Prolonged heat affects buffalo farming

Reduction in milk production generates less revenue, creating financial problems for farmers

Ghulam Dustgeer June 24, 2019

FAISALABAD: The scorching heat of the summer is leaving a severe impact on the lives of farm animals such as the buffalo that are certainly victims of the burning weather in this season.

Buffalo is one of few animals that fulfill the dairy needs of citizens in the country. Hot weather and stiff conditions create hardships for the large bovid. Locally, three generations of the buffalo namely Ravi, Neeli and the Ravi Neeli combination are common types that are considered fit for breeding in Pakistan’s climate.

In total, there are 40 million buffaloes all over the country that produce large quantities of milk for public consumption. Milk is presumably part of the natural diet: a drink full of vitamins and other power boosting ingredients.

Constituting essential nutrient values, buffalo milk is massively produced and used as an ingredient in sweets, tea and other value addition products. Unfortunately, hot weather adversely affects the production of milk. It’s a hard nut to crack for buffaloes to tolerate temperatures as high as 40 degree Celsius and produce the same amount of milk as produced during normal weather conditions.

Buffaloes produce 16 to 18 litres of milk in a day in normal weather, which is somewhere between 20 to 24 degrees Celsius. This weather is often referred to as ‘friendly environment’ for buffaloes.

Prolonged hot weather affects buffaloes and farmers by reducing their daily production level of milk. Only about 4 to 6 litres in a day is produced during this weather. The reduction in milk production generates less revenue, creating financial problems for farmers.

University of Agriculture Faisalabad, Dean Faculty of Veterinary Sciences Dr Zafar Iqbal emphasized that there is a need to maintain balance in our ecology system. He stressed that buffaloes need to be raised in relatively cooler temperatures and advised farmers to keep them in open areas for some time but ensure that the outside environment had sufficient shade.

Consumers of buffalo milk also face difficulties due to shortage in the market and are often left with no choice but to switch to alternatives such as packed milk, fruit juices or medicated powder for their children’s diet.

Milkmen and farmers make special arrangements for buffaloes in order to protect them from warmth. The arrangements help by maintaining the health of buffaloes. A farmer named Imran, who looks after 13 units of buffaloes, said that farmers take special care of every aspect of their farm animals’ health and well-being. “The farmers follow a localized version of the calendar to make their farming decisions.”

He added that the running months of Harr Swan and Bhadon (June, July and August) are very tough for the buffaloes. “We take special measures to face some of the hottest months to protect our buffaloes.” He informed that farmers have to bathe the buffaloes five times in a day. “Animals are kept in shady places for their protection.” He further said that the months of Phagan, Chait and Beshakh fall in the winter season and are friendly for the buffaloes.

Another farmer Jahangir, who has taken care of buffaloes for many years, said that farmers setup a special diet plan for their buffaloes during summer season. “Green weed that is often used in food of buffaloes is naturally low in production.

A combination of some organic items like corn, wheat, mustard oil and yogurt are also used in the food mixture given to buffaloes.” He criticised milkmen who used chemicals to increase the quantity of milk produced. “Some milkmen add ice to enhance the quantity of milk but this practise also reduces the quality of said milk.”

The owner of a buffalo farm house and member of the Punjab Buffalo Breeders Association Basharat Jaspal said that summer is a challenging time for both the farmers and buffaloes. “Lesser milk production shrinks our income and day to day expenses remain the same on farms.” He added that they have regular customers and farm owners have to fulfill their demands somehow. “Farmers have to look around for younger buffaloes which have recently given birth as these buffaloes produce more quantity of milk.”

Published in The Express Tribune, June 24th, 2019.


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