Turkey Creek Water Buffalo
Water Buffalo Milking Guide :
The onset of lactation is with the birth of the calf. The
initial yield is a reliable indicator of the animal’s genetic potential. The
highest yield is reached after five to six weeks of lactation and maintained for
some weeks. Thereafter the yield decreases until the end of lactation. The
lactation ends as the dry period starts.
In buffaloes, the highest milk yield is seen in the fourth
lactation where after it declines. The shape of the lactation curve depends on
factors such as feed, management, milking frequency, diseases among others. The
length of lactation and yield for various breeds is shown in Table 10. The
optimum lactation length in the Murrah has been reported to be 262 to 295 days.
Factors affecting lactation and milk yield
Lactation and milk yield depend on both genetic and
non-genetic factors. The genetic influence is due to species, breed, and
individual. Further, it is affected by ability to reproduce, e.g. fertility and
thereby calving interval. Improvement on these may be the result of breeding and
selection. The non-genetic factors are management, amount and quality of feed and
skill of the farmer to detect heat and illnesses. Factors which are outside the
farmer’s control such as climate, temperature, humidity etc. also influence
lactation and milk yield.
Feeding is the most important factor for increasing and
sustaining the milk yield. Sufficient amount of energy, protein, minerals and
water must be provided in order to achieve maximum yield. See section on
Practical feeding of the lactating buffalo. Calving interval is closely related
to lactation length and milk yield. The longer the calving interval, the longer
the lactation and the higher the lactation yield. However, total life time yield
will be substantially less comparing with a buffalo with short calving
intervals. Milking frequency affects both total milk and fat yield. A study using
Murrah buffaloes showed that 31% more milk and 26% more butter fat resulted from
milking three times per day as compared to twice a day.
Weight of the heifer seems to affect milk yield. Studies on
Murrah indicates that the heifers should weigh at least 500 kg at the time of
calving in order to reach a maximum milk yield.
The buffalo should be dried off approximately 2 to 3 months
before expected calving. The dry period is valuable to the buffalo, she may rest
and the udder tissue is repaired. In a high yielding herd (above 10 kg per day)
the buffalo should be dried off when the daily yield falls below 2.5 kg, even if
it is still more than 3 months to expected calving. This goes especially for
machine milked herds. An alternative to drying off is to use the buffalo as a
foster mother to newly born calves. One buffalo may serve one newborn calf or
two older calves which receive additional feed. Care should be taken to dry her
off completely no later than 2 months before calving.
In herds which are hand milked and where the yield is low,
it is difficult to set a lower limit in kg. Instead, the 2 months limit is
Table 1: Macro and micro elements (ppm) in buffalo milk
Macro and micro elements
Composition of colostrums
During approximately the first three days of lactation the
buffalo secretes colostrums. Colostrums is vital for the newborn calf and its
composition reflects the calf’s need (see Table 2). Colostrums contains the
important proteins; the immune globulins, which are the newborn calf’s source
of antibodies. The content of iron and copper is markedly higher in the
colostrums as compared to normal milk.
Table 2: Composition of colostrums
Vitamin A (µg/kg)
Alterations of milk composition
Milk composition can be altered both before and after the
milking. If the change occurs inside the udder it is mostly due to a disease or
treatment of the disease by antibiotics or other type of medication. Feeding can
alter the normal composition, however, these changes are seldom extreme, but
within normal intervals. Season can effect the normal milk composition, although
these changes are mostly due to differences in feeding during different seasons.
Rule of thumb is that roughage increases fat content in
milk, whereas concentrate depresses it. This depends on the differences in VFA
production in the rumen from the different carbohydrate sources. Digestion of
fiber results in a higher proportion of acetic acid and thereby more milk fat.
Digestion of concentrate on the other hand, results in a higher proportion of
propionic acid which is unfavorable for milk fat synthesis. If too much
concentrate is given, fat depression might occur. Higher energy diets seem to
give better coagulation properties of the milk. Long-chain fatty acids increase
when the energy concentration in feed is low.
Glucosinolates in Brassica spp. are hydrolyzed by the
ruminal microbes into thiocyanates, iso- thiocyanates and some other products.
Thiocyanate is then excreted in the milk. High feeding levels with Brassica spp.
may therefore lead to unsatisfactory levels of thiocyanate in the milk.
Thiocyanate may cause thyroid enlargement in animals as well as humans ingesting
it. A common feed stuff of Brassica spp. is mustard fodder and mustard oil cake.
Even 15 days after withdrawal of mustard feed, circulatory high levels of
thiocyanate exists and is secreted in milk.
Disease and medication
Mastitis changes the milk composition dramatically. The
alterations can sometimes be used as detection of the disease. If antibiotics
are used in order to cure for example mastitis, these will be excreted in the
milk. Controlling of external parasites with e.g. diazinon affects milk yield as
well as composition. The chemical is detected in the milk upto 48 hours after
Milking the buffalo
Buffaloes have been used for milk production for centuries.
They have not been subjected to the same upgrading and breeding like cattle of
the western world. However, the buffalo is an excellent milk producer, given the
correct circumstances. Milking the buffalo is not a difficult task. One should,
however, take care not to implement cattle milking techniques directly on the
buffalo cow. As described below, the anatomy and physiology of the buffalo udder
differs slightly from the bovine one. This has further implications on the
milking technique as mentioned later.
Anatomy and physiology of the buffalo udder and teat
The buffalo has an udder similar to the cattle in the gross
anatomy. The buffalo has four teats. Extra teats can be found in the similar way
as in cattle. The teats vary in shape and size. Generally, they are larger than
cattle teats. According to several studies, cylindrical forms of the teats are
most common in the Murrah breed. The front teats are, on average, 5.8 cm to 6.4
cm long and their diameter is approximately 2.5 cm to 2.6 cm. Respective figures
for the hind teats are 6.9 cm to 7.8 cm and 2.6 to 2.8 cm.
The hind quarters of the udder are slightly larger than the
front ones and contain more milk. The approximate ratio is 60:40 (hind: front),
as for cattle. It takes a longer time to milk the hind quarters.
The anatomy of buffalo teats is slightly different from
cattle teats. The epithelium of the streak canal is thicker and more compact in
buffaloes than in cattle. The sphincter muscle around the streak canal is
thicker in buffaloes than in cattle. More force is therefore required to open
the streak canal. The teat sphincter tonus has been reported to be at least 400
mmHg negative pressures in buffaloes (the tension falls some what after calf
suckling and hand milking). This is the cause of buffaloes being”hard milkers”.
In cattle, the milk is synthesized in the alveoli and is
periodically transferred to the large ducts and cisterns of the mammary gland
and the teat (see booklet on Efficient Milking). This is not the case in the
buffalo, instead, the milk is held in the upper, glandular part of the udder, in
the alveoli and small ducts. Between two milking there is no milk stored in the
cistern. Hence, buffaloes have no cisternal milk fraction. The milk is expelled
to the cistern only during actual milk ejection. The same phenomenon is seen in
Chinese Yellow cows and Yaks.
Because of the absence of cistern milk between milking, in
the teat cisterns, the teats are collapsed and soft before let down. This is
contradictory to the bovine cow, where the teats can be very hard and firm due
to the presence of milk in the teat cistern.
Physiology of milking
For a comparison with cattle see booklet on Efficient
Milking. Buffaloes are said to be slow and hard milkers because of their slow
milk ejection reflex and their hard teat muscle sphincter. The milk ejection
reflex appears to be inherited to some extent but it is also a product of the
environment. In buffaloes, the let down time averages 2 minutes but may be as
long as 10 minutes. The reasons for this are not fully understood.
One reason for the longer let down time of milk for
buffaloes is probably the different anatomy of the udder as compared to the
dairy cow. In the buffalo, the udder cistern is absent or has a very small
volume and therefore there is little or no cisternal milk available. This
furthermore leads to no intra-mammary pressure in the cistern which would
otherwise help the milk flow. In cattle, the milk is already stored in the large
cistern, and milk is available for extraction immediately after preparation. The
high intra-mammary pressure contributes in pressing out the milk.
The intra-mammary pressure increases at the onset of
milking. It is highest during the peak flow and decreases there after to zero at
the end of milking. The pressure is higher in buffaloes during milking than in
cattle. The intra-mammary pressure varies between individuals and milkings.
Its’ level is not always indicative of a high milk production.
Let down time seems to be negatively correlated to milk
yield. Let down time is shorter in early and middle stage of lactation as
compared to in late lactation. A faster flow of milk is observed when the yield
is higher. If buffaloes are carefully selected for yield and ease to milk,
improvement in these characteristics is possible.
Induction of milk let down
Physical stimulation of the teats, either by the calf’s
suckling or the milker's hands, excite receptors from which nerve impulses are
sending to the posterior pituitary gland causing secretion of the hormone
oxytocin. The hormone is transported via the blood to the mammary gland. Because
both hormones and nerve impulses are involved in the milk ejection reflex, it is
called a neurohormonal reflex. Oxytocin stimulates the contraction of the
alveoli and small ducts thereby emptying the milk into the larger ducts and the
cistern. Hereafter the milk can be evacuated from the udder. See booklet on
The contraction of the alveoli may, to some extent, be
enhanced by tactile stimuli of the udder (massaging, squeezing) the so called
tap reflex. When calves suckle, they butt at the udder in order increase milk
secretion. Manual massage of the udder during milking imitates this reflex.
Like cattle, buffaloes can get used to different stimuli.
It is clear that also in buffaloes, oxytocin release is triggered by visual or
audible stimuli, such as the sight of the milker, the noise of the vacuum pump
or when entering the milking parlor. The animal becomes conditioned to let-down
milk and has thus developed a conditioned reflex. (An unconditioned reflex is
the suckling of the calf.) By letting the animals get accustomed to a strict
routine, time of let-down is shortened. In cattle, it has been demonstrated that
feeding concentrate during milking improves time of let-down. It has yet to be
shown in buffaloes.
Inhibition of milk let down
Buffaloes are sensitive to changes in the environment. They
may withhold the milk if they are uncomfortable with the situation. If the
animals are stressed, scared or in pain, the hormone adrenaline is secreted.
This hormone causes constriction of the blood vessels, thereby hindering the
supply of sufficient amount of oxytocin to the udder. Adrenaline also directly
acts on the myoepithelial cells in the alveoli by blocking the oxytocin
receptors. The inhibition if milk let-down will result in the leaving of milk in
the secretory parts of the udder. Continuous exposure of stress to the buffaloes
will affect the milk production negatively. Change of milker or milking routine,
application of wrong milking technique or milking machines in bad conditions are
some reasons for the buffaloes to with hold the milk.
Evacuation of the milk
The actual milking can begin after the let down reflex has
been elicited. Whether this is done by hand or machine it is important to use
proper routines. The milking should be done as fast as possible without causing
stress or pain. The milking should be as complete as possible without excessive
stripping. Elevated residual milk in the secretory part of the udder decreases
milk secretion and thereby influences the milk yield negatively.
Keeping good hygiene
Simple guidelines for keeping good hygiene in the barn or
Dung should be removed both prior to and during milking in
order to minimize exposure of the milking equipment to dirt. If the equipment
for some reason becomes dirty, it must be cleaned properly before using it
Hands should be clean when milking or handling the milk. Clothes should
Use one udder-towel per buffalo, discharge towels in a separate bucket
Post-dipping of teats should always be done.
All containers with milk should have a lid on at all times.
Milk should not be stored near the dung or feeding place. There are
several reasons for this; 1) milk is sensitive to odors and may
”pickup” dung or feed odors. 2) Bacteria from dung or feed are more
easily transferred to the milk if it is stored nearby. 3) Particles from the
dung heap or the feed may contaminate the milk.
It should not be possible for animals such as dogs, cats and rats to
approach the containers.
Pre-milking is defined as actions to induce milk let-down
by cleaning the udder and pre-milk in a strip cup. Cleaning the udder should be
done with a lubricated towel (washable textile or disposable paper). Separate
towels should be used for each buffalo. The udder should never be splashed with
Pre-milking is necessary for various reasons; the most
important being preparing the buffalo for actual milking and checking for
mastitis or other infections. Pre-milking must be done in a strip cup, never on
the floor! The purpose of using a strip cup is to be able to easily observe
changes in the milk. Furthermore, the spreading of pathogenic bacteria is
limited. Pre-milking is done with dry hands and the full hand method. The hands
should be cleaned between buffaloes during the milking, if necessary.
After milking the teats should be disinfected. This
reduces, if not completely inhibits, bacterial growth on the teats. The teat
canal stays open for a while after milking is completed, thus eliminating the
important protection against entry of bacteria. The dip solution will both act
as a physical hindrance for bacteria and as a disinfectant. Preferably the
teat-dipping-solution should contain some lubricant in order to maintain teat
condition and to prevent chapping and sores.
Because the teat canal is open after milking, sometimes for
as long as half an hour, the buffaloes should be prevented from lying down. This
can be done by giving enough feed to last for a long time after milking.
Special detergents for cleaning of the milking equipment is
available and should be used correctly. All buckets, containers and machines
used for milking must be cleaned both outwards and inwards immediately after
The towels used for cleaning and drying of the udder should
be cleaned properly after each milking. They can be stored in a bucket with a
lid and clean water containing chloride until the next milking.
An appropriate milking routine is important for hygienic
and production reasons as well as for creating a comfortable and smooth
environment for animals and milkers. It is easier to maintain a good hygiene and
to facilitate the adoption by the buffaloes to relief milkers if a consistent
milking routine is applied. In dairy cows it has been demonstrated that the
practicing of a strict milking routine results in increased milk production.
The routine mentioned below can be followed by both hand
and machine milker's in tie-stall barns and where milking are carried out in flat
barns. In the case of hand milking in such barns, points 6 to 9 are omitted.
Routine check of the milking machine should be done before each milking session
according to the manufacturer’s recommendation.
Start by tying (if not already tied) and feeding the buffaloes.
Remove dung from the floor.
Wash hands with soap and dry them.
Clean the teats with special towels and massage them thoroughly.
Foremilk the buffalo by hand in a strip cup, checking the appearance of
Apply the cluster gently. Check tube alignment.
Check the buffalo every now and then to make sure that she is comfortable
with the machine.
Palpate the udder to check that it feels empty.
Remove the cluster gently.
Dip the teats in a suitable disinfectant solution.
Clean all the equipment in the milking room.
When machine milking, it is important that the milking
machine is nearby and ready to be applied to the udder at the right time (after
pre-milking). Thus, each buffalo must be cleaned, massaged and pre-milked and
then have the machine applied directly. It must be emphasized that it is not
possible to clean all the buffaloes first and then apply the machines to the
first buffaloes. The oxytoxcin release has a short duration (a few minutes). If
the machine does not start milking after this time, a whole new procedure must
start after half an hour.
Pre-milking routines are as important when milking
buffaloes as when milking cows. For a complete review see Efficient Milking. It
is important to use a smooth and comfortable milking technique. The
”knuckling” or ”stripping” method is used in the wrong belief that it is
necessary in order to overcome the resistance in the teat sphincter. These
milking methods might cause elongation and damage to the teats. A much more
comfortable and appropriate method is the”fullhand” technique.
Machines for milking buffaloes
Since the udder and teats in buffaloes are different
compared to cattle, milking machines for cattle have to be modified in order to
fit buffaloes. In general, a heavier cluster, a higher operation vacuum and a
faster pulsation rate is required. Results from recent studies in India indicate
that it might be possible to reduce the cluster weight and the frequency of
liner slip by applying an appropriate combination of liner design and cluster
It is not only the total weight of the cluster that is
important, but also the distribution of its weight on the udder. Unequal weight
distribution can cause uneven milk output. The long milk and vacuum tubes should
be aligned and stretched to ensure equal weight distribution of the cluster on
Milking characteristics depend upon vacuum levels and
pulsation rates among others. Studies on Egyptian buffaloes revealed that a
vacuum of 51 kPa and a pulsation rate of 55 cycles/min led to much longer
milking times than a vacuum of 60 kPa and a pulsation rate of 65 cycles/min
(6.21 min. compared to 3.18 min.). The higher vacuum level, however, caused a
significant increase in the somatic cell counts. Highest milk yield within an
acceptable time were found when using 56 kPa and 65 cycles /min. In all trials a
pulsation ratio of 50:50 was used. Studies in Pakistan indicated that the
pulsation rate and ration should be 70 cycles/min and 65:35 respectively for
In Italy, the majority of farms use the same machines for
both buffaloes and cattle. It is a simple ”cattle machine” with one vacuum
level operating at approximately 40 cm Hg. In India, recent trials have been
made with milking with Duovac TM from Alfa Laval Agri. Successful milking was
done with a vacuum level of 55 kPa, 70 cycles/min pulsation rate and pulsation
ratio of 65:35 for milk flows above 0.2 kg/min. For milk flows under 0.2 kg/min
the respective data where 38 kPa, 48 cycles/min and the same pulsation ratio.
The Duovac TM is physiologically correct for the animal since it helps in gently
stimulating let-down and is also gentler to the teats after the peak flow.
Milking with machines
In order to obtain all the advantages with machine milking
the correct technique must be used. The milkers and buffaloes must be familiar
with the machines. If the buffaloes are scared or feel uncomfortable they will
withhold the milk and thereby yield less. This in turn will lead to economic
loss for the farmer and eventually he will loose his faith in machine milking.
Introducing machine milking
The concept of machine milking should be introduced slowly
and by persons who the buffaloes are used to and feel comfortable with under the
supervision of an expert from Alfa Laval Algri.
The procedure of introducing buffaloes to machine milking
presented below an recommended by Alfa Laval Agri is applicable for a whole herd
where neither animals nor humans are familiar with machine milking. By carefully
following the mentioned steps, a successful introduction should be possible.
Training of personnel. Training of milkers should be done by a person
from the milking machine company. This person has good knowledge about biology
of milking, machine milking as well as with the design, function and maintenance
of the milking equipment. The training should include introduction procedures,
milking routine, handling of the machine, cleaning and maintenance as well as
certain aspects of the day-to-day service of the machine.
Installation of the milking machine in the barn and any other
modification in the barn should be made well in advance of the changing to
It is most appropriate to start with heifers since it is easier to
habituate heifers than older buffaloes to machine milking. Older buffaloes may
have been hand milked by a certain routine for several lactations and may
respond negatively to a change in routine. Heifers on the other hand are not
accustomed to any specific routine and are more likely to accept machine milking
as well as hand milking. Furthermore their udders and teats are more uniform and
not damaged by previous milking. Liner slip and other negative effects of
machine milking is therefore less pronounced in heifers. Note that heifers
should not be hand milked but directly introduced to the machine. They may get
accustomed to the noise of the vacuum pump etc. by participating in the milking
routines prior to partus.
Calm animals that are comfortable with hand milking should be selected.
The udders and teats of the animals should be uniform with respect to
conformation and size. Buffaloes in heat or unhealthy animals or animals with
previous let-down-problems should not be selected.
Milk the old and selected animals as usual by hand but let the vacuum
pump run during milking. This will make the animals accustomed to the noise. Put
the pump on before actual milking, but after the buffaloes have been tied up,
otherwise the animals may be startled by the sudden noise. Repeat the procedure
(usually 2 to 4 times) until all buffaloes are accustomed to the noise. It is
better to repeat this procedure once or twice more until all buffaloes are
comfortable, than rushing into the next step.
Bring the milking machines into the barn. Connect them to the airline and
place them at each buffalo’s place at the same time as hand milking is carried
out. This will allow the buffaloes to get used to the ”ticking” sound of the
pulsator. It will give them a chance to look at the machines and smell them and
may be even taste them. Make sure though, that they do not chew on them! Move
the machines to the next buffalo in order to milked. This makes the buffaloes
used to machines being moved around. The procedure should be repeated (usually 2
to 4 times) until all the animals have accepted the presence of the machines.
At this stage, presumably all buffaloes will be well
accustomed to the new routine. If some buffaloes are still showing signs of
nervousness or stress, it is recommended to repeat the above mentioned steps
until the animals are calm. Buffaloes that after this procedure have not
accepted being milked by machines should be returned to hand milking. One or two
frightened or uncomfortable buffaloes might cause major disturbances in the
Consistency with respect to milking routine including
pre-milking preparation should be applied from the beginning of the introduction
period. The regular milker should carry out the machine milking during the
When the cluster is firmly attached to the udder, the
milker should stay with the buffalo to see that she is comfortable. Soft talking
and brushing and scratching are the best ways to calm an animal. These first
sessions of machine milking usually require longer time than the following.
However, this time is well worth spending to assure forward calm and
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