Carabao Care and Management, Growing-Fattening


Weanling caracalves (8 to 12 months old) may either be sold as feeder caracalves or they may be fed with economical growing rations to gain 0.50 to 0.75 kg per day for sale as yearling or fatteners after three months. They may be fed, too, with high-energy ration and finished as soon as possible for slaughter especially if they are not suited for breeding purposes. The average liveweight of the carabao and Murrah buffalo under Philippine conditions are as follows:

1. Use young bulls only to a very reception female smaller than his size. Difficulties in the first mating may cause the bull to become a shy breeder.

2. Use bulls for breeding when they are about 3-1/2 to 4 years old. This is to ensure that their physical and sexual capability are fully developed. However, younger bulls of about 2-1/2 years old may be used provided they are physically capable. In addition, the number of females to be sired should not be more than 20 caraheifers or caracows per breeding carabull.

3. Carabulls are left to run with the females in the ranch. It is recommended, however, that after the breeding season bulls are separated from the rest of the herd and given rest and supplemental feed for replenishment of vigor.

4. Provide cooling facilities to the bulls for better body heat dissipation. In addition, spermatogenesis will be improved if the bull have cooling facilities. Fertility testing should be practiced if possible.

Good management and better nutrition can prolong the productive life of carabulls from 10 to 15 years, or longer.

Tips of Caraheifer Management

Replacement caraheifers should be separated from the bull until they are ready for breeding. The occurrence of heat should be carefully observed to facilitate breeding and recording. Animals that do not come to heat on their scheduled time should be carefully examined.

The following are suggested breeding practices for caraheifers:

1. In breeding caraheifer for the first time the age-weight relationship is an important consideration. Thus, the heifer should weigh at least 350 kg and the age may range from 2.5 to 3 years.

2. Under close confinement or backyard method, turn the bull to the female in heat or bring the latter to the bull’s quarter, instead. Both should be allowed to stay together without stress until it is markedly observed that the female in heat has been properly serviced.

Carabull/Caracow Ratio

The carabull to caracow ratio largely depends on the mating system adopted. A Murrah buffalo bull can be assigned to 15 to 20 females during the breeding season,

The age and the physical condition of the bull are important factors in determining its female load. With hand mating, only 20 caraheifers a year should be sired by a young bull of about 1-1/2 to 3-1/2 years old. This number maybe increased to 30 when the bull is from 3-1/2 to 4-1/2 years old. At 4-1/2 years of age, the female load for 1 year could be increased to 40 caraheifers or caracows.

Upgrading Practice

Mating the carabao with a breed such as the Murrah or Nili-Ravi is highly recommended. Upgrading can be done either by natural mating or A.I. If natural breeding is practice the carabao and the Murrah must have been raised together for something preferably during calfhood to avoid mating problems.

Artificial Insemination (A.I.)

The use of A.I has a good potential for improving the carabao, however, there are still technical problems that are to be resolved in its use.

The necessary conditions for A.I. to be successful are as follows:

1. Health and nutritional level. Animals that are sickly or infected with disease usually have poor chances of good conception. A good health program such as regular vaccination and deworming are excellent management practices.

Poor spermatogenesis and ovarian activity in the carabao result on account of poor nutrition. A majority of the carabaos are given only rations with crop residues such as rice straw and roadside weeds. Underfeeding and overfeeding the animal result in a poor breeding performance.

2. Heat detection. Early heat detection is necessary to bread the animal at the right time. Heat manifestation in the carabao is less distinct as compared to that in cattle. It is estimated that 30 to 40% of the failures in A.I. is the difficulty in defecting carabaos in heat.

3. Time of insemination. It is recommended that the animals be inseminated 24 to 36 hours after the onset of estrus.

Ovulation takes place 14 to 16 hours after the end of estrus. The recommendation is based on the prompt detection of the onset of heat.

4. Post-partum breeding. The success of A.I. is likely to be ensured if animals are bred at least 60 days after calving. At this time the uterus and other parts of the reproductive system have returned to normal.

Management of Pregnant Herd

Pregnant caracows and caraheifers should be separated from the rest of the herd especially in the last two months of their pregnancy. They must receive adequate supply of energy, protein, vitamins and minerals for their maintenance, growth and fetal growth requirements. Poor nutrition of pregnant caracows/caraheifers usually results in thebirth of weak caracalves that are more susceptible to disease. Moreover, poor nutrition may result to poor milk production, hence, it is advisable to stop milking 2 months before the expected date of calving.

About a week before calving, the caracow/caraheifer should be isolated in a clean and well-bedded maternity stall or clean pasture where she can be closely observed. The most common signs pf approaching calving include udder enlargement and distention of teats, swelling of the vulva, and relaxation of the muscles around the tail head and pin bones. Generally, caracow/caraheifer shows restlessness and isolates herself from the rest of the group when in the open. Although most of the caracows/caraheifers do not need any help during parturition, a good herdsman should always watch them and render assistance whenever needed.

Management of Milking Herd

A native carabao produces an average of 2.2 kg of milk daily for 240 days. Poor nutrition and management, and poor genetic potential for milk are factors that contribute to its poor performance. However, in spite of its being a genetically poor milk producer, the milk composition of carabaos is better than cattle as shown in Table 8.

Milking Herd in a commercial buffalo dairy farm

A milking shed should be built in well drained grounds to prevent dampness which is a common predisposing factor for diseases and parasites. In the backyard, the shed may be built of native materials like bamboo, nipa and cogon. Most backyard sheds are 2.5 to 3 meters high. However, for semi-permanent shed with G.I. roofing, the height may be 3.0 to 3.7 meters.

Milking carabaos are usually fed based on their body eight, milk production and butterfat produced. For practical purposes, however the milking carabao may be fed roughage ad libitum plus 1 kg of concentrate supplement containing 16 to 18% protein for every 2 to 3 kg milk produced. Mineral mixture (50% steamed bone meal +50% salt) could be fed at the rate of 1 to 1.5% of the concentrate ration. Water should also be provided at all times.

Carabaos under backyard condition tethered under the shade of the tree.

Conditions and Procedure for Milking

For a high milk production, keep the milking carabao from any disturbing factors such as unnecessary noise and sight of strangers. These could highly affect the nervous system and cause the animal to withhold milk.

The milking procedure should be done in a regular schedule with maximum ease and gentleness, quietness and quickness. If possible, maintain a permanent person to milk the animals. Also, proper milking procedure ensures purity and sanitary condition of the product.

The hand milking procedure is as follows:

1. Wash the animals thoroughly especially in the hind quarters. Prepare the udder by washing thoroughly with cloth wrung out of the germicidal solution or soap or 5% chlorox solution. Do not use sponges for washing udders. Washing the udder also aids in stimulating milk ejection. Wash also thoroughly the milk buckets or pails. Seamless, stainless steel or well trimmed pails are easily kept clean and sanitary. It is highly recommended further to use partially covered vessels as containers for milk.

After thoroughly washing the animal and equipment, the milkers should wash his hands thoroughly with soap and water, then dry. The milker himself must be free from any communicable diseases or open cuts in the hand.

2. Wipe the udder to dry with clean cloth. While wiping, rub the whole udder at the back and front; this further stimulates the animal.

3. For the first three or four streams of milk from each teat, examine in a strip cup for abnormalities in appearance and consistency. Flaky or stringy milk and or presence of blood clots may indicate mastitis. Any milk showing these signs must not be used for human consumption. The use of the strip cup will aid in detecting off-colored milk. Any milking animals having signs of mastitis should be milked last.

4. The milk in the teats can go back into the udder if correct procedure in milking is not followed. So first, grasp the teat then close the thumb and first finger around the teat to prevent the milk from going back to the udder. Then close the second finder followed by the third finder. Apply steady pressure and do not jerk the teat down. A slight upward push of the teat is advisable. Finally, close the little finger and squeeze with the entire hand until the milk comes out. Next, release the pressure on the teat can refill

again. Repeat the process with the other hand on the other teats and continue milking alternatively until very little milk comes out. When all of the milk has been apparently produced by straight forward milking, slide the fingers up back of the udder. Then with a gentle kneading motion downwards, work in the fingers from the top of the udder to the top of the teats. Five seconds of this kneading may bring out whatever little milk can be milked out by the normal straight forward milking.

Management of Draft Animals

Even with the advent of mechanized farming, the carabao still plays an important role in major farm operations such as land tillage, hauling and pulling of loads.

Draft animals need to be given proper nutrition to reciprocate its work performance. Apart from the fresh forage and crop residue to be given, supplemental concentrates at a rate of 1 to 2 % of the body weight should be made available. In addition, mineral mixture should be fed at a rate of 1 to 1.5 % of the concentrate mix.

Use male carabaos as draft animals. Such animals, however, should be castrated for easy handling and docility. Females utilized for work are believed to be naturally inferior in performance.

Most small farmers use their milking carabaos also for work. This practice adversely affect milk production. However, it the farmer does bnot own other working animals, the breeding may be timed such that the lactation period will not coincide with the peak of the farm operations.

Carabaos do not perspire because of the absence of sweat glands so, they tire easily, affecting the efficiency of work. To overcome the problem, set the carabao to work as early as five o’clock to ten o’clock in the morning. Give the work animals sufficient feed (grains or forage) and rest in sheds of safe wallows to dissipate body heat.

For more information, contact:

Livestock Division
Department of Agriculture
Regional Field Unit No. VII
M. Velez St., Cebu City

Philippine Carabao Center
5/F DCIEC Bldg. NIA Complex
EDSA, Quezon City
Tel: 921-3863
Email: [email protected]

The publication of this guide was made possible through the Livestock Division of DA-RFU-VII. May this serve our clientele at its best. – Eduardo B. Lecciones, Jr., Regional Executive Director

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