Buffalo:Milk & Meat

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Buffalo:Milk & Meat

Post by khandairies on Sat Sep 19, 2009 5:45 pm

Buffalo: a milk and meat enterprise
By Dr Talat Naseer Pasha

BUFFALO is becoming more economical and popular animal in Asia where around 97 per cent (165.4 million) of the world’s buffaloes (170.5 million) are found. India has 59 per cent, Pakistan 15 per cent and China 13.8 per cent of the Asian buffalo wealth.

However, Pakistan has highest density with 18 buffaloes per 100 human beings.

Over the centuries, natural and human selection has produced a strong, hardy animal that can thrive on fairly low-quality feed and forage. However, its role was not emphasised in dairy farming along with its contemporaries like cattle, sheep, goats and poultry. There has never been a case of BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (mad cow disease) in water buffaloes.

According to Livestock Census of Pakistan 2006, the buffalo population was 27.32 million with 65 per cent in the Punjab. Milk Production Survey 2006 revealed that total annual milk production was 38.37 billion litres in which buffaloes’ share was 65.24 per cent (25.04 billion litres) and cows was 34.74 per cent (13.33 billon litres). The Nili-Ravi buffalo is the finest dairy breed of the world having enormous milk production potential of over 28 litres per day.

Buffalo milk is healthy as it is richer in saturated fatty acids. Its much higher total solids (18-23 per cent vs 13-16 per cent) is useful for making cheese, butter fat, several kinds of traditional sweets and ice creams. The buffalo milk contains 58 per cent higher calcium, 40 per cent more protein and 43 per cent less cholesterol than cow’s milk. Buffalo milk also contains high levels of the natural antioxidant tocopherol.

Meat: Pakistan is the second top producer of buffalo meat in the world after India and has the highest percentage (19 per cent) of the slaughtered stock verses total buffalo stock. Buffaloes contribute over 50 per cent to local beef production.

The data of the survey (1996 to 2006) on the slaughtering of animals indicated that there was 31.8 per cent increase in buffaloes.

Buffalo meat contains lower saturated fat than beef, 40 per cent less cholesterol, 55 per cent less calories, 11 per cent more protein and 10 per cent more minerals in comparison to bovine meat, so it is healthier.

The water buffalo is probably the most adaptable and versatile of all work animals. It is a sturdy draft animal. Its body structure, especially the distribution of body weight over the feet and legs is an important advantage. The water loving ability of this animal is particularly well adapted to paddy farming because its legs withstand continual wet conditions better than oxen.

The share of buffalo in draught power is about 5-6 per cent and is less than cattle. The buffalo males are used for heavy draught work in cities and in villages. A single buffalo male can pull load that is normally pulled by a pair of oxen. Leather is another major contribution of buffalo to the world market. Apart from direct input in the form of leather goods, the industry provides jobs to millions of people in the country.

Farming constraints: The nature of constraints are different for each group of farmers. The rural farmers of the remote areas are facing problem of disease control and milk marketing. The prices of milk the rural farmers are getting from milk processing plants are quite low. It seems that rural farmers are keeping animals for their consumption and selling only excess milk to the plants irrespective of the margins they get..

Whereas the peri-urban farmers are facing problems in feeding their animals as low rainfall and inadequate water storage worsen the situation.

Consequently, escalating prices of grains and cakes hit the sustainability of the commercial farmers. Milk dilution/adulteration is one of the factors, limiting the reasonable increase in the milk prices and marketing. Non-availability of breeding bulls in many village of the Punjab is another reason of poor economy of the subsistence farmers. The orbit of artificial insemination did not be spread to the rural areas as was expected. On the other hand there has not been significant increase in the beef prices as well. That led to the early slaughter of the day old calves.

The 5th Asian Buffalo Congress held in Nanning, China decided that next conference would be held in Lahore on 27-29 October, 2009 followed by a National Buffalo Fair at Buffalo Research Institute, Pattoki. This will be first time that such international event will be held in the country on the animals which has a significant role in the rural economy and source of poverty alleviation.

There is a rising demand internationally for semen of Nili-Ravi buffaloes, mozzarella cheese made from buffalo milk, buffalo meat and live animals. In 2007 a total of 3,905 buffaloes were exported from Australia, of those 2,865 went to Indonesia, 582 to West Malaysia, 306 to Brunei and 152 to Sabah. In 2005-06 India alone exported 0.5 million tons of buffalo meat worth $600 million. This shows a great potential of buffaloes and its products in international market.

The writer is President of Asian Buffalo Association and Dean of University of Veterinary & Animal Sciences, Lahore.
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