The availability of animal genetic resource greatly helps the countries to assess their strengths and potential to harness the nature’s gift and India is highly fortunate in this respect – including for the buffalo species. India reigns globally in terms of largest buffalo population, huge buffalo germplasm diversity (12 recognized plus 14 distinct population groups) and the world renowned buffalo breed - Murrah.
Buffalo is a triple purpose animal, being suitable for milk, meat and draught. Buffalo can efficiently utilize the roughages and crop by-products into high quality milk suitable for a wide range of dairy products including butter, milk-powder, Mozzarella cheese, khoya, curd, yoghurt, shrikhand, dried ice cream mix, dairy whitener etc.
Buffaloes in India are spread over almost all parts of the country with varying population density, majority (72%) being concentrated in the north and western states where most of the milch breeds of buffaloes are found viz. in Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra. During the last 10 years there has been continuous growth of this species in this region at the rate of about 2.1% per annum as against the average growth rate of approximately 1.0 % in the country (Figure 1). Data show highest buffalo population growth in Uttar Pradesh followed by Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan. However, per cent growth in buffalo population was recorded highest in Haryana followed by Gujarat and Rajasthan. The states which possess large population of non-descript buffaloes and have shown higher growth rate during the period are Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Jammu & Kashmir whereas the states which have large buffalo population and a negative growth rate are Tamil Nadu (2814 to 1658), Karnataka (4251 to 3991), Orissa (1539 to 1394), West Bengal (1010 to 1086 thousands), Chhatisgarh and Assam.
The high growth rate in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh has mainly been attributed to increasing trend of buffalo meat production while in Rajasthan it is primarily due to the increased demand of buffalo milk and in Haryana due to increasing demand of superior buffalo germplasm. Recent trends indicate that the landless farmers are losing out, while medium and big farmers / entrepreneurs are consolidating ownership over milch animals especially high producing Murrah buffaloes. Many crossbreds like Mehsana (Gujarat), Godavari (AP), Kujang (Orissa) etc. evolved by using Murrah. The performance of these crossbreds has been close to Murrah.
Total number of buffaloes and annual growth rate in major buffalo producing states of India– 1992 to 2007.
Source: Deptt. Animal Husbandry & Dairy, Govt of India.
In Haryana, female buffalo population increased from 3.37 million in 1982 to 6.03 million in 2003 – an increase of about 80% in a period of 20 years (Statistical Abstract of Haryana) with a decline in the population of males.