Murrah buffalo — backbone of Haryana’s rural economy

May 25, 2019

Deepender Deswal

Murrah buffalo has become the lifeline of rural peasantry in Haryana. The state produces around 86 lakh tonnes of milk in a year — around 80 per cent from buffaloes.

In Haryana, the per capita availability of milk is 878 grams per day, which is very high compared to the national average of 329 grams a day. The country has about 1.05 crore buffaloes and out of which 60.8 lakh are in Haryana.

Rajinder Singh, Senior Extension Specialist (Animal Science), Lala Lajpat Rai University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Hisar, says that milk and milk products are part of Haryanvi staple diet.

In fact, most north Indians consider milk as an important part of their diet. In Haryana, the per capita availability of milk is 878 grams per day, which is very high compared to that of the nation at 329 grams a day, he says.

Since long, Haryana has been the leader in dairy farming. It is a highly suitable occupation for unemployed youths and women. With the availability of market, this occupation attracts both educated and uneducated youths. The educated class aims to adopt it with the modern technology to maximise profit.

Rajinder Singh says that the key to success in dairy farming is the elite Murrah breed buffaloes. “Haryana provides best conditions for rearing and flourishing of Murrah breed. Districts, especially Rohtak, Jhajjar, Sonepat, Panipat, Jind, Bhiwani, Fatehabad and Hisar, are the centres of pure Murrah breed. This buffalo breed is world famous for its glistening black beauty and virtues of high production of fat rich milk. Its good looks and production potential have attracted interest not only from other states of the country, but also from across the  world,” says the scientist.

The black beauty

The Murrah buffalo is famous for its glistening black beauty, curved ring-like horns, light neck and head, long tail, whiteness at the switch of tail only. This prized possession of Haryana is famous for high production of fat rich milk containing six to seven per cent fat.

The average height of a Murrah male at withers is 138 cm and a female 130 cm. An average adult male weighs around 700 kg while a female weighs about 550 kg.  Murrah females yield 1,800 kg to 4,000 kg of milk in the lactation period of 305 days.

Importance of breed

A talk about rural Haryana is incomplete without a reference to Murrah buffalo. It is a major source of livelihood for Haryanvis. It provides food security and generates income for the unemployed youth. High milk production with a rich fat content provides energy and strength for farming and manual work.

High-tech dairy farming

Rajinder Singh says that shrinking landholdings, mechanised farming, and a ready market for milk have increased the scope of high-tech dairy farming in Haryana.

As per the statistical abstract of Haryana published in 2005, the buffalo population in the state has increased by 38 per cent while the cattle population has decreased by 36 per cent from 1997 to 2005. “The prime focus on Murrah buffalo has become the key to success of more than 47 per cent of households in the state. The sorghum-wheat and rice-wheat cropping system prevalent in Haryana too blends well with a proper understanding of the Murrah buffalo farming system,” he says.

The pure breed of Murrah buffalo in Haryana enables farmers to take up animal breeding along with dairy farming. Large-size ponds in every village of the state provide a tremendous scope for buffalo rearing. Dairy farming has got support from the government and other stakeholders such as farmers, traders, breeders and scientists. It has led to a sort of Murrah revolution with an exponential rise in its population along with dairy farming in the state, especially in the last 10 years.

Government support

The Department of Animal Husbandry also provides good quality semen for artificial insemination for breed improvement and development, financial incentives to Murrah breeders through milk recordings and competitions, calf rallies, breed champion buffalo prize and other benefits under the Integrated Murrah Development Programme. It also provides insurance for death risk cover, vaccination to prevent diseases and financial help along with subsidy for setting up high-tech dairy farms for enhancing productivity.

To motivate farmers, the government provides training, demonstrations, educational materials in vernacular language, exhibitions, livestock shows and competitions. “Murrah hit the ramp” is the much talked about show where elite breed animals perform and win fabulous prizes from the government.

Exported to Brazil, China

As per Animal Husbandry Department records, between 1940 and 1960 Murrah buffaloes from India were exported to Brazil where husbandry conditions were suitable. They were also exported to China and Bulgaria. Murrah buffaloes from Bulgaria were further exported to Azerbaijan.

In the 1970s, Murrah buffaloes were also imported by Vietnam from China, Bulgaria and India and crossbred with local swamp buffaloes. A few Bulgarian and Indian Murrah buffaloes were also exported to Venezuela and Argentina. As per the Export-Import policy of 1972, the export of live cattle was restricted by the Central Government.

The state government has also banned the export of Murrah buffaloes till they leave behind one or two calves. Earlier 30,000 to 70,000 buffaloes were exported every year to other states like Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh.

Fetches high prices

In 2008, the most expensive Murrah was sold for Rs 1.75 lakh in Hisar and Sirsa districts. The bull of the same breed at Kungar village in Bhiwani district cost Rs 3.80 lakh in 2008. Till today the maximum price had been Rs 5.60 lakh for a buffalo at Khamach Khera village in Jind district but Kapoor Singh, a resident of Singhwa Khas village in Hisar district, made history by selling his buffalo for Rs 25 lakh in 2013. Earlier, Kapoor Singh had sold his two-year-old bull of the same progeny for Rs 3 lakh. Another of his 11-month-old male calf of the same progeny was also offered for Rs 10 lakh.

Another buffalo at Didwari village in Panipat District was sold for Rs 13.71 lakh. “These high prices serve as a benchmark and will encourage cattle rearing farmers in the state and across India. Such high prices is a boost to buffalo rearing in the state as well as to the morale of poor farmers,” says Rajinder Singh.

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