Water buffalo production and practices in the dry zone in Sri Lanka
Keywords:Water buffalo, Lactation, Milk production, Calving
AbstractA survey using a questionnaire approach was undertaken in two selected regions (location), Mannar (“M”) and Polonnaruwa (“P”), Sri Lanka, to determine the production practices and limitations to buffalo production. The survey showed that over 95% of producers were full-time crop and livestock farmers. Almost all farmers reared indigenous buffaloes which were well adapted to the low input type of farming. Buffaloes were primarily reared to work the fields for rice cultivation and to thresh the grain. They were grazed on any available grass or foliage with no supplementary feeding on a regular basis. Fodder conservation was not practised. Herd size ranged from 21 in “P” to 29 “M” while herds had between eight and nine breeding females. The ratio of males to females ranged from 1:2 in “P” to 1:3 in “M”. Although eight to nine calves were born per year, calf mortality was 28-41%. Buffalo females calved at 45 months and calving rate as a per cent of productive females was 94%. Milk production was 317-345 kg per lactation and the lactation length was 6-7 months. Two distinct calving peaks were recognized in both locations. Males and females were used to prepare the fields for rice cultivation and the average ploughing and threshing capacity was 0.2 ha day -1 and 385 kg day-1, respectively. Extending the grazing time and not using them for work in the fields significantly (P<0.05) improved traits such as milk production, calves born, and lactation length while calving interval was reduced. There was no incentive to improve present levels of production in both locations.