Newsletter (Bulletin of the FAO Inter-Regional Cooperative Research Network
on Buffalo, Rome for Europe- Near East), Number 14- March 2000 Page: 6-10
(Full text of the article is posted here with the acceptance by the publisher).
RECENT TRENDS IN BUFFALO PRODUCTION IN NEPAL-
A REVIEW -
D. P. Rasali
Nepal Agricultural Research Council
Agricultural Research Station, Lumle
P.O. Box 1, Pokhara, Kaski, Nepal.
have been raised under farming systems of Nepal throughout the known history.
They are the traditional provider of milk, meat, hides, manure, draft power
and also the reserve capital for the farm families. They are mainly raised
by the smallholder farmers across all the physio-graphic agro-ecological
(Agro-eco) zones of the country. Due to a key role played by buffalo in
the farming systems of the country from the time immemorial to date, interest
in this livestock species is ever growing as more systematic planning is
adopted for growth of the country's agrarian economy.
paper attempts to focus some of the trends evident in the production of
this species of livestock and future prospects for further development.
statistics (CBS, 1997) shows that Nepal has currently a population of 3.34
million buffalo which are distributed throughout the country's Agro-eco
zones or the administrative development regions (See map) as presented
in Table 1. The statistical figures indicate that the buffalo number is
highest in Western Development Region (28.2%), followed by Central (24.3%)
and Eastern (20.7%) regions. Overall across the Agro-eco zones, 57% of
the buffalo population are found in the middle hills, followed by Terai
plains (33.1%) in the South and Mountains (9.1%) in the North. Analyzing
the 1993 data, Moioli (1996) reported that Nepal ranked seventh in total
number of buffalo among the countries world over, while there has been
the trend of increase in the population between 1979 and 1993 by 28%.
1. Buffalo population distribution across the physio-graphic agro-ecological
zones and development regions in Nepal (figures in ?000).
Production and its contribution to the economy
The estimates of buffalo milk and meat production
for the year 1996/97 are shown in table 2 showing that most of the milk
and meat production was distributed in three of five development regions,
Western, Central and Eastern, with their percentage of milk produced being
31.6, 27.6 and 18.9 respectively, and that of meat produced being 22.6,
31.4 and 21.7 respectively (CBS, 1997). The figures of buffalo products
amounted to 69% of the total milk production and 65% of the total meat
production in the country (Singh and Chapagain, 1999). The level of buffalo
milk production also places Nepal among a few other countries, viz. India,
Pakistan and Egypt where the buffalo milk has been evidently the main animal
food (Moioli, 1996). National Planning Commission estimates for 1993 showed
that the total livestock gross domestic product (GDP) amounted to the tune
of NRs 11, 314 millions (currently, US$ 1 = NRs 68) which is 26.7% of the
total agricultural GDP in the country, and buffalo is the key livestock
species contributing about 53% of the total livestock GDP, mainly through
the production of milk and meat (Singh and Chapagain, 1999).
Table 2. Buffalo milk and meat production across
the development regions of Nepal (1996/97).
buffalo and milk production
of milking cows
Contribution of buffalo to soil fertility management
is an integral component of farming systems in Nepal (Rasali et al., 1996).
The buffalo drought power is of particular importance to Terai plains and
inner Terai valleys. Other bye-products from buffalo such as hides and
bones, and also the use of buffalo as the reserve capital assets of the
smallholder farm families have significant importance to the rural economy
of the country. In addition, export of buffalo ghee (clarified butter oil)
to India is a traditional foreign exchange earner for Nepal. The total
ghee exported through the major customs points located in Bhairahawa, Nepalganj
and Dhangadi areas amounted to NRs 44.2 millions in 1994/95 (Customs Dept.,
1995). And, recently, an avenue of fluid milk export to India is also opened
indicating the further potential contribution from the multipurpose buffalo
production in the country. However, despite high economic importance of
buffalo with their large domestic population, Nepal has also been importing
buffaloes annually from India to the tune of 120 thousands (Shrestha et
al 1998) mainly for meat supply in Kathmandu, the country's capital city
and upgrading domestic herds with Indian Murrah breed.
As the buffaloes are reared by most of the farmers
who are by and large the smallholders in the mixed farming systems in Nepal,
their production systems vary greatly across the Agro-eco zones. In Southern
Terai belt, inner Terai and mid-hill river valleys, buffaloes are mainly
kept under complete stall feeding during seasons of crop cultivation and
are occasionally tethered or allowed to graze freely in the crop fields
whenever there are no standing crops. Stall feeding is more permanent for
the higher yielding animals. In the Himalayan foot hills, grazing of buffalo
in the village pasture, forests and recently harvested crop fields is more
frequently seen, although there is a tendency to keep the milking buffalo
within the fence of the homesteads. In the high hills and mountains, they
are even reared under migratory herds which are taken up to the high altitude
of alpine pasture, sometimes beyond 3500m asl, crossing the tree line in
the Southern face of the Himalayas. Thus, environments in which buffalo
are reared are diverse depending upon their physio-graphic locations.
Buffaloes in Nepal are well known for their ability
to thrive on low quality forage, as they utilize crop residues- straws
of rice, millet, wheat and legumes across all agro-ecozones, but are also
fed on green forage. It is usually a milking buffalo which is offered with
high quality green fodder and some supplemental grains on regular basis.
In Terai, inner Terai and the lower hills, buffalo are usually given a
permanent housing either separate from or attached to the house of the
owner farmers. As the altitude increases towards North, the buffalo housing
tends to be increasingly temporary and poorly built, exposing the animals
to increasingly cold climate.
Breed types and their genetic improvement
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
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. Due to lack of systematic study on the population and
breed characterisation, Terai buffalo are largely considered as the non-descript
type. Apart from these indigenous buffalo, about 10 % in the hills and
little over 10% in Terai, of the total buffalo population, are said to
be of Indian Murrah breed or their crosses which have come into existent
in the various pocket areas of the country as a result of crossbreeding
programme and occasional imports of buffaloes from India. There has been
also introduction of Nili Ravi breed into Nepal, but their number is negligible.
There has been some increase in milk production in the country as the result
of the national programme of crossbreeding the indigenous buffalo with
the Indian Murrah breed for more than 40 years. However, the trend of mongrelisation
of buffalo due to indiscriminate breeding practices among the indigenous
breeds, and also haphazard crossbreeding of indigenous breeds with Indian
Murrah blood has been evident in the recent times.
In the efforts of genetic improvement, Animal Breeding
and Artificial Insemination Section of Department of Livestock Services
has been using Murrah frozen semen produced locally or imported from India
for their insemination services provided through 132 outlets in some 42
accessible districts. The section has recently spelled out the policy of
the unrestricted artificial insemination of buffaloes with Murrah bull
semen in Terai and maintaining 62.5% of the Murrah breed blood level in
the middle hills (ABAIS, 1997) as against the past blanket policy of indiscriminate
crossbreeding with Murrah breed. Based on the studies carried out at Lumle
Agricultural Research Centre of Nepal Agricultural Research Council, crossbreeding
of indigenous buffaloes with Murrah breed in the Western hills for past
four decades has not caused much impact on the buffalo population of the
western hills and mountains (Rasali and Crow, 1999), as the combined adoption
of crossbred cattle and buffalo the area was only 14.2% (Floyd et al, 1999).
size and performance recording.
A Murrah buffalo herd is maintained at Livestock
Development Farm of Department of Livestock Services at Pokhara. This is
the largest institutional herd which was comprised of 6 breeding bulls,
88 milking cows, 33 young bulls, 68 heifers, 19 male calves and 21 female
calves by the end of 1995/96 (Singh, 1996). This herd serves as a resource
centre for supply of most of the Murrah buffalo bulls distributed annually
to the farmers through buffalo breeding programme. There are other smaller
herds of less than 50 breeding buffaloes which are established mainly for
experimental purpose. These include a herd of Western Hill buffaloes kept
at Lumle Station, a mixed herd of Terai buffalo and Murrah buffalo at both
of Tarahara Station and Rampur Campus. Performance recording involving
traits such as lactation yields, age at calving and calving intervals are
routine records kept in these stations. The average performance of Murrah
buffaloes at Lampatan Farm are presented at Table 3.
Table 3. The production and reproduction performance
records of Murrah buffalo herd at Lampatan Livestock development Farm in
to conception, days
herds are largely small holdings with most of the herds comprising less
than 5 breedable buffaloes. There are only a very few number of large herds
belonging to more resourceful farmers in Terai and a few migratory herds
in the high hills, but their exact data are not available. There is a great
lack of information on the production and reproduction performance in the
farmers herds across the country. A few studies to compare the performance
of indigenous and Murrah crossbred buffaloes involving milk recording activity
in the farmers reared buffaloes have been reported for the hill buffaloes
(Rasali et al, 1998a). The performance of the buffaloes across various
exotic blood level reported from the third round of milk recording study
conducted in the Western Hills are given in Table 4 which showed that the
performance of the Hill buffaloes except for the milk yield was comparable
to Murrah crossbreds. However, apart from these comparative studies, regular
milk recording as a tool for genetic improvement through selective breeding
4. The least-squares means of performance traits of buffaloes across breed
blood levels in the western hills of Nepal (Rasali et al 1998a)
Buffalo breed blood
|1. 305-day lactation
|2. Milk fat content,
|3. Lactation length,
|4. Age at first calving,
|5. Calving to first
|6. Calving interval,
in the parentheses indicate the number of records.
The long term Agricultural Perspective Plan (1995-2015)
of Nepal had envisaged that the milk and meat production in the country
would grow during the plan period at the annual rate of 4.5 % and 5.4 %
respectively with increases by 2.8 and 1.5 times respectively from the
growth rates at the base year 1993 to meet the demands of these demand
led commodities (Singh and Chapagain, 1998). As these growth are expected
to be largely achieved through the increase in buffalo production, the
development prospects for this livestock have been highly emphasized in
The recent development in the national policy relating
to the livestock sector focuses on promoting buffalo as the animal of choice
for both milk and meat production, largely on the consideration that buffalo
is the multipurpose species of livestock with lesser requirement of health
care and high ability to convert low quality roughage into high quality
food as compared to exotic dairy cattle breeds. The species has also an
advantage over the cattle which are protected by religion and law of the
land from culling and slaughtering.
The nation wide network of Department of Livestock
Services has been improved greatly in recent years through the inputs of
development projects including an Asian Development Bank funded Livestock
Development Project and an European Union grant funded project for strengthening
of veterinary services. Livestock research has been institutionalised by
Nepal Agricultural Research Council during the recent years. The Tribhuvan
University has initiated program for Veterinary and animal husbandry education
in the country. However, these three sectors which are in place now should
be directly linked to address the manifold constraints of buffalo production
(Rasali et al 1999) and alleviate them for improving the production, as
there are ample opportunities for achieving the production targets set
out in the Agricultural Perspective Plan through an integrated research
and development programme for buffalo.
ABAIS. 1997. Annual Report -1996-97: Animal Breeding
and Artificial Insemination Section, Department of Livestock Services,
P.O. Box 8814, Kathmandu, Nepal.
CBS. 1997. Agricultural statistics Nepal -1996-97
Central Bureau of Statistics, National Planning Commission Secretariat,
Kathmandu, Nepal. pp. 17-21.
Customs Dept.1995. Customs records for 1994/95. Department
of Customs, His Majesty?s Government of Nepal.
Floyd, C.N., Harding, A.H., Paudel, K.C., Rasali,
D.P., Subedi, K.D. and Subedi, P.P. 1999. the adoption and associated impact
of technologies in the western hills of Nepal. Overseas Development Institute,
London, UK. AgREN Network Paper No. 90.
Moioli, B.M. 1996. An analysis of recent statistics
on buffalo milk production and use in the world. Buffalo Journal. 2:115-126.
Rasali, D.P. and Crow, G.H. 1999. Production of buffaloes
(Bubalus bubalis) in the mountains and hills of Nepal: Constraints and
opportunities. FAO/ILRI/ICIMOD/CIP Livestock in Mountain/Highland Production
Systems E-Conference (Nov.-Dec. 1999) Highlands-L@mailserv.fao.org
Rasali, D.P. Gurung, D.B. and Yadav, E.R. 1998a.
Performance recording of lactating local and crossbred cows and buffaloes
of various exotic breed blood levels under farmers? management in the Western
Hills (1995-97). Lumle Agricultural Research Centre, Pokhara, Nepal. Working
Paper No. 98/39:14 pp.
Rasali, D.P., Joshi, H.D., Patel, R.K. and Harding,
A.H. 1998b. Phenotypic clusters and karyotypes of indigenous buffaloes
in the Western Hills of Nepal. Lumle Agricultural Research Station, Pokhara,
Nepal. Technical Paper No. 98/2: 24 pp.
Rasali, D.P., Suwal, M.R.S., Vaidya, A.K. and Joshi,
K.D. 1996. Contribution of livestock to soil fertility management system
in the western mountains of Nepal. Proc. Workshop on formulating a strategy
for soil fertility research in the hills of Nepal 17-18 August, 1995. (Ed.
Joshi et al.). Lumle Agricultural Research Centre, Pokhara, Nepal/ Natural
Resource Institute, London, UK. pp. 43-52.
Singh, D.B. 1997. Buffalo Production Unit. In: Annual
Report- Livestock Development Farm, Lampatan, Pokhara, Nepal-1995/96.
Singh, S.B. and Chapagain, D.P. 1998. Livestock sector
in the Agriculture Perspective Plan. In: Proceedings of the first national
workshop on animal genetic resources conservation and genetic improvement
of domestic animals in Nepal- April 11-13, 1994 (Ed. J.N.B. Shrestha).
Nepal Agricultural Research Council, Khumaltar, Nepal. pp. 117-128.
Shrestha, H.R., Kunwar, B.S., Mandal, P., Thapa,
M.S. and Pandey, S.B. 1998. Effect of feeding urea and molasses treated
rice and wheat straw diet on the body weight gain and carcass characteristics
of male buffalo calves. Proc. 8th World Conf. Anim. Prod., Seol,
Korea, pp. 70-71.
Present Address: Department of Animal Science, University of Manitoba,
Winnipeg, R3T 2N2, Canada.
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