Nutritional requirement of lactating buffaloes

In India, dairy farming is one of the best and profitable business which provides the rural employment. When it comes to buffalo population, India has 55% of world buffalo population. As milk production is generating huge profits, even educated individuals along with other firms are getting into this business. Usually buffaloes have multiple advantages when compared to cross-bred cows. Buffalo has inherent ability to produce milk with high milk fat contents ranging from 6 to 8.5%. Because of its higher milk fat contents, buffalo milk is preferred over cow milk and fetch better price in India and abroad. Buffaloes are better converter of poor-quality roughage into milk (population of fibrolytic bacteria and protozoa is more in buffalo rumen as compared to cattle rumen). There is also better degradation of both crude protein (CP) and protein free dry matter (DM) in buffaloes than in cattle. Buffaloes are well-adapted to climatic extremes. The other big advantages of buffaloes are they are more disease resistant when compared to crossbred cows. They can thrive on any crop residue in absence of concentrates during drought. Low per head milk yield, poor reproductive performance (seasonal breeding behavior, anestrous, and longer calving interval) and low growth rate in buffaloes have been attributed to insufficient supply of nutrients. In many states of India, where the buffalo milk is an integral part of the food chain and rural economy, irregular and inadequate availability of quality feedstuffs and their utilization are hampering the performance of this unique animal. Many efforts have been made in the last few decades to improve nutrient supply and utilization in buffaloes.
Key nutrients required in buffaloes
For maintenance, normal health, production and reproduction buffaloes need dietary supply of all these nutrients or their precursors except some vitamins which are synthesized in body. Chemically feeds of buffalo are composed of water, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins.
Protein and energy requirements of Indian buffaloes
Buffaloes like other domesticated ruminants meet their protein and energy requirements from fermentation end products (microbial protein and volatile fatty acids). A greater ruminal degradation of both fiber and protein is noticed in buffaloes than in cattle and sheep. This unique ability to better ferment fiber in buffaloes could be the result of adaptation because for years they have been fed on low quality high fibrous feeds. Particularly in India energy and protein demands of buffaloes are being mainly met by feeding them low-quality roughages, agricultural crop-residues and industrial by-products which contain high levels of lingo cellulosic materials, low levels of fermentable carbohydrate and protein. During extreme fodder scarcity buffaloes are completely switched to cereals straws to meet their energy and protein demands. Dietary Rumen degradable protein and Rumen undegradable protein doesn’t affect the CP digestibility in lactating buffaloes. The concentration of crude protein on dry matter should be between 11 and 14%. Milk yield and milk constituents (fat and protein) yields were greater in buffaloes fed with 50% rumen degradable protein(RDP) than those fed with higher levels of rumen degradable protein(RDP). Some common energy and protein sources are wheat in form of dalia, maize, barley, cotton seed cake, whole cotton seed, Mustard cake, Mustard De-oiled cake, soya de-oiled cake, rice polish, bypass fat, oil, rumen protected methionine, rumen protected lysine etc.
Carbohydrates are the main sources of energy for buffaloes. Carbohydrates are the components of starch and fibres. Buffalo utilizes fibers to a large extent than cattle because of large ruminal microbe’s population. However, lignin (wood-fibre) is not utilized. The efficiency of fibre digestion is five to eight percent higher in buffalo than in cattle.
Fat is required in small amounts for the ruminant. However, whatever fat is present in the feed undergoes microbial attack and degradation. Unsaturated fatty acids are to a large extent saturated. This is one of the reasons for the milk and body fat of the ruminant being of equal composition, largely independent of the type of feed given. If the fat can in some form be protected from ruminal degradation, and instead be utilized in the lower intestinal tract, it may be used as an additional energy source. However, it may then unfavorably alter milk fat composition. Too much unprotected fat in the diet depresses the ability of the microbes to ferment fibres, negatively influencing energy utilisation.
Minerals and vitamins
Minerals and vitamins are required by body for optimum growth and ,proper muscle and nerve function. They are essential components of body enzymes, hormones and cells. Minerals play a vital role in improving fertility, production, metabolism, fetus, calf care growth and in increasing immunity against diseases. Minerals are classified in two types: Macro minerals eg: Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Potassium, Sodium, Chlorine, Sulphur and Micro minerals eg: Copper, Zinc, Iron, Cobalt, Chromium, Iodine, Manganese and Molybednum. Buffaloes are highly susceptible for retention for placenta, prolapse, delayed onset of puberty and anestrus. Minerals plays vital role in such reproductive disorders. Skin problems like rough hair coat, bleached hair coat is also an important mineral deficiency in buffaloes which directly or indirectly affects milk production. There is certain amount of mineral loss in per litre milk production. For eg there is average loss of 1.18 gm of calcium and 0.9 gm of phosphorus in 1 litre buffalo milk production. Overall conclusion is that use of chelated, high bioavailability and high retention minerals are useful in production as well as in reproduction of buffaloes. Vitamins are essential for total body function. Most vitamins are synthesized by the animal or it’s rumen microbes. Such vitamins, B, C and K (and to some extent D) does not need to be fed. Vitamin B is synthesized by ruminal microbes, vitamin K by intestinal microbes and vitamin C in the tissues. Vitamin D is formed when the precursor, found on the skin on animals and on grass, is exposed to Ultraviolet-ray. In tropical countries deficiency of vitamin D is rare. Vitamins A and E are not synthesized in the animal but must be supplied. Vitamin A is found in silage, fresh grass, dark green leaves, peas and carrots. Cereals are a source of vitamin E.
Water is essential for most body functions such as body temperature control, milk production and maintaining blood plasma volume. Thermal regulation mechanism of the buffaloes are very poor because buffaloes skin have less sweat glands that’s why, buffaloes require more water than cattle under the same circumstances and should have access to clean cool water and libitum. A restricted water intake leads to a decrease in dry matter intake and thus affects milk production and growth negatively. For one litre milk production 3 to 4 litres water is required.
Steps in formulating lactating buffaloes ration
Ration of buffaloes is quite different from cattle ration, since cattle are raised mainly for high milk yield but buffaloes are raised for high milk fat. While formulating buffaloes ration points(BRP), it is advisable that ingredients should be high in fiber and oil. Proper proportion of concentrate and Roughages is also required in an animal’s diet. Concentrate is differentiated into energy source, protein source, and byproduct source. Energy source includes mixture of wheat, maize, barley, bajra, cotton seed, oil, rice polish etc, protein source includes mustard cake, mustard de-oiled cake, cotton cake, soya de-oiled cake etc, byproduct source includes wheat bran, de-oiled rice bran, chilka, churi etc. In concentrate ratio energy source should be 30-35%, protein source should be also 25 to 30%, byproduct source should be around 30- 35% remaining portion is covered by salt 1-1.5%, sodium bicarbonate 1%, Molasses 5%, mineral mixture 1-2%, bypass fat-1.5 to 2%, toxinbinder 0.2%, rumen protected lysine and methionine 0.05% and 0.15% respectively, or 3:1 in complete ration. In roughage portion wheat straw, rice straw, berseem, lucerne, maize green, bajra green, hay is used. After selection of ingredients dry matter of lactating buffalo is calculated which is as follows.
Dry matter of lactating buffalo-2% of body weight + 1/3 of milk yield
After calculation of dry matter rationing of concentrate roughage is done. Concentrate is given 500gm per litre milk production + 1.25 kg concentrate for maintenance, while remaining green and dry is given 1/3 and 2/3 of calculated drymatter.As there are no standardized international tables for dairy buffaloes’ nutritional requirements, so below tabular data(Table 1) is based on various practical experiments on indian dairy buffalo.
In Haryana and Punjab various traditional practices are followed in feeding of buffaloes like mixtures of cotton cake, wheat bran, boiled wheat with jaggery and oil additional to concentrate and roughage. This is routinely followed in buffalo feeding in Haryana and Punjab to maintain milk fat around 7 to 8 %.
1.Buffaloes are better converter of poor quality roughage in milk, they can well thrive in drought condition. Over time buffalo rearing has shifted from the backyard to commercial farms and large business enterprises. The reason for this change is that the numerous buffalo breeds are potentially excellent suppliers of milk
2. The average milk yield of river buffaloes ranges from 1500 to 2500 litres in about 300 days. Buffalo milk is unique because it is high in total solids, fat, proteins and vitamin. It also contains less cholesterol and more tocopherol which is a natural antioxidant. Like cow milk, buffalo milk is used for different milk products such as butter, butter oil (ghee), soft plus hard cheeses, condensed milk, evaporated milk, ice cream, yoghurt and much more. The most popular of these products is the soft Italian cheese called mozzarella.
3.Likewise cattle, buffalo requires protein, energy, carbohydrate, fat vitamins and minerals in balanced proportion for production and reproduction.
4. Buffaloes are less discriminating in foraging and therefore consume a large quantity of coarse fodder that is not readily eaten by cattle. This might be one of the reason why buffaloes thrive better than do cattle on coarse fodder.
5.Buffaloes have a low cost of milk production per litre which is net outcome of physiological superiority of buffaloes over cows.
References are available on request
by Dr Manish Pathak, Kemin Industries South Asia Pvt Ltd