What information can you give me on water buffalo?

North Carolina

Answer: Thank you for your recent request for information from ATTRA, the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service. I am pleased to provide you with information on water buffalo.

The water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) is a domesticated animal that makes up about 0ne-ninth of the domesticated cattle numbers in the world. It is used for meat, milk, and work in many regions of the world. Swamp buffaloes are found from the Philippines to India, and the River buffalo is native to India, Egypt, and Europe. Water buffalo are genetically dissimilar to domesticated cattle (Bos species), and are not know to interbreed.

The first herd of water buffalo in the US arrived in 1978 from Guam, and the numbers of water buffalo in the US have increased, especially in the southern humid climate of Florida to Louisiana.

Water buffalo of the Bubalus genus are relatively docile, like their domestic cousins of the Bos genus. They are certainly adapted to humid environments, but they do not necessarily need water to thrive. Shade is important especially in hot climates, as they do not have the same number of sweat glands that domestic cattle do. Water buffalo have been known to thrive in cold, northern climates of northern Europe and are widely adapted to many regions.

Water buffalo are able to digest cellulosic plant material like cattle do, however they are able to subsist on much courser vegetation, and are very efficient at utilizing low-quality forage. Given their adaptation to low quality feedstuffs, water buffalo will likely not perform as well in a feedlot or other intensive production environment as domestic cattle can. They are, however, adapted to low-input systems, and can perform well in forage-based systems. Water buffalo meat is similar to domestic cattle beef, and the dressing percent is similar as well, ranging from 50 to 53 percent. Water buffalo meat is much leaner than beef as well.

A very good paper that deals with water buffalo management, including nutrition, health, and management is The Water Buffalo: New Prospects for an Underutilized Animal, National Research Council, 1984, developed by the Commission on International Relations of the National Research Council. This article goes into detail and includes references for further reading.

Another good resource is Water buffalo ? identifying questions and possibilities from a Swedish perspective (PDF/860KB). This paper includes information on feeding, housing, health, reproduction, and milking systems. Also included is a section on starting a water buffalo farm.