Bringing back the buff: 5 things you need to know about buffalo


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AgriFutures Australia manages two buffalo related levies; the buffalo slaughter levy and buffalo export charge, which have been in place for over forty years. It’s an industry that hasn’t been without its challenges, however recent legislation changes in NSW and Victoria mean new opportunities to grow the industry are on the horizon.

In recognition of AgriFutures Australia’s longstanding involvement in the industry, we bring to you the latest industry highlights including project updates, unique industry insights and growth potential.

1. Buffalo is a mature industry

Buffalo are farmed in every Australian state, with milk and meat the principal products. The industry is labelled as a ‘mature’ industry, and research and development (R&D) priories are guided by the Animal Industries Five Year RD&E Plan 2014-2018, with discussions underway to update the buffalo five year plan in 2018.

To date, the majority of industry R&D has focused on improving the genetic base of the beast via cross-breeding, AI and semen importation. There has also been a focus on branded meat product, and understanding buffalo milk composition and processing.

While the industry is ‘mature’, it hasn’t been without its challenges. Development of the meat industry slowed in 2011, due to the ban on live exports to Indonesia. With few export or Halal registered abattoirs and abattoirs willing, or able, to process buffalo to the domestic market, industry growth has been limited. The recommencement of the live exports in January 2014 means there is now a significant opportunity in live export if the value chain can be managed from the wild population to the marketplace.

2. Buffaloes are no longer pests

Changes to NSW and Victorian biosecurity legislation have been reason to celebrate over the last 12 months, with buffalo now classified as domestic livestock alongside cattle and sheep. The animals fall under NLIS regulations, permits are no longer required to keep the animals and they now have a pest-free status.  The move is expected to create new growth opportunities for the industry in the southern states and is a big win for the industry

3. Buffaloman Barry is an industry legend

Publishing of the Australian Water Buffalo Manual was a major achievement in 2017, bringing together more than 40 years of industry knowledge and expertise. The publication is thanks to longstanding industry champion Barry Lemcke, who retired from his role at the NT Department of Primary Industry and Resources in 2017. In recognition of his commitment and contribution to the industry, Barry has also been bestowed honorary life membership to the Northern Territory Buffalo Industry Council (NTBIC) – a wonderful way to celebrate his career. The manual offers an introduction to the buffalo industry and is an ideal resource for anyone interested in farming buffalo.

4. Buff dairy demand is growing

Demand for buffalo dairy products continues to grow, with buffalo milk used to produce high quality mozzarella cheese, yoghurt and other dairy products. The big benefit of buffalo milk is the lower levels of cholesterol and higher levels of calcium compared to cow, sheep or goat milk. It’s a rich source of iron, phosphorus, vitamin A and protein, and also a suitable alternative for consumers with allergies to cow’s milk. The challenge ahead is growing dairy volume to fulfil market demand. Watch this space – buffalo milk could be the newest addition to your daily grind.

5. Buffalo research is benefiting Australia and abroad  

AgriFutures Australia is focused on two key buffalo research projects, both of which have international ties. A project with Charles Sturt University is investigating the prevalence, effective management, and anthelmentic control of internal parasites in Australian buffalo populations. The project will contribute to a larger PhD project, aimed at developing parasite control strategies in both Australia and Pakistan. Following completion of the project, an updated best practice guide will be shared for integrated parasite control in Australian buffalo operations.

Recommendations and guidelines for effective Halal stunning of buffalo in Indonesian and other potential SE Asian markets is the focus of a second project. With little information available on optimal methods for stunning, the project aims to develop clear guidelines and training programs with processers for buffalo stunning for the Halal market. Preliminary trials have shown that the proposed method can work on smaller buffalo, and to complete the project a larger validation phase is required.

Thanks to the Australian Buffalo Industry Council (ABIC) for their insights, to stay in touch with industry news and events, sign up to the Buffalo News via

Fast facts

  • AgriFutures Australia manages two buffalo levies; buffalo export and buffalo slaughter levy, which have been in place for over forty years
  • There are an estimated 22,000 buffaloes on properties located across every Australian State and Territory
  • The gross value of buffalo production in the Northern Territory in 2017 was estimated at $10 million
  • At the ABIC AGM in February 2018 it was estimated that buffalo dairy farming operations contribute $4 million to the Australian economy
  • The free range buffalo herd on Aboriginal owned lands in the Top End of the Northern Territory is estimated to be in excess of 120,000.
Animal Industries Five Year RD&E Plan 2013-2018

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