|The Water Buffalo: New Prospects For An Underutilized Animal (1984) |
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Water Buffalo in Africa
For the water buffalo, Africa is the unknown continent. Apart from Egypt, where the "gamoosa" is a major livestock resource, there have been few recorded experiences with the animal in Africa. While this may be attributed to disease, chances are it is because of historical oversight.
Small herds of buffaloes were recently introduced to Uganda, Tanzania, and Nigeria, but because there were so few animals no firm conclusions can be drawn. Initial observations, however, suggest that the water buffalo could have an important future role in Africa, south of the Sahara. There seems little reason to believe that they won't thrive there as they have done elsewhere in the tropics.
The following statements were provided by researchers involved in the enterprises.
"Uganda imported a herd of 12 buffalo cows and one bull in 1969. Grazed on poor-quality unimproved pasture they received neither supplementary feeding nor any preferential treatment over the East African zebus kept with them. The herd stayed 7 years at Entebbe before being moved to another part of the country. They proved to be very efficient converters of the low protein, high-fber fodder. During this time the herd grew to 40 adult cows and 2 bulls (all other steers were slaughtered). The cows calved every year. The calves matured at 2 to 21/2 years; the zebu calves took at least 3 years to mature. Buffalo calves were much heavier than the zebus of comparable age.
"The buffalo cows averaged 7 liters of milk per milking. In taste it was preferred to zebu milk. Also, the quality of the meat after slaughter was much better than that of the zebus.
"A major advantage the buffaloes had over the cattle was that they were remarkably unaffected by diseases endemic to the area. Apart from a few calves that died of diseases that also killed cattle on the farm at Entebbe, the buffaloes resisted tick-borne diseases, the biggest killers of cattle in Uganda, and were unaffected by the virulent strains of East Coast Fever (Theileriosis), Uganda's most serious endemic animal disease."(Information supplied by G. L. Corry, Director, Veterinary Research Services, Entebbe Uganda)
Early in 1976, 194 buffaloes aged 6-9 months were imported from the environs of Darwin in Australia's Northern Territory. The animals settled down quite well, and by the end of 1978 the stock population had risen to about 320, the adults weighing about 400 kg with about 80 percent fertility. The animals were in excellent health when an outbreak of streptothricosis occurred early in 1979. Because of the intractable nature of this rare disease of cattle, sheep, and pigs, the apparent spread of the disease in the confined area of the ranch, and the persistence of the organism, the animals were slaughtered(nformation supplied by Dr. J. E. Erhiaganoma, Chief Veterinary Officer, Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Benin City, Bendel State of Nigeria)..
Tanzania introduced 21 buffalo heifers and 2 buffalo bulls from Egypt in 1968 and 1970. By 1977 the herd had grown to 150 animals. They were kept at the Livestock Production Research Institute at Mpwapwa, a site representative of central Tanzania(Mpwapwa is located at an elevation of 1,000 m. It receives an annual rainfall of 700 mm during a single season between late November and early May. Mean minimum temperatures of 13°C occur in June, and mean maximum temperatures of 26°C occur in November).
Over a period of 10 years the buffalo were studied and compared with crossbreeds of local Mpwapwa cows and Friesian steers. On average, the buffaloes conceived and calved 4 months earlier than the cattle, their mean calving intervals were about a month shorter, their birth and weaning weights were 1.5 times higher, and their daily weight gain was about double that of the crossbred cattle. The milk yield from the buffaloes was only about two thirds that of the crossbred cattle, but their rnilk's high butterfat content meant that the overall butterfat production was higher in buffaloes.
Figures reported are shown below:
In a second study (Shoo, R A. 1980. A study of the performance of Egyptian water buffaloes. Student project, Animal Production Department, Faculty of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine, University of Dar-Es-Salaam, Morogoro, Tanzania.), 30 buffaloes and 34 Mpwapwa cattle (not the crossbreeds) were compared(Mpwapwa cattle are a Tanzanian breed with 55 percent Asian, 35 percent African, and 10 percent European blood). The calving intervals were 396 + 126 days for buffaloes and 437 + 109 days for cattle. The buffaloes first conceived at mean ages of 23-25 months (matings occurred in both wet and dry seasons), the cattle at 27-36 months. The buffaloes calved at 35 months, the cattle at 46 months.
On farms at Ruvu and Mabuki the calving rate was 63 percent, and the mortality rate 1.2-6.9 percent(Rakha, A. 1980. water buffalo Production, Tanzania. Report of the technical Cooperation Program TCP/URT/9002, Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations, Rome, Italy). The buffalo's overall milk yields averaged 1,237 kg in 225 days, or 5.5 kg per day.
The results of the introduction of buffalo to Tanzania are considered "quite encouraging and the future of buffaloes in Tanzania will be bright." (Oloufa, M. M. 1981. The future of water buffaloes in Tanzania Paper presented at the Tanzania Society of Animal Production Eighth Scientific Conference, Arusha, Tanzania May 26-29, 1981.) Future plans call for increasing the herd to about 200 animals with a view toward establishing another buffalo herd. In addition, 5 buffalo sires have been selected in Egypt for shipment to Tanzania.