North Dakota Buffalo Association


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Buffalo Production

Buffalo Products

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The buffalo gestation period is the same as that of cattle, around 270 days (a few days over 9 months). Heifers calve at 3, a year later than cattle. They usually produce one calf, and very rarely twins. The calves are cinnamon in color and weigh between 40 and 50 pounds at birth, which is why there are few calving problems with buffalo. It's a good thing, too, because a buffalo cow is unlikely to let you help her through a difficult birth.

Buffalo will continue to produce calves at a rate of one per year until well into their 20's. To protect the developing fetus, most producers advocate weaning calves in the late fall or early winter months. The calves soon learn to eat, and quickly catch up with their weaned brothers once they're turned out to graze on the new spring grass.

The breeding bull should be fed 30 pounds of hay, a pound and a half of digestible protein, and 10 pounds of grain daily during the breeding season. This usually begins the end of July and may continue through September. One bull will service 10 to 15 cows. Except in very small herds, a higher ratio of bulls will result in a lower calf crop, as the bulls will spend too much energy fighting for dominance and not enough energy breeding the females.

Buffalo cows should be maintained well year round. They require the most feed shortly after calving, and many advocate flushing their systems prior to the breeding season. A cow raising a 450 pound calf yearly needs a yearround average of 10 pounds of total digestible nutrients (TDN) a day: 16-18 pounds from the time the calf is four months old to weaning, and then less afterward. For good digestion, feed should also include at least 1 pound of roughage per 100 pounds of body weight. Two pounds of dry matter per each 100 pounds of liveweight will meet maximum energy requirements. This is only a theoretical figure, however, since part of a cow's diet goes either to nurse the calf or to develop the fetus.

As a rule of thumb, hay is 50% TDN and grain is 75% TDN. Hay is usually 90% dry matter, while grain is generally considered 85% dry matter. Good silage is 30%. Get yourself a good standard text/reference book of feed values, such as Morrison's Feeds & Feeding, the traditional Bible of livestock breeders. The publisher updates the data with frequent new editions.

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