milk Production of Some Outstading Buffalo Cows and Dairy Herds

The Nanning Livestock Research Institute and Farm in Kwangsi Province,which is representative of many others in South China, is upgrading the native Swamp buffaloes (or Shui Niu) by selective breeding for size and weight and by crossbreeding with dairy breeds such as the Murrah and Nili/Ravi. The crossbreeds that are milked yield 4-5 kg daily.(*CockriH, W. R. 1976. The Buffaloes of China. FAO, Rome.)

Dairy Management

The characteristics of the dairy buffalo so closely approximate those of the dairy cow that successful methods of breeding, husbandry, and feeding for milks production for the cow can be applied equally to the dairy buffalo. Buffaloes, however, have not been bred for uniform udders and it is more difficult to milk them by machine.(Some thousands of buffaloes are machine milked in Bulgaria and Italy, however. At Ain Shams University in Egypt, buffaloes have adapted to machine milking. The calves are separated from their dams immediately after birth and no problems of milk letdown have been observed. -information supplied by M. El Ashry.)Also, some buffaloes have more of a problem with milks letdown than dairy cows (although not as much of a problem as some native cattle breeds in the tropics). Frequently, a calf is kept with the cow and is tied to her foreleg at milking time. In India, Burma, and other countries a dummy calf may be provided; playing music seems to work, too.

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Water Buffalo (Carabao) – Part 2 of 3
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The Water Buffalo: New Prospects for an Underutilized Animal (BOSTID, 1981, 111 p.)

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Water Buffalo (Carabao): New Prospects for an Underutilized Animal – Part 2 of 3

By pinoyfarmer | August 12, 2007


The water buffalo is the classic work animal of Asia, an integral part of that continent’s traditional village farming structure. Probably the most adaptable and versatile of all work animals, it is widely used to plow; level land; plant crops; puddle rice fields; cultivate field crops; pump water; haul carts, sleds, and shallow-draft boats; carry people; thresh grain; press sugar cane; haul logs; and much more. Even today, water buffaloes provide 20-30 percent of the farm power in South China, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Indochina(Figures provided by A. J. de veer. In India water buffaloes contribute much less to farm power (6-12 percent); bullocks are more commonly used. In Pakistan buffaloes are little used for farm power (1-2 percent) but provide much of the road haulage. Papua New Guinea has no tradition of using any work animal, but villagers are increasingly using buffaloes for farm work and the government is employing Fillipinos to train them) . Millions of peasants in the Far East, Middle East, and Near East have a draft buffalo. For them it is often the only method of farming food crops.

As fuel becomes scarce and expensive in these countries, the buffalo is being used more frequently as a draft animal. In 1979 water buffalo prices soared in rural Thailand because of the increased demand.

Although Asian farms have increasingly mechanized in the last 20 years, it has often proved difficult to persuade the farmer to replace his buffalo with a tractor since the buffalo produces free fertilizer and does not require diesel fuel. Now there is renewed official interest in draft power. Sri Lanka has recently opened up large new tracts of farmland in the Mahawali Valley, creating such a demand for work animals that buffalo shortages have become a national development problem. Indonesia’s transmigration schemes are also handicapped by shortages of animal power.

For many small farmers the buffalo represents capital. It is often the major investment they have. Buffalo energy increases their productivity and allows them to diversify. Even small farms have work animals that, like the farmer himself, subsist off the farm. Tractors usually require at least four hectares for economical operation, which precludes their use on most peasant farms. Further, the infrastructure to maintain machinery is often not readily available.

Buffaloes are also used for hauling. Buffalo-drawn carts carry goods between villages where road surfaces are unfit for trucks. The animals easily traverse ravines, streams, paddies, and narrow and rocky trails. In the cities carts can compete economically with trucks where the road surface is unprepared, where loading or unloading takes longer than the journey itself, or where the loads are too small and distances too short to make trucking economical. For road haulage buffaloes are generally shod: the shoes are flat plates fitted to each hoof.

Capacity for Work

The water buffalo is a sturdy draft animal Its body structure, especially the distribution of body weight over the feet and legs, is an important advantage. Its large boxy hooves allow it to move in the soft mud of rice fields. Moreover, the buffalo has very flexible pastern and fetlock joints in the lower leg so that it can bend back its hooves and step over obstacles more easily than cattle. This water-loving animal is particularly well adapted to paddy farming because its legs withstand continual wet conditions better than mules or oxen(Australian animal scientists working in Bogor, Indonesia, found that the puddling effect of buffalo hooves on the soil was critical for rice cultivation in the local soils. Tractors produced fields so porous that they drained dry. (Information supplied by A. F. GurnettSmith.) On one research station near Darwin, Australia, buffaloes were used to prevent water draining from a dam. (Information supplied by D. G. Tulloch.).

Although buffaloes are preferred by farmers in the wet, often muddy lowlands of Asia, mules, horses, and cattle move more rapidly and are preferred in the dryer areas.

Water buffaloes do not work quickly. They plod along at about 3 km per hour. In most parts of Southeast Asia they are worked about 5 hours a day and they may take 6-10 days to plow, harrow, and grade one hectare of rice field. Their stamina and drawing power increase with body weight.

Because they have difficulty keeping cool in hot, humid weather (see next chapter), it is necessary to let working buffaloes cool off, preferably in a wallow, every 2 hours or so. Without this their body temperatures may rise to dangerous levels.

A pair of 3-year-old buffaloes costs about the same as a small tractor in Thailand. But many farmers raise their own calves and there is no investment beyond labor. The “fuel” for the animals comes mainly from village pastures and farm wastes such as crop stubble and sugarcane tops. Buffaloes have an average working life of about 11 years, but some work to age 20.


The yoke used on working buffalo in Asia has changed very little in the last 1,500 years. It is doubtful that a working buffalo can exert its full power with it. The hard wooden yoke presses on a very small area on top of the animal’s neck, producing severe calluses, galls, and obvious discomfort. The harness tends to choke the animal as the straps under the neck tighten into the windpipe. Since the traditional hitch is usually higher than the buffalo’s low center of gravity, the animal cannot pull efficiently. Considerably more pulling power and endurance can be obtained by improving the harness. The situation is not unlike that in Western agriculture in the twelfth century when the horse collar-one of the most important inventions of the Middle Ages first appeared. Before that, horses were yoked like buffalo and the harness passed across their windpipes and choked them as they pulled. Use of the horse collar improved pulling efficiency and speeded the development of transportation and trade.

The curved yoke now universally used on water buffalo contacts an area of the neck that is only about 200 cm2 (little more than half the size of this page). The entire load is pulled on this small area and causes the wood to dig into the flesh.

A horse collar is a padded leather device that encircles the animal’s neck. One modified in Thailand for use on water buffalo (see page 43) had a contact area of 650 cm2, more than three times that of the yoke it replaced. The collar’s padding pressed against the animal’s shoulders, not its neck, and therefore did not choke it. Attached to the collar were wooden harnes with the traces for hitching the animal to a wagon or plow. In trials a buffalo pulled loads 24 percent heavier with the collar than with the yoke, and the horsepower it developed increased by 48 percent(These trials were conducted by J. K. Garner in Thailand in 1958. In the maximum-load test the yoked buffalo failed to move a load of 570 kg, but it moved a load of 640 kg when fitted with the horse collar. In an endurance test the yoked animal took 35 minutes to pull a load 550 m, but harnessed with the collar it took only 21 minutes).

Another potentially valuable harness is the breast strap, a set of broad leather straps that pass over the animal’s neck and back. One breast strap modified for water buffalo use had a contact area of 620 cm2, almost as much as that of the horse collar, and in trials the buffalo pulled a load 12 percent heavier than with a yoke and the horsepower it developed increased by almost 70 percent( The same animal used in the horse collar trials pulled 700 kg with the breast strap, in the endurance test it took 18.5 minutes to travel the 550-m distance).

These seem very good innovations. In the humid tropics, however, leather collars and breast straps may decay rapidly. To make them widely practical may require experimentation with, or development of, special leather treatments or more durable materials.

Heat Tolerance

While the buffalo is remarkably versatile, it has less physiological adaptation to extremes of heat and cold than the various breeds of cattle. Body temperatures of buffaloes are actually lower than those of cattle, but buffalo skin is usually black and heat absorbent and only sparsely protected by hair. Also, buffalo skin has one-sixth the density of sweat glands that cattle skin has, so buffaloes dissipate heat poorly by sweating. If worked or driven excessively in the hot sun, a buffalo’s body temperature, pulse rate, respiration rate, and general discomfort increase more quickly than those of cattle(Failure to appreciate this has caused many buffalo deaths in northern Australia when the animals were herded long distances through the heat of the day as if they were cattle).. This is particularly true of young calves and pregnant females. During one trial in Egypt 2 hours’ exposure to sun caused temperatures of buffalo to rise 1.3°C, whereas temperatures of cattle rose only 0.2-0.3°C.

Buffaloes prefer to cool off in a wallow rather than seek shade. They may wallow for up to 5 hours a day when temperatures and humidity are high. Immersed in water or mud, chewing with half-closed eyes, buffaloes are a picture of bliss.

In shade or in a wallow buffaloes cool off quickly, perhaps because a black skin rich in blood vessels conducts and radiates heat efficiently (Tests at the University of Florida have shown that buffaloes in the shade cool off more quickly than cattle. -Robey, 1976). Nonetheless, wallowing is not essential. Experience in Australia, Trinidad, Florida, Malaysia, and elsewhere has shown that buffaloes grow normally without wallowing as long as adequate shade is available.

Cold Tolerance

Although generally associated with the humid tropics, buffaloes, as already noted, have been reared for centuries in temperate countries such as Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and in the Azerbaijan and Georgian republics of the USSR. In 1807 Napoleon brought Italian buffaloes to the Landes region of southwest France and released them near Mont-deMarsan. They became feral and multiplied prodigiously in the woods and dunes of the littoral, but unfortunately the local peasants found them easy targets, and with the fall of Napoleon the whole herd was killed for meat(In the twelfth century Benedictine monks introduced buffaloes from their possessions in the Orient to work the lands of their abbey at Auge in northeastern France. In the thirteenth century a herd was introduced to England by the Earl of Cornwall, the brother of Henry III. Nothing is known about how well either herd survived). Buffaloes are also maintained on the high, snowy plateaus of Turkey as well as in Afghanistan and the northern mountains of Pakistan.

The buffalo has greater tolerance of cold weather than is commonly supposed. The current range of the buffalo extends as far north as 45° latitude in Romania and the sizable herds in Italy and the Soviet Union range over 40° N latitude(Philadelphia and Peking are at comparable latitudes. In the Southern Hemisphere the 40° line of latitude easily encompasses Cape Town, Buenos Aires, Melbourne, and most of New Zealand’s North Island). Cold winds and rapid drops in temperatures, however, appear to have caused illness, pneumonia, and sometimes death. Most of the animals in Europe are of the Mediterranean breed, but other River-type buffaloes (mainly Murrahs from India) have been introduced to Bulgaria and the Soviet Union, which indicates that River breeds, at least, have some cold tolerance.


Although water buffaloes are generally reared at low elevations, a herd of Swamp buffaloes is thriving at Kandep in Papua New Guinea, 2,500 m above sea level. And in Nepal, River buffaloes are routinely found at or above 2,800 m altitude.


Water buffaloes are well adapted to swamps and to areas subject to flooding. They are at home in the marshes of southern Iraq and of the Amazon, the tidal plains near Darwin, Australia, the Pontine Marshes in south-central Italy, the Orinoco Basin of Venezuela, and other areas.

In the Amazon, buffaloes (Mediterranean and Swamp breeds) are demonstrating their exceptional adaptability to flood areas. Buffalo productivity outstrips that of cattle, with males reaching 400 kg in 30 months on a diet of native grasses( Information supplied by C. Nascimento).

The advantage of water buffaloes over Holstein, Brown Swiss, and Criollo cattle was demonstrated in a test at Delta Amacuro, Venezuela, when the cattle developed serious foot rot In the wet conditions of the Orinoco Delta and had to be withdrawn from the test. The area of Venezuela is flooded 6 months of the year and creates constant problems for cattle, yet the buffalo seems to adapt well(*Information supplied by A. Ferrer).

High humidities seem to affect buffaloes less than cattle. In fact, if shade or wallows are available, buffaloes may be superior to cattle in humid areas.

In southern Brazil, trials comparing buffalo and cattle on subtropical riverine plains have favored the buffalo also. This work is being carried out on native pastures, mostly in the State of Sao Paulo.


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.


When compared with other domestic livestock, the water buffalo generally is a healthy animal. This is particularly impressive because most of them live in hot, humid regions that are conducive to disease, and the buffalo is a bovine susceptible to most diseases and parasites that afflict cattle. Although the reasons are not specifically known, the effect of disease on the buffalo and its productivity is often less deleterious than on cattle.

Antibiotics and vaccines developed for cattle work equally well on buffaloes. As a result, treatments are available for most of the serious diseases of buffaloes, although some are not very effective for either animal.

The greatest buffalo losses are often among calves. Newborn buffalo calves, like bovine calves, can succumb in large numbers to viruses, bacteria, and poor nutrition. This is largely due to poor management during the calf’s first 2 months of life. For example, as noted previously, villagers in some countries often sell the valuable buffalo milk, thus depriving the calves.

Buffalo calf losses are often similar to those of the cattle around them, but the animal’s proclivity for wallowing exposes calves to waterborne diseases. Further, a young one occasionally drowns when an adult rolls on top of it.

Reactions to some specific diseases and parasites are discussed below.

Pasteurellosis- Probably the water buffalo’s most serious disease, pasteurellosis, or hemorrhagic septicemia, is caused by the bacterium Pasteurella multocida (P. septica). Buffaloes are more susceptible to it than cattle and die in large numbers where pasteurellosis occurs. A vaccine against pasteurellosis is effective in protecting both buffaloes and cattle; it is cheap and easily made.

Tuberculosis- Despite some claims to the contrary, the water buffalo is susceptible to the bovine strain of tuberculosis (Alycobacterium bovis). Scattered reports from different parts of India indicate no difference in the incidence of infection between cattle and buffaloes(Information supplied by S. K. Misra, Department of Veterinary Medicine, Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, Punjab, India). Other strains of mycobacteria have been isolated from feral buffaloes and cattle in northern Australia but seem to have little effect on the animals. Tuberculosis occurs among the buffalo herds of the world only because most are kept under unsanitary conditions(In 1905 buffaloes were introduced to Trinidad because the cattle herds (Zebu and srahman breeds) were infected with tuberculosis and, in those days, it was thought that buffaloes were resistant to the disease. Most were housed in muddy, ill-kept pens and forced to eat sugarcane tops off the ground; consequently, in 1949 over 30 percent of the buffaloes reacted to the tuberculin test. (The cattle herds had 80 percent reactors.) Tuberculosis was eliminated in Trinidad’s buffaloes by improving the sanitary conditions: installing concrete floors and mangers and cleaning the pens regularly. This, together with regular tuberculin testing and removal of reactors, led to such a dramatic improvement that buffalo tuberculosis is now virtually unknown. -Information supplied by S. K. Bennett.)

Brucellosis-Buffaloes and cattle are equally susceptible to brucellosis. Although seldom reported as a problem elsewhere, brucellosis in Venezuela is increasing more rapidly among buffaloes than among cattle. In India the disease is no more prevalent among buffaloes than among cattle. As many as 57 percent of some Venezuelan herds are infected with the disease. It is a frequent cause of abortion in buffaloes. Serologic procedures and measures developed for the control of the disease in cattle are also effective means of curbing this infection in buffaloes. (Consumption of raw milk or contact with aborted fetuses may cause undulant fever in humans.)

Mastitis- Among milking buffaloes mastitis is a problem as it is in dairy cows, but to a lesser extent. It is likely to increase, however, as the milk production per individual buffalo is increased. The bacteria that cause mastitis in the buffalo are similar to those in cattle. Treatment and control programs used for cattle are equally effective for buffaloes.

Other Diseases -Among the epizootic diseases, rinderpest and piroplasmosis seem to affect buffaloes as much as cattle. Foot-and-mouth disease also affects buffaloes, but to a lesser degree than cattle, producing smaller lesions and having a lower incidence. In northern Australia buffaloes deliberately infected with bovine pleuropneumonia bacteria exhibited slight fever, but the disease never appeared. No naturally occurring eases have been reported in buffaloes.

Ticks -Buffaloes are notably resistant, although not immune, to ticks. In a tick-infested area of northern Australia only 2 engorged female ticks were found on 13 adult buffaloes during a 2-year test. Accordingly, healthy buffaloes are not commonly affected by diseases borne by ticks nor are the hides damaged by their bites. Since ticks are rarely found on buffaloes, anaplasmosis, theileriasis, and babesiosis, which are tick-borne, have little effect on buffaloes in the field. (Buffaloes and cattle are equally susceptible, however, if inoculated with East Coast fever, a form of theileriasis.) This is important because tick infestations in cattle are particularly troublesome in the tropics and the pesticides used to control them are becoming ineffective as the ticks develop resistance. The pesticides are also becoming expensive.

The basis of the buffalo’s tick resistance is not known, but wallowing and rubbing may play a role in it; animals kept in experimental concrete pens in Australia have developed heavy tick infestation. (rials carried out on Magnetic Island by R. H. V/harton, Commonwealth Scientiflc and Industrial Research Organisation, Townsville, Queensland, Australia).

Table 6 Some Infections and Parasites of Buffalo

Screwworm- Larvae of the screwworm fly (Callitroge species), a major pest of livestock in Central and South America and some other tropical areas, do not affect adult water buffalo. In Venezuelan areas where cattle (Zebu type) are severely infested, adult water buffaloes are virtually free of screwworm larvae and the umbilicus of newborn calves seldom if ever becomes infected. ( Information supplied by A. Ferrer).

The same is true in Papua New Guinea. It is thought that the mud plaster produced by wallowing suffocates the larvae, but in India screwworms do not affect water buffaloes either, and there they wallow in fairly clear water and the farmer usually washes them off.

Roundworm- The heavy losses of young buffalo calves throughout the world are caused, in large measure, by the roundworm Toxocara vitulorum. The calves seem more susceptible than mature animals and they become infected before birth or within 24 hours after birth through the mother’s colostrum. The roundworm is the most serious buffalo parasite and in untreated calves the small intestine can get packed with worms to the point of complete occlusion. Although huge numbers of calves die each year, anthelmintic drugs that control roundworms are highly effective and widely available.

The adult water buffalo appears to have a high degree of resistance to strongyloid nematodes. Being such excellent converters of rough fodders they do not suffer the nutritional deficiency and the resulting liability to these roundworms experienced seasonally by cattle.

Liver Fluke- During wallowing, water buffaloes can easily become infected with the waterborne infective stages of liver fluke (Fasciola gigantica). Although the number of flukes in a buffalo may be phenomenally high, no clinical signs of the disease are usually evident. It seems likely that the resulting liver damage reduces the growth and the work and milk production of buffaloes more than is generally appreciated.

Trypanosomiasis- The water buffalo is susceptible to trypanosomiasis and is reportedly more susceptible than cattle to Trypanosoma evansi.Experience with the animal in Africa is limited, but trypanosomiasis may be the reason why Egypt is the only African country that has traditionally employed water buffalo.

Other Parasites- The wallow and its resulting mud cake seem to protect water buffalo from many biting flies, but the main ectoparasite in Australia and Southeast Asia is the buffalo fly (Siphona spp.). Pediculosis, caused by the sucking louse (Hematopinus tuberculatus), occurs widely among buffalo, and sarcoptic mange (Sarcoptes scabiei var. bubalus) is a serious disease, especially among calves and during dry seasons when wallowing opportunities are restricted. The lung worm Dictyocaulus ririparus thrives in warm, humid areas and sometimes infects buffaloes heavily, although its outward manifestations are rare.

Related Posts:
Water Buffalo (Carabao) – Part 1 of 3
Water Buffalo (Carabao) – Part 3 of 3

The Water Buffalo: New Prospects for an Underutilized Animal (BOSTID, 1981, 111 p.)

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Water Buffalo (Carabao): New Prospects for an Underutilized Animal – Part 3 of 3

By pinoyfarmer | August 12, 2007


The water buffalo has a reputation for being a sluggish breeder, but the average animal is so poorly fed that its reproductive performance is unrepresentative of its capabilities. Without reasonable nutrition the animals cannot reach puberty as early in life or reproduce as regularly as their physiology or genetic capability would normally allow.

Actually, adequately nourished buffaloes reach puberty at about the same age as cattle, as early as 18 months of age in buffalo bulls. In northern Australia Swamp females have conceived even as early as 14 months of age and feral buffaloes routinely conceive at 16 months of age. In the herd at Punjab Agricultural University in Ludhiana, India, 11 River buffalo heifers showed estrus at ages less than 18.5 months and a few came into heat when less than 15 months old.

The water buffalo also can calve at an age comparable to that of cattle. At the Ain Shams University in Egypt a well-fed Egyptian buffalo herd of several hundred animals has an average age at first calving of 27 months, 22 days(Information supplied by M. El Ashry. Because of nutritional uncertainties, El Ashry and his colleagues believe that body weight is a better indicator of sexual preparedness than age is. These researchers at Ain Shams University recommend mating heifers when they weigh 365 kg no matter what their age. Research at Punjab Agricultural University shows that buffalo heifers can be bred when they weigh over 270 kg and manifest estrus).Most animals in the Punjab Agricultural University River buffalo herd calved before 35 months, one at 28.3 months.! In one Venezuelan herd almost all heifers 20-24 months old were pregnant; virtually all calved before age 38 months, most by 30 months, and one at age 23 months.

In trials in Queensland, Australia, and in Papua New Guinea buffaloes produced more calves over a 3-year period than the cattle tested with them. In the hot, humid Sepik Plains in northern Papua New Guinea it was noticed that female buffaloes (Swamp breed) came into estrus even while they were losing weight because of inadequate nutrition, whereas cattle did not. Under these stressful conditions the buffalo calves also reached sexual maturity earlier and the buffaloes had a higher calving percentage and a shorter calving interval because they came back into estrus more quickly than cattle(Information supplied by J. Schottler. The age at first calving of more than 60 nutritionally poor buffaloes was 38 months in one herd and 45 months for Brahman cross cattle) . Similar observations have been made in Florida, Trinidad, the Brazilian Amazon, Venezuela, and elsewhere. Although these are exceptions to the normal observations in Asia, where buffaloes seem to breed more slowly than cattle, they do demonstrate the buffalo’s potential for improved breeding.

Estrus in buffalo cows usually lasts about 24 hours, but duration varies and may range from 11 to 72 hours. It occurs on an average 21-day cycle. Determination of when a cow is in estrus is difficult because often the animal shows few outward signs of “heat.” This increases the chances of missing a cycle, especially for artificial insemination. Unclean surroundings, poor nutrition, and poor management, cause a high death rate among calves; this also contributes to the buffalo’s often low reproductive rate.

In many areas, calving is seasonal. This seems to be largely due to changes in nutrition. It may also be caused by heat stress, in either males or females, which results in a low breeding rate during the hot season. However, when buffalo cows are well fed, they come into estrus and will breed in any season.

Many matings take place at night and are therefore unobserved. In one set of pregnancy diagnoses in northern Australia, the buffalo’s conception rate (81 percent) was higher than that of the Brahman crossbreeds (70 percent) they were with. In India, artificial insemination of water buffaloes began in the late 1950s. Deep-frozen semen is now available and its use is spreading. Overall conception rates of 70-80 percent are obtained. It is estimated that some 100,000 buffaloes are now being artificially inseminated.

The water buffalo’s gestation period is about one month longer and is more variable than that of cattle. Whereas cattle give birth after about 280 days (Angus, 279, Holstein, 279-280, Brown Swiss, 286), buffaloes take 300334 days (average 310) or roughly 10 months and 10 days (differences between breeds are unknown). In Punjab, India, River buffaloes have been observed to come into estrus as early as 40 days after calving.

Nonetheless, only under uncommon circumstances can a buffalo cow produce a calf each year. In one herd of 800 cows in Venezuela the average female buffalo over age 4 produces 2 calves every 3 years. In response to a recent questionnaire, the majority of Indonesian farmers estimated that the calving rate was between 3 and 4 calves in 5 years. A few claimed a calf a year, some only 1 or 2 calves In 5 years. In Florida it has been noted that some buffalo cows having just calved became pregnant more quickly than cattle, so that a calf may indeed be produced each year. Regular yearly breeding has been noted also in northern Australia.

The incidence of abortion, dystocia, retained placenta, and other parturition problems in buffaloes is similar to that in cattle. Twinning is very rare; probably no more than 0.01 percent of buffalo pregnancies produce twins.

Preliminary results in northern Australia indicate that weaning can be carried out as late as 12 months of age without any effect on conception time of the buffalo dam.


Water buffaloes are adaptable and are managed in many ways. In general, they are raised like cattle. But in some operations they must be handled differently. This chapter highlights these differences.

Millions of water buffaloes are managed in “backyards” in Asia. They exist on the resources of small holdings. Management and expenditures are minimal. Care of the family buffalo is usually entrusted to children, old people, or women not engaged in other farm duties; the buffalo allows them to be useful and productive.

The buffalo fits the resources available on the farm, but it is also an urban animal. Thousands of herds of 2-20 buffaloes may be found in the cities and towns of India, Pakistan, and Egypt-all fed, managed, and milked in the streets.

In addition, the buffalo has important qualities as a feedlot animal; it can be herded and handled with relative ease because of its placid nature. The Anand Cooperative in India’s Gujarat State, which daily contributes thousands of gallons of milk to Operation Flood (the world’s largest nutrition project), involves more than 150,000 Surti buffaloes that are fed, managed, and milked by their owners under feedlot-like conditions in their villages. Many of Italy’s 100,000 buffaloes are maintained under similar conditions.

Water buffaloes can also be managed on rangelands. In Brazil, Venezuela, Trinidad, the United States, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and elsewhere there is rising interest in raising buffalo beef on the range. The production practices for raising them are similar to those used for range cattle.

Water buffaloes in the humid tropics must be able to cool off. Shade trees are desirable, and although a wallow is not essential, it is probably the most effective way the animal has of coping with heat. Alternatively, water showers may be provided to wet down the animals 3-5 times during the hottest part of the day.

Water buffaloes are intelligent animals. Young ones learn patterns quickly and often are reluctant to change their habits. Feral animals-even those born in the wild-tame down after a week or two in a fenced enclosure to the point where many can be handled, haltered, and hand fed (In one example, 100 feral buffalo were captured in Northern Territory, Australia. With in 14 days all the animals-males and females, young and old-had become docile and amenable to handling. -Information supplied by D. G. Tulloch) . Among feral herds of northern Australia it has been observed that buffaloes have clans and families. A female calf seems to remain with its family and mother for many years (possibly for life). A male calf stays until it is about 2 years old, when it is driven from the group by an adult bull.

It has also been noted in northern Australia that free-ranging buffaloes instinctively select clean water areas to drink from, other areas to wallow in, and still others as “toilet areas.” In addition, China’s buffaloes reportedly are being “toilet trained” to defecate only at specific sites to avoid contaminating waterways with schistosome eggs.

Another interesting observation from northern Australia is that most buffalo dams readily adopt a calf that has been orphaned by the death of its mother. In fact, females will allow several calves to nurse (including calves of other mothers and sometimes even adults).

Buffaloes are also self-reliant. For several months each year in Vietnam and Malaysia, for instance, they are turned loose in the forests to fend for themselves.

Provision of adequate fencing is one of the great problems of buffalo management. The animals have strong survival instincts and if feed runs short, such as in the dry season, they will break through fences that would deter cattle who would remain and starve. They will also break through fences if their family unit is split up. Barriers must be stronger than those used for cattle and the wires closer together and lower to the ground because buffaloes lift fences up with their horns rather than trample them down. In northern Australia, Papua New Guinea, and Costa Rica it has been found that buffaloes are particularly sensitive to electric fences (a single wire is all that is needed), and in Brazil a special suspension fence has been devised (Moura Carvalho et al., 1979). Both of these seem to be cheap and efficient answers to the fencing problem.

Water buffaloes are easily handled from horseback and easily worked through a corral. Actually, because of their docility they can be mustered on foot, even on ranges where cattle require horses. Unless they come from different areas they tend to herd together and can be mustered like sheep.

One of the major management adjustments to be made by cattlemen is understanding and capitalizing on the buffalo’s placid nature. Buffaloes are naturally timid and startle easily; they must be handled quietly and calmly. Rough handling, wild riding, and loud shouting make handling them more difficult and training them much harder.

Village buffaloes are led and managed by a ring threaded through the septum between the nostrils. The technique is frequently applied crudely and cruelly, often resulting in a ripped septum.

The identification of individual buffaloes is difficult. Fire brands do not remain legible on the skin for long. Cryobranding (freeze branding) is more durable. Most types of ear tags are not very successful; the numbers wear off and mud covers up the tag’s color. In northern Australia ear tattooing has been the most successful identification technique, with tattoos remaining legible for at least 8 years(Between 1958 and 1962 hundreds of Australian buffalo were shipped on the hoof to the meat markets in Hong Kong without trouble, despite crowded shipboard conditions and the long sea voyage. But in 1962 one roughly treated bull went berserk in Hong Kong and killed a handler, and the Hong Kong authorities stopped the trade as a result, although the problem was really one of mismanagement. Buffalo have since been sent by air from Australia to Venezuela, Nigeria, and Papua New Guinea and by barge to Papua New Guinea. No handling problems have been experienced en route). When they pasture together, cattle and buffaloes coexist satisfactorily. They segregate themselves into their own groups and do not interfere with one another. The buffaloes, however, usually dominate the cattle and tend to monopolize the areas with the best feed supply.

Feed troughs and mineral boxes used for cattle are suitable for buffaloes, but chutes and crushes must be widened to accommodate the buffalo’s broader body and, when necessary, the Swamp buffalo’s greater horn spread.

Water buffaloes are powerful swimmers. In Brazil they have been known to escape by swimming down the Amazon River. An unusual management difficulty is caused by piranha in the rivers and swamps of Venezuela. In one herd of 100 heifer buffaloes, 40 have lost all or part of a teat to these voracious fish.

The horns of water buffaloes are seldom removed or prevented from growing, a testament to the animal’s docility. (When questioned, one Thai villager said that he wouldn’t allow it because it would be a disgrace to the buffalo.) However, the animals can be dehorned as calves in the same manner as cattle. They are then easier to handle In chutes and cause less accidental injury to neighboring animals, handlers, walls, and trees.

Environmental Effects

The grazing and wallowing habits of water buffaloes may have unexpected consequences when the animals are introduced to new, perhaps fragile environments. The presence of several thousand feral buffaloes on the coastal plains of northern Australia, for example, has become a very emotional issue among Australian environmentalists, some of whom foretell the complete destruction of the environment if the uncontrolled feral herds are not destroyed( It is not at all clear, however, that the buffaloes (which have existed in the area for 150 years) are causing the observed environmental degradation. Other possibilities include: fire, climatic stress, overgrazing, and a variety of farming, hunting, and other human activities, especially the use of four-wheel-drive vehicles. Thousands of wild pigs also share the area, along with crayfish that burrow into and weaken the levees that keep out the sea, something for which the buffaloes have been blamed).

Soil Compaction

Water buffaloes have larger hooves than cattle of comparable size and thus they compact the soil less. But buffaloes often live in damp, boggy areas where their feet may compact soft soils. Also, buffaloes are creatures of habit and, when able, they set up fixed points for drinking, feeding, defecating, wallowing, and sleeping. Between the points they wear sharply defined trails in the vegetation and soil.


Possibly the water buffalo’s greatest environmental limitation is its propensity to build wallows. In hot climates every buffalo will wallow at some time during the heat of the day if water is available. When they can, buffaloes will make their own wallows, enlarging a mud puddle by rolling in it or even using their heads to flip water out of a drinking trough and muddying the ground nearby.

The pasture in the immediate area of the wallow is usually damaged by trampling and waterholes may become fouled, but buffaloes return to the same wallow day after day and do not build new ones indiscriminately. Thus, the muddied area is not a large proportion of the location in which they graze unless a large number of animals are confined in a small space(At Gainesville, Florida (possibly because of its subtropical but not hot climate), a herd of 52 buffaloes concentrated in a one-hectare field did not attempt to build a wallow at ale -Information supplied by H. Popenoe.) . In addition, man-made wallows can be dug at safe sites and the animals will use them. The problem of wallowing is therefore not generally a serious one.

Damage to Waterways

Because buffaloes often live near and enter water freely, they may cause erosion in ditches, river banks, canals, and levees. Also, their wallowing muddies the water, which may adversely affect some fish species and reduce the growth of algae. Buffaloes commonly urinate and defecate in the water, possibly creating a pollution hazard, although in most situations this contamination is likely to be minor.

The presence of this herbivore in natural waterways may reduce the number of water plants. Some plants are trampled, some eaten, and some underwater species are suppressed because the muddied water transmits less light. This (and several other of the buffalo’s environmental effects) can be turned to advantage (see picture page 85) when, as often occurs, aquatic plants grow out of control and become obnoxious weeds.

Damage to Pastures

Water buffaloes have very strong jaws, and when forage is sparse they graze it close to the ground; this overgrazing can destroy a pasture. In addition, they eat virtually all available plant material (including many species that cattle shun), so that a densely stocked pasture can become completely defoliated. In northern Australia it has been found that, with time, buffaloes become accustomed to a given pasture, and unless fences are strong they will instinctively return to it until the forage has been depleted.

The buffalo’s inclination to eat many plants can be used to improve the environment and suppress growth of coarse weedy species of plants. On the Sepik Plains in Papua New Guinea buffaloes are being used to graze and suppress sedges (Cyperus species), as a result, the more desirable Paspalum species are beginning to appear. At Mount Bundy in northern Australia native pastures are being improved on a commercial scale by overstocking them with buffaloes. The animals reduce or completely eliminate spear grass and other weeds-even those with thorns-and thus foster the survival and growth of introduced forage legumes such as stylo (Stylosanthes guianensis). In Sri Lanka buffaloes have been used to graze out the vigorous tropical grass Imperata cylindrica.

Damage to Trees

Buffaloes instinctively rub against trees (and walls and fences), eagerly browse leaves, and sometimes nibble bark, so they damage trees more so than cattle. In northern Australia it has been noted that each “family herd” of feral buffaloes selects one or two trees for rubbing against so that the rubbing damage is confined to them.

Recommendations and Research Needs

This report has outlined the water buffalo’s apparent merits, but most of the statements made about the animal are based on empirical observations. Many of its most exciting and potentially valuable features have not been subjected to the careful scrutiny needed to confirm their validity.

Despite the fact that there are 130 million or more water buffalo in the world, research on the animal is scanty and limited to only a few situations and sites. Quantitative information (especially for the various breeds), tests, trials, and comparison studies are needed.

The research to be done on the water buffalo offers scientific challenges that can be undertaken in laboratories and experiment stations in most parts of the world and in many disciplines: breeding, physiology, microbiology, veterinary science, nutrition, food science, dairy science, and other fields. Water buffalo research is an area worthy of financial support by philanthropic institutions and international development agencies concerned with problems of food and resource shortages. The dominant role of the buffalo in the rural economies of Egypt and Asian countries offers the opportunity for buffalo research that can bring improvements quickly and easily to the rural poor. For other countries the water buffalo is an untapped resource, and they should test its productivity on native pasturelands, marshy lowlands, hot and humid areas where cattle do not thrive, and on areas prone to cattle diseases and parasites that are difficult to control.

Specific recommendations follow.

Comparison with Cattle

Animal scientists worldwide should undertake trials to compare growth rate, feeding, nutrition, breeding, and other aspects of buffalo and cattle performance.

Cattle and water buffaloes are obviously different animals. Each has its own limitations and advantages, and each deserves to be studied in its own right. Perhaps the quickest way for animal scientists to experience for themselves the merits of the water buffalo is to conduct their own comparative trials with buffaloes and cattle in their areas. The results will provide local guidance and will help extend recognition of the buffalo’s value, especially under difficult conditions where it may exceed cattle in productivity and profitability.

Germ Plasm Preservation

Urgent action is needed, especially in Southeast Asia, to preserve and protect outstanding buffalo specimens.

In some countries (Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, for example) buffalo populations are decreasing dramatically. High demands for meat are causing slaughter at younger and younger ages. Much of the meat is exported to restaurants and markets in Singapore and Hong Kong. Unfortunately, the largest and quickest growing animals are often selected for slaughter. This results in the loss of a major genetic resource, which is compounded by the practice of castrating the largest males to make them more tractable as work animals. Ten years ago in Thailand it was common to find buffalo weighing 1,000 kg; now it is hard to find 750-kg specimens. A similar situation exists in the Philippines where there is no dearth of good breeding stock, but butchers are paying such high prices that farmers are selling even quality animals for slaughter. In northern Australia, where some of the bulls weigh almost 1,200 kg, the largest animals are being shot for meat, hides, pet food, or sportsmen’s trophies,

A large number of high-yielding buffaloes are taken each year to big cities in India (for example, Bombay, Calcutta, Madras) for milking. At the end of lactation many are returned to the villages, but many others are slaughtered, rather than being fed and retired. This creates a huge loss of valuable germ plasm. In many locations most of the largest animals have already been lost. Only urgent action will protect those remaining.

International Shipment

Buffalo quarantine stations should be organized in “disease-free” areas to develop buffalo germ plasm pools for international exchange.

The importation of buffaloes presents difficulties for any government, researcher, or farmer wishing to obtain the animals for the first time or for breeding purposes. Quarantine laws make it extremely difficult and expensive to exchange genetic resources.

Australia is one of the few nations where there are large numbers of water buffalo in an area free of the major animal diseases. Papua New Guinea,Nigeria, Colombia, Venezuela, and other nations have taken advantage of this and have imported Australian buffaloes. But Australian herds are all Swamp buffaloes(The island of Guam is also a safe source of Swamp animals, although the feral herds there are depleted, only 300 or 400 animals were left on Guam in 1978) and so breeding centers should be set up also (in Sri Lanka and Italy perhaps) where importers can obtain River-type (including Mediterranean) buffaloes.

Genetic Improvement

Worldwide efforts should be made to select superior buffalo bulls and cows for breeding.

Performance testing, leading to the mass selection of superior animals, deserves high priority. Virtually all buffalo breeding is haphazard and unplanned. Village animals graze together and matings are usually not con” trolled, observed, or recorded. Thus, the full genetic potential of the water buffalo is not being realized.

A massive selection program is needed to bring about genetic progress. For each breed, bulls and cows with the potential for improving production of meat and milk and increasing draft power should be identified and used for breed improvement. However, the wide variations between the characteristics of individual animals may make exceptional genetic advances difficult to achieve quickly.

Important traits for culling and selection include behavior, temperament, reproduction rate, easy milk letdown, average daily gain in weight or weight at a given age, carcass quality (for example, large hindquarters), and milk production, as well as strength and endurance for work.

Crossbreeding of Swamp and River buffaloes is a potentially important route to genetic improvement. The progeny reportedly show hybrid vigor (heterosis) in milking ability, fertility, meat production, and working ability. Infusing genes for high milk production into the Swamp buffalo, now used mainly for meat and work, creates the potential for a triple-purpose animal.

The use of artificial insemination and deep-frozen semen should be a major help in upgrading the buffalo. Moreover, the transport of live embryos (rather than neonatal animals) for implantation in the uterus of surrogate mothers could be important for water buffalo. It seems unlikely, however, that buffalo embryos can be implanted in cattle.

Most genetic selections should be made in Asia where 97 percent of the world’s water buffaloes are located. The improvements will depend on how accurately bulls can be identified, selected, and mated. Performance and progeny testing is sorely needed at research stations as well as “on the farm.” Governments should also institute bull-loan or artificial-insemination programs as a means for upgrading the village herds.

Comparison of Breeds

The relative merits of the various buffalo breeds should be determined,

Little or no information is available on the comparative performance of the different buffalo breeds in various environments, especially the 17 or so River breeds in the Subcontinent and the Egyptian and Mediterranean breeds. Comparison trials of the breeds and breed-crosses are needed in a wide range of climates from the humid tropical to the temperate. In addition, the cytogenetic, immunogenetic, and inheritance relationships of breeds should be clarified.

The panel encourages countries such as India and Pakistan that have a number of buffalo breeds (for example, Murrah, Surti, Jafarabadi, Mehsana, and Nili/Ravi) to set up experimental farms for scientific reproduction of superior specimens. Substantial research benefits as well as profitable economic returns from using and exporting some of them would be realized.

Meat and Milk Research

Research and demonstration is needed to foster the widespread consumption of buffalo meat and milk.

Buffalo milk, cheese, and other dairy products are considered outstanding foods in all locations where they are produced. Taste tests so far have indicated that buffalo meat is similar or slightly superior to beef produced under the same conditions.

A specific need is to feed the male calves and use them for meat. Many are now slaughtered at a young age and light weight. Research that provides either a partial or complete milk substitute for feeding calves would have a major impact on meat supplies and farmer income. Diets being developed for calves in Egypt incorporate such ingredients as whey, soybean meal, corn flour (corn starch), and yeast.

Other research topics include:

· The effect of climate, thermoregulation, and wallowing on meat and milk production;
· The meat characteristics of each of the breeds and the differences between them,
· Milk production and quality for each of the breeds;
· Adapting buffaloes to machine milking by genetic selection or by designing new milking machinery;
· Developing new or improved milk products (such as yogurt, cottage cheese, and hard cheese); and
· Banking genetically superior germ plasm for later use.

Work Research

The panel recommends research on new harnesses to replace the omnipresent yoke.

As already noted, the wooden yoke, which has not changed in 1,500 years or more, is an inefficient harness. Research is needed to adapt horse collars, hames, breast straps, and other devices for the buffalo. Because much of the farm power in Asia comes from buffaloes, the impact of improved harness could be dramatic, widespread, and of enormous value to millions of small farmers there. If the experiments in Thailand described earlier are an indication, the farm power in Asia could be increased by 25 percent overnight with the adoption of an improved harness. The buffalo will continue to be the small farmer’s “tractor,” so the benefits from improved harnesses are likely to continue for a long time.

There are 13 million buffalo and bullock carts in India and 20 million Indians are engaged in the business of road haulage. Application of appropriate technology would eliminate the archaic wooden wheels, axles, and heavy carts and substitute lightweight carts, perhaps with such features as metal wheels, pneumatic tires, ball bearings, and fixed axles. With such improvements, loads might be increased and hauled over longer distances at greater speed and with less work.

Trials in New Areas

Testing of water buffalo production is needed in many areas where the animal is not known.

A seemingly adaptable animal, the water buffalo should be productive throughout the earth’s warm temperate, subtropical, and tropical zones. Different breeds may adapt differently to extremes of heat, humidity, and cold, and this needs further study.

The United States, the Mediterranean Basin of Europe, and some of the more temperate European areas like southern England are worth considering for water buffalo trials. In the Southern Hemisphere River buffaloes are already found as far south as 25° latitude in Brazil’s Sao Paulo State (where large herds are raised); an experimental herd of Swamp buffaloes has performed outstandingly in Brisbane, Australia (27°S); and there are a few Swamp buffalo in South Australia and Victoria (35°S or more). There is good reason to believe that water buffaloes may be productive in all of the states in Australia, New Zealand’s North Island, South Africa, Argentina, and other warm temperate areas of the Southern Hemisphere.

The biggest void in the water buffalo map is virtually the entire continent of Africa. It seems a paradox that the buffalo-Egypt’s most important domestic animal-is not farmed commercially in any other African country. Experimental herds have been introduced to Nigeria, Uganda, Mozambique, Tanzania, and other countries in the past, and the initial success of three of them is described in Appendix A.

The water buffalo, with its tolerance for heat, disease, poor-quality feed, and mismanagement, appears to have outstanding promise for African nations such as Sudan, Tunisia, Morocco, Senegal, and The Gambia as well as all nations south of the Sahara (Nambia perhaps being an exception).

More specific aspects of environmental tolerance deserving research attention are:

· The physiology of the buffalo’s response to heat, cold, humidity, and other environmental factors;
· The effect of climate on growth, reproduction, milk production, health, respiration rate, behavior, and carcass quality; and
· Measurement of the calorific efficiency and chemical composition of all breeds of buffaloes and cattle to determine the environments best suited to each breed.

Nutrition Research

Despite observations of the buffalo’s ability to utilize poor quality forage, research is needed to learn how the animal does it.

This research should:

· Establish the buffalo’s nutrient requirements by breed, sex, age, and weight for maintenance, growth, reproduction, lactation, and work;
· Determine voluntary forage consumption and the nutrient utilization of different forages in various stages of maturity;
· Examine rumen microbiology and fermentation, the rate of digestion, production, and absorption of volatile fatty acids produced in the rumen, and utilization of energy, nitrogen, vitamins, and minerals;
· Develop milk replacements for early-weaned calves;
· Observe the current village-level feeding of low quality forages to learn their nutrient requirements, nutrient deficiency diseases, and nutrient supplementation needed;
· Study the utilization of concentrated, high-energy feeds (especially byproduct feeds) to determine the upper limits of buffalo growth and productivity (milk, meat, and work) and carcass quality;
· Compare various breeds of water buffaloes and other ruminants to determine possible differences in nutritional requirements and performance; and
· Apply economic research to production practices, including night feeding of cut forage and the use of improved pastures.


Research to improve management practices could benefit small farmers, ranchers, and feedlot feeders alike.

Little is known about the farm management factors that influence water buffalo productivity. Studies and extension literature for farmers are needed on subjects such as:

· Proper fencing;
· Procedures for dehorning and for preventing horn growth in calves;
· Grazing management methods;
· Preservation of forages;
· Methods and effect of castration;
· Methods and effect of spaying;
· Breeding methods;
· Milking methods;
· Artificial insemination, methodology and use;
· Methods of handling animals under grazing conditions or in feedlots;
· Age for weaning under different conditions;
· Mineral and protein supplementation methods;
· Semen freezing;
· Ova transplantation methods;
· Cryobranding and other methods of animal identification;
· Control of internal parasites; and
· Disease prevention and treatments.


Research is needed in areas where uncertainties about buffalo diseases are hindering the animals’ use.

The research should:

· Develop control and management practices to prevent specific infections and parasites for buffalo groups such as calves, yearlings, heifers, pregnant cows, newly calved cows, and bulls;

· Elucidate the factors (genetic, nutritional, management, disease) causing losses of newly born calves;

· Prevent and control the major diseases and parasites of the buffalo: hemorrhagic septicemia, brucellosis, tuberculosis, foot-and-mouth disease, sarcoptic mange, fascioliasis, nematode parasites, rinderpest and “rinderpestlike” diseases, nephritis, and conjunctivitis;

· Develop herd-health programs and specific disease-control programs for the various production systems;

· Determine the level of susceptibility to trypanosomiasis, a disease that might mitigate against introducing the animal widely to Africa; and

· Define the buffalo’s role in malarial ecology.


Research is needed to improve water buffalo reproduction.

Research topics should include:

· Physiology and deep-freezing of buffalo semen. (Although it is possible to freeze the buffalo semen now, further improvements are needed to achieve higher conception rates.)

· Incidence of sub-estrus and anestrus. This is fairly high in buffaloes. Work is needed to determine the factors contributing to this problem and find solutions applicable in the field. A simple, inexpensive test for the routine diagnosis of estrus is needed. It could ensure that buffaloes are inseminated at the optimal time and could lead to the possible synchronizing of estrus in groups of animals as well as the elimination of seasonal breeding.

· Seasonality of breeding. Investigations are needed into seasonal effects on the intensity and deviation of estrus in buffaloes. Most of the buffaloes in northern India and Pakistan, for example, calve between July and December, causing scarcity of milk in the summer season and a flush of production in the winter months (this phenomenon causes serious marketing problems).
· Low libido and low semen yield in buffalo bulls. Semen yield in buffalo bulls is less than half of the yield from cattle bulls.
· Effect of season and other factors on semen quality.
· Variation in the freezability of semen from different bulls.

Dissemination of Information

The panel recommends that two water buffalo publications be produced.

These should be:

· An international water buffalo newsletter. It is important to maintain communication among researchers working with the water buffalo in far flung research stations, universities, missions, and villages. Research findings may not be widely shared if technical animal science journals and the one or two national newsletters now available remain the only source of water buffalo information. A newsletter would bring together results from different parts of the world. It would provide rapid exchange of information as well as a forum for informal opinions, observations, and preliminary experimental data that are usually not accepted by journals.

· A formal journal of water buffalo research.

In addition, other methods for disseminating water buffalo information are to be encouraged.

Related Posts:
Water Buffalo (Carabao) – Part 1 of 3
Water Buffalo (Carabao) – Part 2 of 3

The Water Buffalo: New Prospects for an Underutilized Animal (BOSTID, 1981, 111 p.)

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