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A farm is an area of land, including various structures, devoted primarily to the practice of producing and managing food (produce, grains, or livestock), fibers and, increasingly, fuel. It is the basic production facility in food production. Farms may be owned and operated by a single individual, family, community, corporation or a company. A farm can be a holding of any size from a fraction of a hectare to several thousand hectares.
Farmland in the USA. The fields are round due to pivot irrigation. Photo taken from the window of an airliner
A business producing tree fruits or nuts is called orchard; a vineyard
produces grapes. The stable is used for operations principally involved
in the training of horses. Stud and commercial farms breed and produce
other animals and livestock. A farm that is primarily used for the
production of milk and dairy is a dairy farm. A market garden or truck
farm is a farm that grows vegetables, but little or no grain. Additional
specialty farms include fish farms, which raise fish in captivity as
a food source, and tree farms, which grow trees for sale for transplant,
lumber, or decorative use. A plantation is usually a large farm or
estate, on which cotton, tobacco, coffee or sugar cane, are cultivated,
usually by resident laborers.
The development of farming and farms was an important component in establishing towns. Once people have moved from hunting and/or gathering and from simple horticulture to active farming, social arrangements of roads, distribution, collection, and marketing can evolve. With the exception of plantations and colonial farms, farm sizes tend to be small in newly-settled lands and expand as transportation and markets become sophisticated.
Species of cattle
Cattle were originally identified by Carolus Linnaeus as three separate species. These were Bos taurus, the European or "taurine" cattle (including similar types from Africa and Asia); Bos indicus, the zebu; and the extinct Bos primigenius, the aurochs. The aurochs is ancestral to both zebu and taurine cattle. More recently these three have increasingly been grouped as one species, with Bos primigenius taurus, Bos primigenius indicus and Bos primigenius primigenius as the subspecies.
Complicating the matter is the ability of cattle to interbreed with other closely related species. Hybrid individuals and even breeds exist, not only between taurine cattle and zebu but also between one or both of these and some other members of the genus Bos: yak (called a dzo or "yattle"), banteng and gaur. Hybrids can also occur between taurine cattle and either species of bison, which some authors consider to be in the genus Bos as well. The hybrid origin of some types may not be obvious – for example, genetic testing of the Dwarf Lulu breed, the only humpless taurine-type cattle in Nepal, found them to be a mix of taurine cattle, zebu and yak. Cattle cannot successfully be hybridized with more distantly related bovines such as water buffalo or African buffalo.
The aurochs originally ranged throughout Europe, North Africa, and much of Asia. In historical times its range became restricted to Europe, and the last known individual died in Masovia, Poland, in about 1627. Breeders have attempted to recreate cattle of similar appearance to aurochs by crossing traditional types of domesticated cattle, creating the Heck cattle breed. (See also aurochs and zebu articles.
In the April 24, 2009 edition of the journal Science it was reported that a team of researchers led by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have mapped the bovine genome. The scientists found that cattle have approximately 22,000 genes, and 80 percent of their genes are shared with humans, and they have approximately 1,000 genes they share with dogs and rodents but are not found in humans. Using this bovine "HapMap", researchers can track the differences between the breeds that affect the quality of meat and milk yields.
In general, the same words are used in different parts of the world but with minor differences in the definitions. The terminology described here contrasts the differences in definition between the United Kingdom and other British influenced parts of world such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and the United States.
* An intact (i.e., not castrated) adult male is called a bull. A
wild, young, unmarked bull is known as a micky in Australia. An
unbranded bovine of either sex is called a "maverick" in
the USA and Canada.
See also: List of animal names
Cattle can only be used in the plural and not in the singular: it
is a plurale tantum. Thus one may refer to "three cattle" or "some
cattle", but not "one cattle". There is no universally
used singular form in modern English of "cattle", other than
the sex- and age-specific terms such as cow, bull, steer and heifer.
Historically, "ox" was a non-gender-specific term for adult
cattle, but generally this is now used only for draft cattle, especially
adult castrated males. The term is also incorporated into the names
of other species such as the musk ox and "grunting ox" (yak),
and is used in some areas to describe certain cattle products such
as ox-hide and ox-tail.
"Cow" has been in general use as a singular for the collective "cattle" in spite of the objections of those who say that it is a female-specific term, so that phrases such as "that cow is a bull" would be absurd from a lexicographic standpoint. However, it is easy to use when a singular is needed and the sex is not known or is irrelevant in the context of the conversation, as in "There is a cow in the road". Further, any herd of fully mature cattle in or near a pasture is statistically likely to consist mostly of cows, so the term is probably accurate even in the restrictive sense. Other than the few bulls needed for breeding, the vast majority of male cattle are castrated as calves and slaughtered for meat before the age of three years. Thus, in a pastured herd, any calves or herd bulls usually are clearly distinguishable from the cows due to distinctively different sizes and clear anatomical differences. The Oxford English Dictionary lists the use of "cows" as a synonym for "cattle" as an American usage.[Full citation needed] Merriam-Webster, a U.S. dictionary, recognizes the non-sex-specific use of "cow" as an alternate definition, whereas Collins, a UK dictionary, does not.
Colloquially, more general non-specific terms may denote cattle when
a singular form is needed. Australian, New Zealand and British farmers
use the term "beast" or "cattle beast". "Bovine" is
also used in Britain. The term "critter" is common in the
western United States and Canada, particularly when referring to young
cattle. In some areas of the American South (particularly the Appalachian
region), where both dairy and beef cattle are present, an individual
animal was once called a "beef critter", though that term
is becoming archaic.
Cattle raised for human consumption are called "beef cattle". Within the beef cattle industry in parts of the United States, the term "beef" (plural "beeves") is still used in its archaic sense to refer to an animal of either gender. Cows of certain breeds that are kept for the milk they give are called "dairy cows" or "milking cows" (formerly "milch cows" – "milch" was pronounced as "milk"). Most young male offspring of dairy cows are sold for veal, and may be referred to as veal calves.
The term "dogies" is used to describe orphaned calves in the context of ranch work in the American west, as in "Keep them dogies moving,". In some places, a cow kept to provide milk for one family is called a "house cow". Other obsolete terms for cattle include "neat" (this use survives in "neatsfoot oil", extracted from the feet and legs of cattle), and "beefing" (young animal fit for slaughter).
An onomatopoeic term for one of the commonest sounds made by cattle
is "moo", and this sound is also called lowing. There are
a number of other sounds made by cattle, including calves bawling,
and bulls bellowing. The bullroarer makes a sound similar to a territorial
call made by bulls.
Cattle did not originate as the term for bovine animals. It was borrowed from Old French catel, itself from Latin caput, head, and originally meant movable property, especially livestock of any kind. The word is closely related to "chattel" (a unit of personal property) and "capital" in the economic sense. The term replaced earlier Old English feoh "cattle, property" (cf. German Vieh, Gothic faihu).
The word cow came via Anglo-Saxon cu (plural c?), from Common Indo-European g?ous (genitive g?owes) = "a bovine animal", compare Latin bos, Greek ß???, Persian Gâv, Sanskrit go.
In older English sources such as the King James Version of the Bible, "cattle" refers
to livestock, as opposed to "deer" which refers to wildlife. "Wild
cattle" may refer to feral cattle or to undomesticated species
of the genus Bos. Today, the modern meaning of "cattle",
without any other qualifier, is usually restricted to domesticated
Cattle have one stomach with four compartments. They are the rumen,
reticulum, omasum, and abomasum, the rumen being the largest compartment.
Cattle sometimes consume metal objects which are deposited in the reticulum,
the smallest compartment, and this is where hardware disease occurs.
The reticulum is known as the "Honeycomb." The omasum's main
function is to absorb water and nutrients from the digestible feed.
The omasum is known as the "Many Plies." The abomasum is
like the human stomach; this is why it is known as the "true stomach".
Cattle are ruminants, meaning that they have a digestive system that allows use of otherwise indigestible foods by repeatedly regurgitating and rechewing them as "cud". The cud is then reswallowed and further digested by specialised microorganisms in the rumen. These microbes are primarily responsible for decomposing cellulose and other carbohydrates into volatile fatty acids that cattle use as their primary metabolic fuel. The microbes inside of the rumen are also able to synthesize amino acids from non-protein nitrogenous sources such as urea and ammonia. As these microbes reproduce in the rumen, older generations die and their carcasses continue on through the digestive tract. These carcasses are then partially digested by the cattle, allowing it to gain a high quality protein source. These features allow cattle to thrive on grasses and other vegetation.
The gestation period for a cow is nine months. A newborn calf weighs 25 to 45 kilograms (55 to 99 lb). The world record for the heaviest bull was 1,740 kilograms (3,836 lb) a Chianina named Donetto, when he was exhibited at the Arezzo show in 1955. The heaviest steer was eight year old ‘Old Ben’, a Shorthorn/Hereford cross weighing in at 2,140 kilograms (4,718 lb) in 1910. Steers are generally killed before reaching 750 kilograms (1,653 lb). Breeding stock usually live to about 15 years (occasionally as much as 25 years).
A common misconception about cattle (particularly bulls) is that they are enraged by the color red (something provocative is often said to be "like a red flag to a bull"). This is incorrect, as cattle are red-green color-blind. The myth arose from the use of red capes in the sport of bullfighting; in fact, two different capes are used. The capote is a large, flowing cape that is magenta and yellow. The more famous muleta is the smaller, red cape, used exclusively for the final, fatal segment of the fight. It is not the color of the cape that angers the bull, but rather the movement of the fabric that irritates the bull and incites it to charge.
Although cattle cannot distinguish red from green, they do have two
kinds of color receptors in the cone cells in their retinas. Thus they
are dichromatic, the same as most other mammals (including dogs, cats,
horses and up to ten percent of male humans). They are able to distinguish
some colors, particularly blue from yellow, in the same way as most
Cattle occupy a unique role in human history, domesticated since at
least the early Neolithic. They are raised for meat (beef cattle),
dairy products and hides. They are also used as draft animals and in
certain sports. Some consider cattle the oldest form of wealth, and
cattle raiding consequently one of the earliest forms of theft.
Cattle are often raised by allowing herds to graze on the grasses of large tracts of rangeland. Raising cattle in this manner allows the use of land that might be unsuitable for growing crops. The most common interactions with cattle involve daily feeding, cleaning and milking. Many routine husbandry practices involve ear tagging, dehorning, loading, medical operations, vaccinations and hoof care, as well as training for agricultural shows and preparations. There are also some cultural differences in working with cattle- the cattle husbandry of Fulani men rests on behavioural techniques, whereas in Europe cattle are controlled primarily by physical means like fences. Breeders use cattle husbandry to reduce M. bovis infection susceptibility by selective breeding and maintaining herd health to avoid concurrent disease.
Cattle are farmed for beef, veal, dairy, leather and they are less commonly used for conservation grazing, simply to maintain grassland for wildlife – for example, in Epping Forest, England. They are often used in some of the most wild places for livestock. Depending on the breed, cattle can survive on hill grazing, heaths, marshes, moors and semi desert. Modern cows are more commercial than older breeds and, having become more specialized, are less versatile. For this reason many smaller farmers still favor old breeds, like the dairy breed of cattle Jersey.
In Portugal, Spain, Southern France and some Latin American countries, bulls are used in the activity of bullfighting; a similar activity, Jallikattu, is seen in South India; in many other countries this is illegal. Other activities such as bull riding are seen as part of a rodeo, especially in North America. Bull-leaping, a central ritual in Bronze Age Minoan culture (see Bull (mythology)), still exists in southwestern France. In modern times, cattle are also entered into agricultural competitions. These competitions can involve live cattle or cattle carcasses.
In terms of food intake by humans, consumption of cattle is less efficient
than of grain or vegetables with regard to land use, and hence cattle
grazing consumes more area than such other agricultural production
when raised on grains. Nonetheless, cattle and other forms of domesticated
animals can sometimes help to utilize plant resources in areas not
easily amenable to other forms of agriculture.
A 400-page United Nations report from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) states that cattle farming is "responsible for 18% of greenhouse gases." The production of cattle to feed and clothe humans stresses ecosystems around the world, and is assessed to be one of the top three environmental problems in the world on a local to global scale.
The report, entitled Livestock's Long Shadow, also surveys the environmental damage from sheep, chickens, pigs and goats. But in almost every case, the world's 1.5 billion cattle are cited as the greatest adverse impact with respect to climate change as well as species extinction. The report concludes that, unless changes are made, the massive damage reckoned to be due to livestock may more than double by 2050, as demand for meat increases. One of the cited changes suggests that intensification of the livestock industry may be suggested, since intensification leads to less land for a given level of production.
Some microbes respire in the cattle gut by an anaerobic process known as methanogenesis (producing the gas methane). Cattle emit a large volume of methane, 95% of it through eructation or burping, not flatulence. As the carbon in the methane comes from the digestion of vegetation produced by photosynthesis, its release into the air by this process would normally be considered harmless, because there is no net increase in carbon in the atmosphere — it's removed as carbon dioxide from the air by photosynthesis and returned to it as methane. Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, having a warming effect 23 to 50 times greater, and according to Takahashi and Young "even a small increase in methane concentration in the atmosphere exerts a potentially significant contribution to global warming". Further analysis of the methane gas produced by livestock as a contributor to the increase in greenhouse gases is provided by Weart. Research is underway on methods of reducing this source of methane, by the use of dietary supplements, or treatments to reduce the proportion of methanogenetic microbes, perhaps by vaccination.
Cattle are fed a concentrated high-corn diet which produces rapid weight gain, but this has side effects which include increased acidity in the digestive system. When improperly handled, manure and other byproducts of concentrated agriculture also have environmental consequences.
Grazing by cattle at low intensities can create a favourable environment
for native herbs and forbs; however, in most world regions cattle are
reducing biodiversity due to overgrazing driven by food demands by
an expanding human population.
Oxen (singular ox) are large and heavyset breeds of Bos taurus cattle trained as draft animals. Often they are adult, castrated males. Usually an ox is over four years old due to the need for training and to allow it to grow to full size. Oxen are used for plowing, transport, hauling cargo, grain-grinding by trampling or by powering machines, irrigation by powering pumps, and wagon drawing. Oxen were commonly used to skid logs in forests, and sometimes still are, in low-impact select-cut logging. Oxen are most often used in teams of two, paired, for light work such as carting. In the past, teams might have been larger, with some teams exceeding twenty animals when used for logging.
An ox is nothing more than a mature bovine with an "education." The education consists of the animal's learning to respond appropriately to the teamster's (ox driver's) signals. These signals are given by verbal commands or by noise (whip cracks) and many teamsters were known for their voices and language. In North America, the commands are (1) get up, (2) whoa, (3) back up, (4) gee (turn right) and (5) haw (turn left). Oxen must be painstakingly trained from a young age. Their teamster must provide as many as a dozen yokes of different sizes as the animals grow. A wooden yoke is fastened about the neck of each pair so that the force of draft is distributed across their shoulders. From calves, oxen are chosen with horns since the horns hold the yoke in place when the oxen lower their heads, back up, or slow down (particularly with a wheeled vehicle going downhill). Yoked oxen cannot slow a load like harnessed horses can; the load has to be controlled downhill by other means. The gait of the ox is often important to ox trainers, since the speed the animal walks should roughly match the gait of the ox driver who must work with it.
U.S. ox trainers favored larger breeds for their ability to do more
work and for their intelligence. Because they are larger animals, the
typical ox is the male of a breed, rather than the smaller female.
Females are potentially more useful producing calves and milk.
Oxen can pull harder and longer than horses, particularly on obstinate or almost un-movable loads. This is one of the reasons that teams drag logs from forests long after horses had taken over most other draft uses in Europe and North America. Though not as fast as horses, they are less prone to injury because they are more sure-footed and do not try to jerk the load.
An "ox" is not a unique breed of bovine, nor have any "blue" oxen lived outside the folk tales surrounding Paul Bunyan, the mythical American logger. A possible exception and antecedent to this legend is the Belgian Blue breed which is known primarily for its unusual musculature and at times exhibits unusual white/blue, blue roan, or blue coloration. The unusual musculature of the breed is believed to be due to a natural mutation of the gene that codes for the protein Myostatin, which is responsible for normal muscle atrophy.
Many oxen are used worldwide, especially in developing countries.
Ox is also used for various cattle products, irrespective of age,
sex or training of the beast – for example, ox-blood, ox-liver,
ox-kidney, ox-heart, ox-hide.
* The Evangelist St. Luke is depicted as an ox in Christian art.
Cows are venerated within the Hindu religion of India. According to Vedic scripture they are to be treated with the same respect 'as one's mother' because of the milk they provide; "The cow is my mother. The bull is my sire." They appear in numerous stories from the Puranas and Vedas. The deity Krishna is brought up in a family of cowherders, and given the name Govinda (protector of the cows). Also Shiva is traditionally said to ride on the back of a bull named Nandi. Bulls in particular are seen as a symbolic emblem of selfless duty and religion. In ancient rural India every household had a few cows which provided a constant supply of milk and a few bulls that helped as draft animals. Many Hindus feel that at least it was economically wise to keep cattle for their milk rather than consume their flesh for one single meal.
Gandhi explains his feelings about cow protection as follows:
"The cow to me means the entire sub-human world, extending man's sympathies beyond his own species. Man through the cow is enjoined to realize his identity with all that lives. Why the ancient rishis selected the cow for apotheosis is obvious to me. The cow in India was the best comparison; she was the giver of plenty. Not only did she give milk, but she also made agriculture possible. The cow is a poem of pity; one reads pity in the gentle animal. She is the second mother to millions of mankind. Protection of the cow means protection of the whole dumb creation of God. The appeal of the lower order of creation is all the more forceful because it is speechless."
Distribution and subspecies
* Java Banteng (B. j. javanicus): Java; Males are black, females
The banteng is similar in size to domestic cattle, being 1.55 to 1.65 m (61 to 65 in) tall at the shoulder, and weighing 600 to 800 kg (1,300 to 1,800 lb). It exhibits sexual dimorphism, allowing the sexes to be readily distinguished by colour and size. In mature males, the short-haired coat is blue-black or dark chestnut in colour, while in females and young it is chestnut, with a dark dorsal stripe. Both males and females have white stockings on their lower legs, a white rump, a white muzzle, and white spots above the eyes. The build is similar to that of domestic cattle, but with a rather slender neck and small head, and a ridge on the back above the shoulders. The horns of females are short and tightly curved, pointing inward at the tips, and those of males arc upwards, growing 60 to 75 cm (24 to 30 in) long, and being connected by a horn-like bald patch on the forehead.
Banteng live in sparse forest where they feed on grasses, bamboo, fruit, leaves and young branches. The Banteng is generally active both night and day but in places where humans are common they adopt a nocturnal schedule. Banteng tend to gather in herds of two to thirty members.
The Banteng is the second endangered species to be successfully cloned, and the first to survive for more than a week (the first was a Gaur that died two days after being born). Scientists at Advanced Cell Technology in Worcester, MA, U.S. extracted DNA from Banteng cells kept in the San Diego Zoo's "Frozen Zoo" facility, and transferred it into eggs from domestic cattle, a process called somatic cell nuclear transfer. 30 embryos were created, sent to Trans Ova Genetics, which implanted the fertilized eggs in domestic cattle. Two were carried to term and delivered by caesarian section. The first was born on April 1, 2003, and the second two days later. The second was euthanized, but the first survived and, as of September 2006, remains in good health at the San Diego Zoo.
Among the oldest and most widely distributed of all breeds of cattle
in the world, and recorded since the Middle Ages, the Simmental breed
has contributed to the creation of several other famous European breeds
including the Montbeliarde (France), the Razzeta d'Oropa (Italy) and
the Fleckvieh (Germany).
The Simmental has historically been used for dairy, beef and as draught animals. They particularly renowned for the rapid growth of their young, if given sufficient feed. The breeding of the American and British Simmentals have focused on beef production, while in Australia Simmental are a popular cross to improve milking.
The traditional colouration of the Simmental has been described variously as "red and white spotted" or "gold and white", although there is no specific standard colouration, and the dominant shade varies from a pale yellow-gold all the way to very dark red (the latter being particularly popular in the United States). The face is normally white, and this characteristic is usually passed to cross-bred calves. The white face is genetically distinct from the white head of the Hereford.
In 2000, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that there were approximately 158 million water buffalo in the world and that 97% of them (approximately 153 million animals) were in Asia. There are established feral populations in northern Australia but the dwindling true wild populations are thought to survive in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, and Thailand. All the domestic varieties and breeds descend from one common ancestor, the Wild Water Buffalo, which is now an endangered species.
Buffalo are used as draft, meat, and dairy animals. Their dung is used as a fertilizer and as a fuel when dried. In Chonburi, Thailand, and in South Malabar Region in Kerala, India, there are annual water buffalo races. A few have also found use as pack animals carrying loads even for special forces.
American bison are known as buffalo in parts of North America, but
not normally in other usages; bison are more closely related to cattle,
gaur, banteng, and yaks than to Asian buffalo. The water buffalo genus
includes water buffalo, tamaraw and anoas—all Asian species.
The ancestry of the African buffalo is unclear, but it is not believed
to be closely related to the water buffalo.
True wild water buffalo are thought to survive in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Thailand.
The IUCN Red List of threatened species classifies wild water buffalo
(Bubalis arnee) as an Endangered species. The total number of wild
water buffalo left is thought to be less than 4,000, which suggests
that the number of mature individuals will be less than 2,500, and
an estimated continuing decline of at least 20% within 14 years (ca.
2 generations) and at least 50% within 21 years seems likely given
the severity of the threats, especially hybridization with the abundant
domestic Asian water buffalo leading to genetic pollution.
Adult Water Buffalo range in size from 400 to 900 kg (880 to 2,000 lb) for the domestic breeds, while the wild animals are nearly 3 m (9.8 ft) long and 2 m (6.6 ft) tall, weighing up to 1,200 kg (2,600 lb); females are about two-thirds this size.
River buffalo are usually black and have long curled horns, whereas swamp buffalo can be black or white, or both, with gently curved horns. The largest recorded horns are just under 2 metres long.
There are differences between swamp buffalo and river buffalo. Swamp buffalo have swept back horns and are native to the eastern half of Asia from India to Taiwan. All are similar in general appearance. River buffalo generally have curved horns and are native to the western half of Asia.
The rumen (the first chamber of the digestive system of a ruminant) of the Water Buffalo has important differences to that of other ruminants. It consists of essential microorganisms; namely bacteria, protozoa and fungi which digest the food to produce fermentation end-products via anaerobic fermentation or Embden-Myerhof pathway.
The Water Buffalo rumen has been found to contain a larger population
of bacteria particularly the cellulolytic bacteria, lower protozoa
and higher fungi zoospores. In addition, higher rumen ammonia nitrogen
(NH3-N) and higher pH have been found as compared to those in cattle.
The classification of the water buffalo is uncertain. Some authorities list a single species, Bubalus bubalis with three subspecies, the river buffalo (B. bubalis bubalis) of South Asia, the carabao or swamp buffalo (B. bubalis carabanesis) of the Philippines and Southeast Asia, and the arni, or wild water buffalo (B. bubalis arnee). Others regard these as closely-related but separate species.
The swamp buffalo is primarily found in the eastern half of Asia and
has 48 chromosomes. The river buffalo is mostly found in the western
half of Asia (and in Europe and Africa), and has 50 chromosomes. The
two types do not readily interbreed, but fertile offspring can occur.
Buffalo-cattle hybrids have not been observed to occur, and the embryos
of such hybrids do not reach maturity in laboratory experiments.
Geologically speaking, the Bovidae is much recent group as compared
to Cervidae because their members are untraceable in the layers of
the earth. The fossil forms of the buffalo provide a definite link
between the Indian type and their present extreme representatives and
their extinct allies. All Asiatic buffaloes seem to form a closely
allied group of species which represent more or less a passage from
one variety to another.
Type Locality: "Habitat in Asia, cultus in Italia". Restricted by Thomas (1911a:154) to Italy, Rome, but Linnaeus' (1758) comment indicates Asia (India?).
Distribution: Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, India (survives in Assam and Orissa), Nepal, N Thailand, Vietnam, and possibly at least formerly in Laos; domesticated in N Africa, S Europe, and even England, east to Indonesia and in E South America; supposedly feral populations in Sri Lanka, Sumatra, Java, Borneo, Philippines and other parts of SE Asia; feral populations resulting from introductions in New Britain and New Ireland (Bismarck Arch., Papua New Guinea), and Australia. Status: CITES – Appendix III (Nepal) as B. arnee (excludes domesticated forms - but see comments below; IUCN – Endangered
Average lifespan in captivity: up to 25 years
Asia is the native home of the water buffalo, with 95% of the world
population of water buffalo, with about half of the total in India.
Many Asian countries depend on the water buffalo as its primary bovine
species. It is valuable for its meat and milk as well as the labour
it performs. As of 1992 the Asian population was estimated at 141 million.
The fat content of buffalo milk is the highest amongst farm animals
and the butterfat is a major source of ghee in some Asian countries.
Its success in Asia is evident by its extensive range. Both variants
occur in Asia. River buffalo are found in elevations of 2,800 m in
Nepal, and swamp buffalo are found throughout the lowland tropics.
Part of their success is due to their ability to thrive on poor foodstuffs
and yet be valuable economically. Moreover they are much better suited
to plough the muddy paddy fields as they are better adapted than common
cattle (Bos taurus) to move in swamps. In India the meat of buffalo
is sold as beef because it is regarded as different from a cow. Cow's
beef in illegal in India.
Swamp buffalo were introduced into the Northern Territory from Timor in the early in the 19th century as a food source and a beast of burden. They escaped, thrived and became feral, causing significant environmental damage. Buffalo are also found in Arnhem Land and the Top End. An estimated 350,000 buffalo were living on the floodplains of Arnhem Land and the Katherine region in the 1980s. As a result of this they were hunted in the Top End from 1885 until 1980. The commencement of the Brucellosis and Tuberculosis Campaign (BTEC) saw a huge culling program reduce buffalo herds to a fraction of the numbers that were reached in the 1980s. The BTEC was finished when the Northern Territory was declared free of the disease in 1997.
During the 1950s buffalo were hunted for their skins, and meat which was exported and used in the local trade. In the late 1970s live exports were made to Cuba and continued later into other countries. Buffalo are now crossed with riverine buffalo in artificial breeding (AI) programs and may be found in many areas of Australia. Some of these crossbreds are used for milk production.
Melville Island is a popular hunting location, where a steady population of up to 4,000 individuals exist. Safari outfits run out of Darwin to Melville Island and other locations in the Top End often with the use of bush pilots. The horns which can measure up to a record of 3.1 metres tip to tip are a prized hunting trophy.
The buffalo have developed a different appearance from the Indonesian
buffalo from which they descend. They live mainly
in freshwater marshes and billabongs, and their territory range can
be quite expansive during the wet season. Their only natural predator
in Australia are large adult saltwater crocodiles, with whom they share
Introduced into North Africa and the Near East by 600 AD, the water
buffalo was brought to Europe with returning Crusaders in the Middle
Ages, and herds can be found in Turkey, Bulgaria,
Romania, Albania and Italy. As in Asia, buffalo of the Middle East
and Europe live on coarse vegetation on the marginal land traditionally
available to peasants. They are an economic asset by serving as a protein
source, draft animal, and storage of family or household wealth. In
some areas, they also provide occasional recreation at annual racing
festivals. These buffalo are mostly river buffalo; due to genetic isolation,
they have adopted a distinct appearance. Buffalo milk is used for the
production of buffalo mozzarella in Campania and many other locations
around the world.
Water buffalo are a traditional farm animal in Egypt, which has a
large number of them. They are used as the main source of red meat
in Egypt. Cows have been introduced in modern farms,
yet water buffalo remain as the more widespread type of cattle in Egypt.[citation
There are very limited commercial herds in North America, for yogurt
and cheese products.
Water buffalo were introduced into the Amazon River basin in 1895.
They are now extensively used there for beef and dairy production.
In 2005, the buffalo herd in the Brazilian Amazon stood at approximately
1.5 million head, of which approximately 160,000 were located in the
Lower Amazon floodplain.
There are many breeds of domestic water buffalo.
Water buffalo have been domesticated for 5,000 years and have become economically important animals. They provide more than 5% of the world’s milk supply and 20% to 30% of the farm power in Southeast Asia. Milk from these animals is used by many human populations, and is the traditional raw material for mozzarella cheese and curd due to its higher fat content. In Africa and other locations, water buffalo milk is used for yogurt, as in Vermont, USA. The chief dairy breed of Buffalo is the Murrah breed. Buffalo meat, sometimes called "Carabeef", is often passed off as beef in certain regions and is also a major source of export revenue for India which has the largest population of buffalo in the world. However, in many Asian regions, buffalo meat is less preferred due to its toughness, however, recipes have evolved (Rendang for example) where the slow cooking process and spices not only make the meat palatable, but also preserves it; an important factor in hot climates where refrigeration is not always available. Water buffalo horns are used for the embouchure of musical instruments such as ney and kaval. Water buffalo hide provides a tough and useful leather often used for shoes and motorcycle helmets. The bones and horns are often made into jewelry, especially earrings.
The water buffalo has promise as a major source of meat, even the milking ones. The water buffalo also is the classic work animal in Asia, an integral part of that continent’s traditional village farming structure and also used for hauling cotton, pumping water in Pakistan and hauling logs in Turkey. The domesticated water buffalo is often referred to as “the living tractor of the East” as it is relied upon for plowing and transportation in many parts of Asia.