Livestock is an integral component of Nepalese farming system that contributes more than one-third of the total agricultural gross domestic production (AGDP). Buffaloes are raised for supply of animal protein, draft power, and manure. Buffalo enterprise contributes 52.9% of the livestock share in the national GDP. However, there are still less than 12% improved buffaloes (Murrah and its crosses) in the country. There have been only limited studies relating to their production potentialities. This study was conducted to explore the possible reasons that have been hindering for improved buffalo farming and to find out the measures to improve the performance of the indigenous buffaloes in Nepal.
Population Status of Buffaloes in Nepal
Table 1: Population trend of buffaloes in Nepal
|Source: CBS, 2010/11|
Table 2. Buffalo population distribution across the Physio-graphic agro-ecological zones and development regions in Nepal .
|Agro-eco zones||Development Regions||Total|
|Source: CBS, 2011.|
Production and its contribution to the economy:
Table3: Meat and milk Production trends of buffalo:
|Year||Milk production (Mt.)||Meat Production (Mt.)||Year||Milk production (Mt.)||Meat Production (Mt.)|
Table 4. Buffalo milk and meat production across the development regions of Nepal (2009/10).
|Development Regions||Milking buffalo and milk production||Buffalo meat produced|
(mt)No. of milking BuffalosBuffalo milk produced
( mt)Eastern27547722453236143Central33202432664751180Western34935928513334845Mid-western15193512524621936Far-western14397510674218254Total12527701068300162358Source: CBS, 2010.
Breed types of Nepal
The buffalo population in Nepal can be broadly classified into three groups based on their breed characteristics- Hill buffalo, Terai buffalo and Indian breeds. Lime, Parkote and Gaddi are the three breeds of Hill buffalo reported in the literature (Rasali et al 1999). Lime and Parkote buffaloes have been characterised to the extent of being phenotypically recognisable.
Lime are found in greater number in the northern areas of high hills and mountains, Parkote are found more towards the southern mid hills. Recently, Rasali et al (1998b) reported four distinct clusters of hill buffaloes in the Western Hills- viz. Lime breed type, Parkote breed type, Lime dominant intermediate type and Parkote dominant intermediate type. These four clusters of Hill buffalo types which form majority of the buffalo population, are found to have karyotype of riverine buffalo, leaving probably no possibility that there could be any swamp buffalo in the country (Rasali et al, 1998b). Gaddi buffaloes are found in the Far-western Development Region.
Hill buffalo breeds of Nepal
A Lime breed buffalo in the western hills (Photo by Dr. D.P. Rasali)
The pure breed Lime (pronounced as limè) is believed to have originated from wild Arna (Bubalus arnii), and has been domesticated throughout the known history of Nepal. They are found more towards the higher altitude of the hills in the country. The Lime buffalo is estimated at 35% of the total indigenous buffalo population in the hills and mountains of the country as calculated from the data from Rasali (1998) and Rasali (2000).
Phenotypically, the Lime buffalo are light brown and relatively small in body size, with characteristic chevrons of gray or white hair below the jaws and around the brisket, and small sickle shaped horns curved towards the neck (Rasali 1998).They have gray coat color; gray brown or blackish skin color, black muzzle; grayish, brownish or whitish eye brow; grayish, brownish or whitish leg markings; whitish chevron marks around the neck and brisket (Rasali et al., 1998b).
Data averaged for adult females (n=96) are as follows :Body weight=399.1 kg; Height at wither=115.1; Body length =126.3 cm; Girth = 168.4;face length= 44.7 cm; Fore head width= 21.5 cm; Horn base circumference=20.6 cm Horn length= 46.2 cm. (Rasali et al., 1998b). Wither Height averaged 20 cm; Ear length averaged 20 cm; Average tail length is 82 cm (Pradhan et al, 1996).
A Parkote breed buffalo in Palpa district in the western hills. Other Parkote buffalo (on the background) wallowing in a village pond (Photo by Dr. D.P. Rasali)
Parkote buffalo are the typical buffalo of the mid hill and river valleys of Nepal. However, due to traditional practice of crossbreeding this breed with Lime buffalo and also due to recent crossbreeding efforts with Indian Murrah, their population in pure form is declining. Now, pure breed population is estimated at only 25 % of the indigenous population of buffaloes in the hills and mountains in Nepal.
Phenotypically, the Parkote buffalo are dark in coat color and medium built body size, with sword-shaped horns directed laterally or towards the back of the body (Rasali, 1998; Pradhan et al., 1996).They have black coat color; black skin color; black muzzle; black eye brow; usually no leg markings; and chevron marks absent (Rasali et al., 1998).
Biometrical data averaged for adult females (n=88) as as follows :Body weight=409.9 kg; Height at wither=114.9 cm; Body length =124.7 cm; Girth = 170.5 cm; face length= 44.6 cm; Fore head width= 21.2 cm; Horn base circumference=20.9 cm; Horn length= 46 cm. (Rasali et al., 1998).
Gaddi buffaloes are quite distinct from the other indigenous buffaloes. They are bigger in size, better in milk production and adaptable in harsh feeding system. This breed is docile in temperament and well tractable. They are found predominantly black in coat color (92%), but some time in brown and light brown color also (4% each). They have long face and flat head with long curved horns. White big patch on forehead is the distinguished feature of this animal. Horns of the Gaddi buffalo are long, flat and curved backwards to the neck. Ears are in hanging position. They have tough dewlap and hump is absent. This breed has comparatively short and strong legs with broad hoofs. Tail and switch are reasonably long and extended below hock. Udder is tough, teats are cylindrical in shape and equal in placement.
Growth and production characteristics of this breed seem to be better compared with other indigenous buffaloes breeds. The average body length, height at wither, chest girth and height at hip bone of she Gaddi buffalo were found to be 141.2±1.63, 131.3±1.1, 194.98±1.8 and 122.69±1.07 cm. respectively, which are significantly (P < 0.01) higher than Lime and Terai buffaloes.
Problems related to buffalo farming:
Approaches for improvement
A study on indigenous Gaddi buffalo of far-western region of Nepal was conducted to understand the production parameters and husbandry practices intending to make future strategy for improvement. The breed is well known in the far-western districts of Nepal and adapted in hills and mountains of the region with diverse climatic conditions. Among 3 identified buffalo breeds (Gaddi, Lime and Parkote) and one under study (Terai), Gaddi was found morphologically larger and docile in temperament.
Result and conclusion
Buffalo is a major livestock commodity for milk and meat production and scattered throughout the country from Terai plain land of southern border to high mountains of northern hills. Parkote buffalo are the typical buffalo of the mid hill and river valleys of Nepal. Lime buffalo are found more towards the higher altitude of the hills in the country. Gaddi buffalo are good milkers that utilize the pasture land in the slopes of mid-hills and high mountains. Unavailability of sufficient and nutritious fodder in the forest round the year and improper nutritional management of buffalo restricted the utilization of full genetic potential of the breeds. Due to improper management practices and lack of awareness their productivity and number of pure bred animals is declining gradually. Introduction of imported sires from abroad for cross breeding program without evaluating adaptability and acclimatization creates the threats an existence of the breed. Relying on their importance in the region and in the country a systematic approach for conservation and improvement need to be identified and implemented of productivity and to control the dwindling population on awareness and training program among farmers seems essential. Appropriate selection program within the breed, literacy and consciousness on overall buffalo management, exploitation of advance breeding tools as AI in the areas and a conservation plan are some of the activities which certainly resolve the problem.
Pradhan, S.L., Sherchand, L. and Shrestha, N.P. 1996. Policy and strategy for conservation of animal genetic resources in Nepal. Department of Livestock Services, Lalitpur, Nepal.
Rasali, D.P. 1998. Present status of indigenous buffalo genetic resources in the western hills of Nepal. Proceedings of the 4th Global Conference on Conservation of Domestic Animal Genetic Resources. Rare Breeds International. p. 168-170.
Rasali, D.P. 2000. Recent trends in buffalo production in Nepal- a review. Buffalo Newsletter. The FAO Inter-Regional Cooperative Research Network on Buffalo, Europe-Near East. No. 14, pp-6-10.