Water Buffalo have been present in Northern Australia since the 1820ís.They have been used for many years for meat and hides.
A new domesticated industry has emerged following the destruction of much of the feral buffalo herd in northern territory in the 1980ís.
Buffalo are currently being farmed in all states of Australia. Buffalo are easy to handle as long as they are worked regularly. It is recommended that buffalo have access to good shade, and shelter from heat in summer and cold in winter by using effective tree and shelterbelts or shade structures. Electric fencing is recommended on paddocks.
Buffalo have a different temperament to beef cattle and require different handling. Buffalo need to be handled firmly but very gently, no yelling or belting. This handling affects the tenderness and quality of the meat. Calm animals produce tender meat. Riverine and riverine cross buffalo have been introduced and are doing well especially in the Southern States. Buffalo dairies have been set up in Queensland and Victoria, and buffalo milk and dairy products are in high demand. New Zealand has been importing dairy buffalo from Australia to create a new Industry in New Zealand.
Breaking In Buffalo
This is a procedure carried out by Ian Moreland from Studcare Genetics for a 16-month-old bull that had not been handled before and was to be exported to New Zealand. The animal was selected because of temperament and confirmation
- Gentle low stress style.
- Take 5 - 21 days depending on temperament of the animal.
- Use hard feed, hay and water as enticements twice a day (will start drinking when thirsty, say 1 - 4 days but may not start eating properly for 3- 4 days). They do not get fed or watered initially unless you are there.
- Feed grain with mother for some time prior to weaning, then wean with mother on one side of fence and the calf on the other. Start to hand feed the calf. When calf is happy to spend most of its the day away from the fence you can start halter breaking. (5 to 10 days average)
- Straight into a pen (approx. 3m x 3m). Feed and water weaners staying in pen with them while they eat and drink and getting closer to them as they relax.
- Start touching them and/or brushing them as soon as you can get close enough, this is done initially while they are eating or drinking. Initial contact is best midway along the neck then work towards the head and back to the rest of the body.
- Introduce the rope halter. Dangle this around their head while they eat and drink allowing them to become used to its presence. Then play around with the halter putting it partially on, then off. Eventually you will be able to get the halter on properly, so then tie the end loosely but safely around the neck and leave for a day for them to get used to the halter being on all the time. They will initially throw their head around to try to remove the halter but will settle down.
- Next step is to tie up, undo the halter from the neck while they are eating or drinking and gently tie to a rail short and low (while their head is still in the bucket) when they finish they will try to move off and realise they are tied. They will pull back. They stay tied up for 1 to 2 days until they are not pulling back when you approach. It is important to tie short and low so if they carry on there is less chance of injury on a short rope. They have not got the room to throw themselves around too much.
- At this point it is recommended swapping to a hackamore, which will stay on continuously. It is a bit harsher and teaches respect a bit quicker, but it can cut into them when they pull back, and they are more likely to pull back harder when they are first tied up.
- Get them used to a nose clip. A light aluminium one is initially used. Make sure the ends are well separated (about 10 mm) for this stage. The use of a lightweight nose clip with ends widened a little is all aimed at reducing the pain/discomfort of the initial use of the nose clip. It is a good idea to put the nose clip in when giving their hay so they snuffle around while eating and get used to the clip. Once they are used to the clip, attach the nose rope but donít lead them with it, get them used to having the extra weight in the nose first. After becoming accustomed to the light clip you can progress to a heavier one (stainless steel or brass). When putting the nose clip in make sure that you get the clip on as quickly as possible, have the animal tied up short, and quickly put the clip in; it is extremely habit forming if they get away with shaking their head around and making it hard to put the clip in. After the bulls are used to the nose clip they can have their permanent nose clip inserted. N.B from this point onwards the animal should always have a nose clip/ring and rope as a precaution when being fed.
- At this point also start tying them up short with the head up high so they get used to being tied this way. Start with 30 minutes or so and then you can work to a few hours while grooming them etc. This really helps later to encourage them to walk with their head up.
- Start leading them from one side of the pen to the other for the purpose of getting food and water. After a while stop them for a few seconds in the centre of the pen and then let them continue to the bucket.
- Once you are happy with the leading take them to a bucket just outside the pen and gradually extend the distance to it. You may even want to set a feed and a bucket of water some distance away from their stall and walk them to it. It is helpful especially in the initial stages to have a "purpose" for the animal to be lead (eg feed/water). Also the use of a nose clip is reinforcement put it into the walk to the feed, and then take it out for them to eat.
- When walking always keep the head up. This helps your control of the animal, plus if in a show situation, looks better from the judgeís point of view.
- During this breaking-in time the animal stays tied up at all times and only undone to walk or groom them. After the initial breaking in is complete let them out for a spell (3 to 7 days) and then bring them back again for further training and handling.