India is a rich repository of bubaline genetic resources. There are 10 breeds of buffaloes in the country with a vast population of 97.92 millions. However, many of these breeds cannot be strictly considered as breeds in their true sense as there are no breeding society/government agency to define their characteristics related to conformation, reproduction and production. The defined indigenous breeds constitute around 35 per cent of the total buffalo population of the country. There is a need to ensure maintenance of genetic variability in these breeds while improving them through selection for important economic traits. These large populations of non-descript/descript buffaloes are reared in small holder production system comprising of 2-3 animals by small and marginal farmers under different ecologies.
A breed is a group of inter-breeding domestic animals of a species. It shows similarity among its individuals in certain distinguishable characteristics (colour, shape, size of body parts). The breeds have been developed as a result of selection and breeding based on the needs of mankind as well as adaptation to agro-climatic conditions of their native home tracts.
The buffalo is the mainstay of Indian dairy sector. With 53 % of the world buffalo population, India produces 63 percent of the world buffalo milk. The contribution of buffaloes in terms of milk production (54.4 million tonnes i.e. 55% of the total production) in the year 2006-2007 was higher than that of indigenous cows with 20.93 million tonnes (21%) and crossbred cows with 20.22 million tonnes (20%). The buffalo milk is preferred to cow milk in certain parts of the country especially the northern belt and is rich in fat and SNF, has lower cholesterol content, high protein efficiency ratio, higher calcium, iron, phosphorus and vitamin A. The buffalo milk is also good for specialty product like Mozzarella cheese and contains higher levels of bioprotective factors like lactoferrin, lysozyme, lactoperoxidase etc.
The milk productivity in bovines is by and large low because of poor genetic make-up, shortage of feed and fodder and inadequate health cover. The milk productivity in our country continues to very low i.e. indigenous cows yield 1.89 kg, crossbred cows, 6.46 kg, buffaloes, 3.91 kg and goats 300 ml per day. This is because our production systems are not intensive commercial systems, but subsidiary and supplemental systems as part of the overall land use system where crop production dominates the scene.
Milch Breeds of Buffaloes
There are seven well-defined Indian dairy breeds of buffaloes namely Murrah, Nili-Ravi, Bhadawari, Jaffarabadi, Surti, Mehsana and Nagpuri. Apart from providing milk, the buffaloes are also used for carting, ploughing and other agricultural operations. The important characteristics of different breeds have been discussed below.
- Murrah Buffalo
- Nili Ravi Buffalo
- Bhadawari Buffalo
- Jaffarabadi Buffalo
- Surti Buffalo
- Mehsana Buffalo
- Nagpuri Buffalo
- Breeding Strategies for Sustainable Buffalo Production
- Local Non Descript Buffaloes Under Low to Medium Input Production System
3. Murrah Buffalo
The breeding tract of Murrah breed is Rohtak, Hisar and Jind of Haryana state and Nabha and Patiala districts of Punjab state. The breed characteristics are massive body, neck and head comparatively long, horns short and tightly curved, udder well developed, hips broad, and fore – and hind-quarters drooping. The tail is long reaching up to the fetlocks. The colour is usually jet black with white markings on tail, face and extremities sometimes found. The bullocks are good draft animals though slow and powerful. The average milk yield per lactation is 1,500 to 2,500 kg, and the heritability of this trait is 0.2 to 0.3. The age at first calving is 45 to 50 months in villages but in good herds it is 36 to 40 months. The intercalving period is 450 to 500 days.
Physical Characters of Murrah
- Body : Sound built, heavy and wedge shaped.
- Head : Comparatively small.
- Face : Comparatively long.
- Neck : Comparatively long.
- Body colour : Jet-black.
- White markings on face and leg extremities may be there (2, 3), but are not generally preferred.
- Eyes : Should not be walled i.e. the cornea should not have whiteness.
- Tail : Long reaching upto fetlock joint (2, 3, and 6) with black or white switch upto (maximum) 8.0 inches (4).
- Horns : Different from other breeds of buffaloes; short, tight, turning backward and upward and finally spirally curving inward. The horns should be somewhat flattened. As the age advances the horns get loosened slightly but spiral curves increases.
- Limbs : Comparatively short but strong built.
- Skin : Soft, smooth with scanty hairs as compared to other buffaloes.
- Udder : Fully developed, drooping.
- Teats : Equally distributed over the udder but hind teats are longer than fore teats.
- Loin : Broader and sliding forward.
- Body weight : The average body weight of males, 550 Kg and the females, 450-Kg.
- Height : The average height at withers; male: 1.42 meter; female: 1.32 meter.
- Age at fist calving : 3 years but we have also the buffaloes, which calved at 3 years with good milk production.
- Inter-calving period : 400 to 500 days.
- Lactation period : 300 days. (with minimum of ~230 days recorded under top quality Murrah)
- Daily lactation in peak period : 14 to 15 litter but upto 31.5 Kg milk production had also been recorded. The elite Murrah buffalo produces above 18-litter milk per day. 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.
- Dry period : About three months. But less than three may be there.
- Gestation period : 310 days (average)
5. Nili Ravi Buffalo
The breed is found in Sutlej valley in Ferozepur district of Punjab state and in the Sahiwal district of Pakistan. The head is elongate, bulging at top and depressed between eyes. The muzzle is fine. The frame is medium sized. The peculiarity of othe breed is the wall eyes. The horns are small and coiled tightly. The neck is long, thin and fine. The naval is very small. The udder is well developed. Usually the colour is black with white markings on forehead, face, muzzle and legs. The milk yield is 1,500 to 1,850 kg per lactation and the heritability for this trait is 0.2 to 0.3. The inter calving period is 500 to 550 days. The age at first calving is 45 to 50 months. The bullocks are good for heavy trotting work.
There are a number of other less well-known breeds such as Toda in Nilgiri, Parlakmedi in Orissa and Pandharpuri and Marathwada in Maharashtra state. But the population of these is very small, and they are only found in isolate pockets but are distinct because of their morphological traits.
Nili Ravi Buffalo Charecters
AVERAGE PRODUCTION TRAITS
- 305 days Milk Yield : 1950 Kg
- Age at First Calving : 45.3 months
- Lactation Length : 300 days
- Calving Interval : 487 days
- Horns : Small and curled
Colour : Black, White spots on forehead, muzzle, feet; Walled eyes
Size : Medium to large with deep frame
Forehead : Heavy head convex at center
Tail : Long, White switch common
7. Bhadawari Buffalo
This breed is found in Bhadawar Tehsil in Agra district and Etawah district of Uttar Pradesh state and Gwalior district of Madhya Pradesh state. The body is of medium size and of wedge shape. The head is comparatively small, the legs are short and stout, the hooves are black, and the hindquarters are uniform and higher than the forequarters. The tail is long, thin and flexible with black and white or pure white markings reaching up to fetlock. The body is usually light or copper coloured which is peculiar` to this breed. The ears are scanty. The average milk production is 800 to 1,000 kg. The bullocks are reputed as good draft animals with heat tolerance.
- 305 days Milk Yield : 1100 Kg
- Age at First Calving : 50.0 months
- Lactation Length : 270 days
- Calving Interval : 478 days
- Horns : Curling downward, backward - then upwardColourCopper coloured hair, Gray skin, White ring under neck
- Size : Medium with wedge shaped body
- Forehead : Small and bulging between horns
- Tail : Thick and long with brown switch
8. Jaffarabadi Buffalo
The breeding tract of this breed is Kutch, Junagarh and Jamnagar districts of Gujarat State. The body is long but not so compact. The dewlap in females is somewhat loose and the udder is well developed. The head and neck are massive. The forehead is very prominent. The horns are heavy, inclined to droop at each side of the neck and then turning up at points, but less tightly curved than in the case of the Murrah breed. The colour is usually black. The average milk yield is 1,000 to 1,200 kg. These animals are mostly maintained by traditional breeders called Maldharis, who are nomads. The bullocks are heavy and are used for ploughing and carting.
- 305 days Milk Yield : 1850 Kg
- Age at First Calving : 50.7 months
- Lactation Length : 300 days
- Calving Interval : 440 days
- Horns : Curved downward, compressing head
- Size : Massive body with long and tender neck
- Forehead : Heavy and wide head
- Tail : Medium
10. Surti Buffalo
The breeding tract of this breed is Kaira and Baroda districts of Gujarat. The body is well shaped and medium sized; the barrel is wedge shaped. The head is long. The back is straight. The eyes are prominent. The horns are sickle shaped, moderately long and flat. The tail is fairly long. The colour is black or brown. The peculiarity of the breed is that there are two white collars, one round the jaw and the other at the brisket. The milk yield ranges from 900 to 1,300 kg. The age at first calving is 40 to 50 months with an intercalving period of 400 to 500 days. The heritability of the trait is 0.2 to 0.3. The peculiarity of this breed is very high fat percentage in milk (8 to 12 per cent). The bullocks are good for light work.
- 305 days Milk Yield : 1400 Kg
- Age at First Calving : 56.4 months
- Lactation Length : 290 days
- Calving Interval : 535 days
- Horns : Sickle shaped, growing downward, tip upward
- Colour : Black as well as brown
- Size : Medium
- Forehead : Broad, long and convex between horns
- Tail : Long thin flexible, White switch common
12. Mehsana Buffalo
The breeding tract of this breed is Mehsana, Sabarkantha and Banaskantha districts of Gujarat state. This is supposed to have been evolved out of crossbreeding between the Surti and the Murrah. The body is longer than in Murrah and the limbs lighter. The head is longer and heavier. The horns usually are less curved at the end compared to Murrah breed but are longer and could be of irregular shape. The udder is well shaped. The colour is usually are less curved at the end compared to Murrah breed but are longer and could be of irregular shape. The udder is well shaped. The colour is usually black to grey, with white markings often on face, legs or tail-tips. The average milk yield is between 1200 to 1500 kg per lactation. The breed is supposed to have good persistency. The inter calving period ranges from 450 and 550 days. The bullocks are good for heavy work but are rather slow.
- 305 days Milk Yield : 1700 Kg
- Age at First Calving : 42.2 months
- Lactation Length : 310 days
- Calving Interval : 476 days
- Horns : Slightly curved upward, inward
- Colour : Black, Dark tan
- Size : Medium
- Forehead : Wide & slight depression in middle
- Tail : Long, Switch black, Brown / white also common
14. Nagpuri Buffalo
The breeding tract of this breed is Nagpur, Akola and Amrawati districts of Maharashtra. This is also called as Ellichpuri or Barari. The horns are long, flat and curved, bending backwards on each side of the back almost to shoulders. The face is long and thin. The neck is somewhat long, the limbs are light. The tail is comparatively short reaching a little blow hocks. The milk yield is 700 to 1,200 kg per lactation. The age at first calving is 45 to 50 months and inter calving period is 450 to 550 days. The bullocks are good for heavy trotting work but slow in movement.
- 305 days Milk Yield : 1200 Kg
- Age at First Calving : 55.8 months
- Lactation Length : 270 days
- Calving Interval : 430 days
- Horns : Long, flat, curved backwards on sides of neck
- Colour : Black
- Size : Medium with slightly deep back
- Forehead : Long, Cone shaped. Straight nasal bone
- Tail : Short, White switch common