Carabao Production: Introduction, Breeds

Carabao (Bubalus bubalis) is commonly raised livestock specie in the Philippines and Region VII in particular. Generally considered as a backyard activity among farmers, this domesticated animal has gained remarkable importance in the past years as a vital component in food sustainability and income to farmers. Problems that beset carabao raisers are oftentimes location-specific, hence this techno guide for farmers.

This commodity-focused reading material forms part of the Department of Agriculture’s effort in updating the farmers knowledge in livestock production to help improve their production output.

This guide describes and illustrates the many steps involved in carabao production for both beginners and experienced raisers. This is presented in easy-to-understand terms that would be very useful to trainors and growers alike.


The name water buffalo has always been used to connote the state of the peasant economy in Asia and the animal considered as the farmer’s inseparable partner in his farming activities. Its geogra-phical distribution is vast but approximately 97% of the world buffalo population is concentrated in Asia .

The statistical data show that the water buffalo is essential an “Asian animal.” It is the main source of draft power and meat for the small farmers who constitute the overwhelming majority of the total human population of the different countries in Asia.

In the Philippines, the water buffalo population is approximately 2.9 million head of which approximately 72% are used for farm operations.

Water buffaloes are classified into two types: the swamp and the river type. The river type is exemplified by the Indian and sub-continent breeds. This group is considered under the dairy category because it possesses high genetic capacity for milk production. Good river type cows under Philippine conditions produce about 1,384 kg milk for an average lactation period of 287 days.

The swamp type to which the Philippine carabao belongs is distinguished by its natural preference for swamps or marshlands. This type is primarily utilized for farm work. In the Philippines when carabaos are past their period of usefulness at draft animals they are usually slaughtered and the meat is sold as carabeef. Due to old age of the animals the meat is inferior in quality and has developed a prejudice among consumers. But when carabaos are fed, managed and slaughtered at the same age as cattle, the meat is as good as beef.

Problems and Prospects

Carabao production can very well be integrated with crop farming. However, its potential for draft, milk and meat has not been fully exploited on account of several technical problems which limit its productive efficiency and utilization.

The major constraints of efficient carabeef production which require intensive and sustained research are the following:

1. Poor reproductive capacity. Carabaos are late maturing animals with a long gestation period and calving intervals. They exhibit weak estrous phenomena, or “silent heat” which makes detection of estrus difficult. There is, therefore, a great need for intensive research on all aspects of its reproductive physiology.

2. Low productivity. Poor feeding and management practices contribute to low calf crop (40-45%), low milk and meat yield, and poor draft capacity. Since carabaos are known to be efficient converter of low quality roughages, coordinated research efforts are necessary to develop the technology at the farm level for maximum utilization of farm level for maximum utilization of farm by-products such as rice straw, corn stover, sugarcane tops, bagassee, etc.

3. High mortality. This is especially true among caracalves, primarily due to the high incidence of infectious and heavy parasitic diseases as well as poor management practices. As rule, health care system and disease prevention practices are not adapted by carabao producers.

4. Poor marketing. Inefficient marketing channels and strategies hamper marketing of the carabao and its by-products to the disadvantage of the producers and the consumers. This is compounded by the lack of standardization and classification of live animals and their carcasses and by-products.

5. Unrealistic credit facilities. The financing program for carabao production both from the government and private banks are unrealistic i.e. lending policies and loan requirements are too prohibitive for farmers to comply with. Studies on the credit aspects of carabao production should be undertaken so that our financial institutions can effectively assist carabao producers.

Efforts are now directed towards the improvement of the genetic makeup of the carabao. The upgrading of the carabao using the river type buffalo such as the Murrah and Surti bull or their semen is gaining acceptance among carabao raisers. The grade animal possess better draft/milk/meat capacity than the carabao.

Carabaos are also potential sources of milk. A caracow with a nursing calf can produce 300 to 800 kg of milk during a lactation period of about 180 to 300 days.


The river type buffaloes particularly the Indian and Pakistani breeds are of the dairy type. On the other hand the swamp buffaloes such as the Philippine carabao and the Thai buffalo, are raised primarily for draft and meat purposes.

The introduction of Indian buffaloes in the Philippines started in June 1917 with the importation of 57 Murrah. After the Second World War, importation of the Indian buffalo mostly of the Murrah breed resumed consisting of 940 head in seven shipments.

Aside from the Murrah, the Surti of Nili/Ravi is being considered for the improvement of the carabao.

A. Swamp Type

A1. Philippine carabao

Philippine origin. The color is light gray in general with two stripes or chevron distinct on the ventral side of the neck, one near the brisket and the other near jaw. Color is lighter on the legs and outside of the body and the ears.

Horn is generally curved outward and inward to form a semi-circle from the base of the head. Upper surface of horns has grooves. Low wide and heavy built body with sufficient type for draft and meat. The average mature weight for male is 500 kgs while the female is 425 kgs with and average milk production of 1.45 – 2.64 kgs per day.

A2. Thai buffalo

Origin in Thailand. Black color and the hair is relatively loan as compared to some other types. Strong and broad bodied animals with prominent muscling in neck chest and back. Massive and strong horn to form a moonlike crescent with ends upwards. Average weight for male and female is 540 kgs and 400 kgs, respectively. Daily average milk production is 0.9-1.0 kg.

B. River Type

B1. Murrah

India by origin. Jet black in color with white switch in the tail; skin texture is soft and fine. Horn is tightly and spirally curled. Massive and stocky built, and light neck and head; short limbs, broad hips and drooping quarter; wedge shape conformation. Udder and teats are well developed; teats are black, long and stout. Male and female average weight is 625 and 525 kgs, respectively with an average milk production of 5 – 7 kg a day.

B2. Surti

Surti originated in India. The color is black or brown. The skin is black or reddish and the hair gray to rusty brown. Horns coil downward and upward to form a hook. Wedge shape conformation. In bulls the front is much more developed while the hind portion is narrow. Average weight for mature male is 499 kgs while the female weighs 408 kgs with 5 – 6 kgs daily milk production.

Selection of Stocks

Success in animal production depends to a certain extent on the right choice of stock to raise. The physical as well as the productive and reproductive performance should be emphasized in the selection. Such criteria may cover the economic traits such as birth weight, pre-weaning growth rate, post weaning growth rate, feed intake and conversion, body conformation measurements, carcass traits, milk yield and draft capacity.

In the selection, however, one should consider the purpose of which the animal is being chosen. He should know which of the animal’s physical traits should be given more points when breeding for draft, for meat or for milk. For example, in the selection of draft/carabeef animal, more points are given to the parts of the hind quarters followed by the fore quarters followed by the fore quarters and then the general appearance of the animal. Only minimal points are given to the head, neck, and body.

For more information, contact:

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

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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