Buffalo Genetic Resources of India and Their Improvement

India is a rich repository of bubaline genetic resources. There are 10 breeds of buffaloes in the country with a vast population of 97.92 millions. However, many of these breeds cannot be strictly considered as breeds in their true sense as there are no breeding society/government agency to define their characteristics related to conformation, reproduction and production. The defined indigenous breeds constitute around 35 per cent of the total buffalo population of the country.  There is a need to ensure maintenance of genetic variability in these breeds while improving them through selection for important economic traits. These large populations of non-descript/descript buffaloes are reared in small holder production system comprising of 2-3 animals by small and marginal farmers under different ecologies.

The buffalo is the mainstay of Indian dairy sector. With 53 % of the world buffalo population, India produces 63 percent of the world buffalo milk. The contribution of buffaloes in terms of milk production (54.4 million tonnes i.e. 55% of the total production) in the year 2006-2007 was higher than that of indigenous cows with 20.93 million tonnes (21%) and crossbred cows with 20.22 million tonnes (20%). The buffalo milk is preferred to cow milk in certain parts of the country especially the northern belt and is rich in fat and SNF, has lower cholesterol content, high protein efficiency ratio, higher calcium, iron, phosphorus and vitamin A.  The buffalo milk is also good for specialty product like Mozzarella cheese and contains higher levels of bioprotective factors like lactoferrin, lysozyme, lactoperoxidase etc.

The milk productivity in bovines is by and large low because of poor genetic make-up, shortage of feed and fodder and inadequate health cover. The milk productivity in our country continues to very low i.e. indigenous cows yield 1.89 kg, crossbred cows, 6.46 kg, buffaloes, 3.91 kg and goats 300 ml per day. This is because our production systems are not intensive commercial systems, but subsidiary and supplemental systems as part of the overall land use system where crop production dominates the scene.

A breed is a group of inter-breeding domestic animals of a species.  It shows similarity among its individuals in certain distinguishable characteristics (colour, shape, size of body parts).  The breeds have been developed as a result of selection and breeding based on the needs of mankind as well as adaptation to agro-climatic conditions of their native home tracts.

Milch Breeds of Buffaloes

There are seven well-defined Indian dairy breeds of buffaloes namely Murrah, Nili-Ravi, Bhadawari, Jaffarabadi, Surti, Mehsana and Nagpuri. Apart from providing milk, the buffaloes are also used for carting, ploughing and other agricultural operations. The important characteristics of different breeds have been discussed below.