Sunday, October 3, 2010

Beast of burden

One of our mother water buffalo suckling her young. From the looks of it she seems to be saying "A little privacy please?"
The domesticated water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) is a common but precious livestock in the Philippines and parts of South and Southeast Asia. Like the cow, it is also a source of meat and milk. Although its meat (called "carabeef") is not as prized as that of the cow, its milk is considered superior in taste than that of the cow's.

In rural Asia, the carabao (another name for the water buffalo) is employed to plough fields prior to planting rice, corn and other crops. Known for its inherent strength, it is also used to carry or pull heavy loads. While the West have completely shifted to machines for farm-related tasks, rural Asia continues to stick to its trusted ally, even though it's much slower than its mechanical counterpart. Plus, it is much cheaper to buy and take care of this animal than to purchase and maintain mechanical farm implements.

Some of our carabaos grazing on the grass in the lower garden.

They are also used for transportation. In typical countryside scenes, it is very common to see adults or children (or both) seated at the back of the carabao for a leisurely ride. Normally, it has a gentle and very slow stride but a little whip near its buttocks and it will move faster, a hard whip and be prepared to literally hold on for dear life.

Reproduction is very slow. Gestation takes 9 to 11 months and after giving birth it takes almost two years before the adult female is ready to reproduce again.

Other water buffalos grazing in an open space in the upper garden.

Feeding is easy. All it needs is a fresh supply of green grass. A lick of salt will endear it to its master. I remember on my last visit to the farm, I was astonished why our carabaos would come close to my Dad whenever they see him and start licking his hands. Dad explained that sometimes he would handfeed them a little salt and they just love it.

The water buffalo, another livestock species that still roams with relative freedom in our small farm.