Buffaloes belong to the order Artiodactylasuborder Ruminantiafamily Bovidaetribe Bovini. Within the Bovini, three groups, Bovina cattleBubalina Asian buffaloes and Syncerina African buffalohave been identified between which no interbreeding is possible. There are fundamental anatomical differences between African and Asian buffaloes which justify their separation into different genera, Syncerus and Bubalus.
The swamp and river buffaloes have 48 and 50 chromosomes, respectively. They interbreed and produce hybrid progeny with possibly reduced fertility due to unbalanced karyotypes.
Buffaloes have acquired several morphological features which reinforce their ability to thrive well in shaded, hot, humid areas. For instance, the melanin-pigmented skin of buffaloes is useful for defence against ultraviolet rays. Hair density in adult buffalo is only one-eighth of that in cattle, thus facilitating dissipation of heat by convection and radiation.
Obviously, also the of sweat glands is very limited in buffalo compared to cattle, resulting in a lower efficiency of sweating in buffalo than in cattle. Furthermore, the of sebaceous glands is lower in buffalo than in cattle, however, sebum secretion shows an opposite trend. This provides effective protection to the skin while the animals are in the mud.
Moreover, skin in buffaloes is thicker than that of cattle, protecting the nearly bare body surface of buffalo from harmful mechanical and chemical agents, particularly when the animal is exposed to their effects in water and mud while swimming and wallowing. These latter behaviours, as well as shade, are essential during the hot season to dissipate body heat. Buffaloes graze a wider range of plants as compared to cattle.
The digestibility of crude protein and fibre fractions of the diet is usually greater than in sheep and cattle. This may be due to certain features of buffalo rumen function which are different from that of other ruminants.
In fact, buffaloes appear to have a larger rumen, slower rumen movements, a smaller rate of outflow from the rumen, and higher bacterial activity. Description : black, black and brown, dark grey coat.
Horns are flat at the bottom, backwards and slightly outwards pointed, and backwards straightened; the top is pointed inwards. They have a compact conformation with a deep and wide chest as well as a developed pectoral.
The back is short. The rump is short. The udder is medium size with squarely placed quarters and halves; the teats are cylindrical. The body weight of the adult female is kg.
Average production for all cows enrolled in official production-testing programs was 2, kg of milk, with 8. In the past there was no market for buffalo meat, considered a by-product.
Nowadays, in recent years, thanks to the utilization of modern husbandry techniques, the males are in greater demand as meat producers. Average slaughter weight is kg, at the age of months.
The buffalo bred in Italy produce almost exclusively milk with a good income. In general the husbandry of buffalo is not that dissimilar to that of cattle. A buffalo is capable of breeding throughout the year and having a calf every year.
They carry their calf for 10 months; twin calves and calving difficulties are very rare. Lameness and clinical mastitis are also rare in adults.
Prolapse, vaginal and uterine, are the only major health problem affecting buffaloes. Longevity is an important feature of buffalo.
While buffalo love to wallow in water it is not necessary to provide them with a facility to do so. De-horning is not recommended as the horns provide a mechanism for body heat loss. Housing, provided it is well constructed, can be loose yard or cubicles. Housing for water buffaloes should give protection against thermal stress — particularly direct exposure to sun, heavy rains and cold weather.
It must allow good ventilation. Common for all housing is that enough space should be allowed for each buffalo.
The outdoor yard should preferably be covered with grass or maybe concrete, in order to prevent it from becoming an unhygienic mud hole in rainy periods. Buffaloes may appear to be misplaced in a hot and humid environment.
High milk production requires a high feed intake which le to higher metabolic heat production. High yielding buffaloes thus have a disadvantage over lower yielding animals, and need more cooling facilities. Calves should be kept in individual pens for the first month.
The pens should be easy to keep clean, with shelter from direct sunlight, rain, snow and draught. By keeping the calves individually it is easier to check that they eat and grow properly and to detect illnesses. Also, naval suckling is avoided and spread of diseases is more difficult.
The calves should have access to fresh and clean water at all times. Preferably, the buckets for milk and water should be outside the pen, in a steady holder within easy reach for the calf.
Hereby, the calves can not splash it on the bedding. A humid bedding will facilitate growth of germs and parasites. The pen should contain a holder for hay and concentrate. These holders should be placed above the ground so that the calf cannot step or defecate in them. Buffalo reproductive activity is quite similar to cattle.
The main reproductive traits of the female buffalo are the following:. However, buffalo presents some peculiar aspects such as the reproductive seasonality and the oestrus behaviour.
Reproductive seasonality The seasonality is the adaptation of some animals to coincide calving and weaning when the most favourable environmental conditions thermal and nutritive requirements occur. In some species this characteristic has been influenced by domestication, while in others buffalo, sheep, goat, etc.
Although buffaloes are polyoestrus, their reproductive efficiency shows wide variation throughout the year. Buffalo cows exhibit a distinct seasonal change in displaying oestrus, conception rate and calving rate.
This may be the cause of the prolonged intercalving period since buffalo calving during the unfavourable season may not their ovarian activity until the following favourable season, decreasing their reproductive efficiency.
In Italy, where buffaloes are fed with a constant balanced diet in place of free grazing, a distinct seasonal reproductive pattern is also found.
In fact, the favourable mating period is the autumnal season decreasing daylight length. The tendency of buffalo to seasonality depends upon the environmental characteristics of their place of origin which are the subtropical zones of North of the equator, which condition the forage availability and thus the state of animal nutrition throughout the year.
Therefore, the reproductive seasonality in the buffalo does not seem to depend on diet, food availability or metabolic status, while climate and particularly photoperiod, depending on melatonin secretion, play a pivotal role. Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland during the night and represents the endocrinal al of the light-dark rhythm in the environment.
Out-of-season breeding technique In Italy, reproductive seasonality of buffalo has strong economic implications, where milk production is utilised completely to make fresh mozzarella cheese.
The demand for mozzarella cheese is mainly concentrated in the spring—summer period, while the highest milk production is given in autumn and winter. In order to meet the market demand, Italian buffalo farmers, in the last 20 years, have introduced the so-called out-of-season breeding technique, i.
The use of this reproductive strategy is also finding interest in other countries to cope with the need to guarantee constant milk production on the market. Oestrus behaviour in buffalo has a lower intensity than in cows and is, therefore, much more difficult to detect.
Many buffalo show oestrus only at night time, and then it is difficult to detect. A lactating animal may have a slight decrease in milk yield when in heat, although it is seldom as pronounced as in cattle. The buffalo may be more restless and be difficult to milk. The most reliable of oestrus is frequent urination. In large herds usually 1 bull used for 25 females.
It is not a good to detect heat in buffalo as it is with cattle. Acceptance of the male standing to be mounted is considered as the most reliable oestrus indicator in buffalo. Frequent urination, bellowing, vulvar swelling, mucus discharge are also salient oestrus s in river buffalo, but their expression is extremely weak when the bull is absent.
Both males and females are sensitive to heat stress and to changes in nutrition. These factors contribute to a lesser frequency of breeding and conception rate in the summer time. Bulls reach sexual maturity at 2 to 3 years of age.
Semen is produced all year round but it is highly affected by heat stress and low quality feed. The buffalo bull seems to be most fertile in spring when the volume of ejaculate and the sperm concentration is the highest. The vitality of the sperms are also much higher in spring than other times of the year.
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