Integration of Multifunctional Dairy Water Buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) into a Whole Farm System in Hawaii: economic, ecological and social benefits.

Progress report for FW20-366

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2020: $19,178.00
Projected End Date: 04/30/2023
Host Institution Award ID: G332-20-W7900
Grant Recipient: Kauai Organic Agroecosystems (KOA)
Region: Western
State: Hawaii
Principal Investigator:
Donald Heacock
Kauai Organic Agroecosystems (KOA)
Expand All

Project Information

Abstract:

This project will demonstrate that the integration of multi-functional dairy water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis), using holistic management techniques, into Kauai Organic AgroecoSystem’s (KOA) 25-acre integrated aquaculture (tilapia)-agriculture (taro) commercial organic agroforestry farm in Hawaii will improve the economic, ecological and social conditions of our whole farm system. KOA will produce organic raw milk and associated value-added products (e.g. cheeses) for our local community via “herdshare agreements and bill of sale”.  Also we will train our young bull as a draught animal to harrow, puddle, and level our taro pondfields, to pull a wagon of fresh produce to farmer’s markets, to pull a wagon full of “agrotourists” around our farm during  farm tours, and for logging. 

 Our small dairy buffalo herd, the first in Hawaii, is composed of 4 adult buffalo cows (3 are lactating, another due to calf in December), 2 cow calves, one bull calf .  Furthermore, our 3 currently lactating buffalo cows are scheduled for artificial insemination (AI) on November 18 this month and would calve again in September 2020.  

Because Hawaii imports virtually 100% of its dairy products, we plan to provide our local community with fresh, organic, raw milk, and value-added products like cheeses and butter, from grass fed pastured buffalo.  Our dairy buffalo will reduce our dependency on imported dairy products, increase our net economic returns, reduce our fossil fuel and fertilizer imports, help to control invasive wetland weeds, and improve endangered Hawaiian water bird habitat. Ultimately, we plan a "dairy buffalo cooperative" with producers throughout Hawaii and the Pacific.

Project Objectives:

1) Use artificial insemination (AI)  to expand herd (Dr. Mishra; Dr. Moreaux; Applicant); Yr 1-3

2) Develop/implement Gazing Management Plan (GMP) and intensive rotational grazing system (Dr. Thorne; Ms Katulski; Applicant); Yr 1-2

3) Produce raw milk and/or value-added products (e.g., mozzarella cheese), (Dr. Azizi, Cheese maker; Applicant); Yr 1-3

4) Establish “Herdshare Agistment and Bill of Sale” contracts with local consumers to allow their access to raw, nutritional milk (FTCLDF; Applicant); Yrs 1-3

4) Measure milk yields (kg/day), duration of lactation (Applicant); Yrs 1-3

5) Measure calf birth, weaning and growth rates (kg/day), monitor average daily gain (ADG) in weights of calves, measure gain per/acre/groups of calves/month (Applicant; Ms. Katulski); Yrs 1-3

6) Train buffalo bull for draught for taro production, for pulling wagon of fresh produce to the farmer’s markets and agrotourism (Mr. Wong, Oxen Trainer; Applicant); Yrs 1-3 

7) Compare draught buffalo power to tractor power for harrowing taro pondfields , quantify cost savings in fossil fuel use reduction (Applicant); Yr 2-3

8) Begin farm tours (agrotourism) with draught bull and wagon (Applicant); Yr-3

9) Conduct educational outreach via farm workshops, field days, PowerPoint presentations, YouTube videos, Surveys and other social media (Mr. Wolf, Video Producer; Applicant). Yrs 1-3

Timeline:

May 2020 (Year-1):

1) Implement all aspects of the GMP;

2) Record milk yields (kg/day/buffalo cow), duration of lactation, calving intervals;

3) Establish herdshare contracts to provide organic raw milk to local consumers;

4) Begin training of our buffalo bull for draught power;

5) Begin making value-added organic cheeses;

6) Give five public PowerPoint presentations;

7) Submit WSARE annual report;

Year-2:

8) Hold four Farm Workshops for producers;

9) Four YouTube videos based on these Workshops;

10) Begin monitoring calf birth and growth weights;

11)  Conduct marketing surveys to assess demand for “mozzarella di bufala”;

12) Submit WSARE annual report;

Year-3:

  13) Begin farm tours with draught bull and wagon;

 14) Give 5 final PowerPoint presentations including all of project’s objectives and  findings;

15) Produce final YouTube video of project, submit to WSARE (and final project report), Kauai Public  TV (Ho’ike), Kauai Public Radio (KKCR) and to Kauai Public Libraries.

 

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Donald Heacock - Producer
  • Dr. Birendra Mishra, DVM (Educator and Researcher)

Research

Materials and methods:

Following our 9 objectives above, materials and methods for each are as follows:

1) Artificial insemination (AI): will use frozen dairy buffalo semen imported from a high-production buffalo dairy in Italy; semen is now being stored in a liquid nitrogen container by Kauai CTAHR Extension Agent Savannah Katulski; Dr. Mishra will use hormone injections (Lutalyse and Cystorelin) to synchronize estrus and then use a Continental AI gun to impregnate our three lactating buffalo cows in mid-late November, 2019, therefore we will expect three more calves born in September 2020 (and as mentioned above, we are expecting another calf next month in December); this would bring our herd size up to eleven by September 2020;

Update 3/10

 Dr. Birendra Mishra, DVM, and Don Heacock used artificial insemination (AI) on three of our adult buffalo cows on December 6, 2019, all of which had calves that were 14 months old and had been weaned since 7 months old. Therefore, by having more calving in October or November 2021 it will allow us to first document calf birth weights and then to document milk volume, and then to start making cheese by March or April 2022.

2) For our grazing management plan (GMP) and intensive rotational grazing system we will establish 6-8 paddocks, each about 2-3 acres, all with portable electric fencing, and we will monitor monthly for:

  1. a) forage species composition, growth, production and nutrition (1/4 m square quadrant) and field tape measure used for random sampling forage species composition, height, and for collecting samples for forage tissue/nutritional analyses done monthly;
  2. b) buffalo’s control of invasive weeds (e.g., umbrella sedge, Jobe’s tears, Java Plum trees and Hau trees) and relative forage preference will be photo-documented and measured during random forage sampling (above);
  3. c) abundance of endangered water birds and species composition will be monitored, recorded and photo-documented weekly;

All survey and monitoring data will be recorded in a field notebook (Rite in the Rain); development of GMP will be photographed, video recorded, and forage nutritional analyses productivity will be graphically recorded. Also important to note that wildlife conservation scientists are recommending and using domestic water buffalo to manage uncontrolled invasive vegetation in and around wetlands; buffalo offer a cost-effective method for opening up clogged  wetland areas to enhance waterbirds and other wildlife (BBC News 2014; Natural England 2008).

Update 3/10

KOA has developed 6 paddocks (Figure 1), with an average size of 2.5 acres (range= 2.0 to 4.5 acres), dominated by tropical Guinea grass (Megathyrsus maximus) and the legume Leucaena glauca, both highly invasive but are excellent forage species for buffalo. We graze the buffalo in paddocks 1,2,3 and 6 for 2-3 day intervals, paddock 4 for 4-5 day intervals and paddock 5, the largest, for 5-6 day intervals. Since we receive between 60-75 inches of rainfall per year, with rainfall spaced relatively evenly throughout the year, and because we have very fertile soil, our grass grows and recovers very fast.

3) Consumer’s demand for raw organic milk and value-added cheese will be measured in several ways:

  1. a) By number of consumers requesting to enter into a herdshare contracts (currently I have 8 local consumers that want to establish herdshare contracts and bill of sale with KOA);
  2. b) By the number of consumer requests given on Western SARE survey forms, and on phone calls and emails as a result of our farm demonstrations/workshops, PowerPoint presentations, and those who read or hear about our project through the social and news media and contact us for more information; additionally, survey responses from restaurants that express their willingness to buy our products via letters of intent to purchase after we conduct test marketing with Italian restaurants and pizzerias with fresh organic mozzarella cheese made from raw buffalo milk, which is currently unavailable on Kauai and throughout the state of Hawaii; we will use basic cheese-making equipment in order to make these value-added products, particularly the “mozzarella di bufala” (original mozzarella made from buffalo milk), known as the “white whale” of all cheeses!

Update 3/10

Monitor Milk Production and period of Lactation. We had no lactating buffalo cows during year 1 for reasons described in Objective 1 above. We do, however, expect to have lactating buffalo cows later this year, so we will be able to quantify milk production and make cheeses by March or April 2022, during Year 2 of this project.  Additionally, we have completed our corral, milking barn, station and head gate (Figures 6 and 7).

Milking parlor, station and headgate
Figure 7. Corral and Milking Parlor

4) Milk yields (kg/day) will be measured and monitored with a certified milk-weighing scale, Surge Bucket Milker, and stainless steel buckets, and recorded daily; lactation durations will also be recorded;

Update 3/10

Development of a Herd-share Contract and Bill of Sale. Because Hawaii is one of the seven states that does not allow the sale of raw milk, KOA has joined and worked with the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FCLDF) attorneys, using Hawaii State Contract Law, to develop a Herd-share Agistment (Appendix 1) and associated Bill of Sale (Appendix 2) in order to provide local consumers with delicious and nutritious raw milk. Raw milk has abundant digestive enzymes, probiotics, minerals and vitamins (A,C,D,B1, E, K), almost all of which are destroyed by pasteurization (Raw Milk Institute; RealMilk.com; Sozanska 20193).

5) For monitoring calf birth weights, weaning and growth rates, we will weigh calves on a standard stock-scale, at birth and on a monthly basis thereafter;

Update 3/10

Calf Birth and Growth Rates. Because none of the three buffalo cows that we used AI on in December 6, 2019 became pregnant (see Objective 1 above), no calf birth rates could be recorded during year 1.  However, our young sexually mature bull has been with our four adult buffalo cows since December 2020, so we expect four calves to be born somewhere between October and December 2021 so that calf birth rates can be recorded, and about 3 months after calving, we can quantify milk production and start making mozzarella cheese.

6) To train our bull as a draught animal will need to obtain a harness (collar, hames and straps, tugs and heel chains); we will also use a harrow to help prepare the pondfields, and to puddle and level them prior to planting taro; we will use the wooden farm wagon for delivering produce to local Farmer’s Markets and for hauling agrotourists around our farm during agrotours; Dr. Peter Edwards at the Asian Institute of Technology, found that by replacing the typical wooden yoke on draught buffalo with a padded harness and hames, that the buffalo could pull twice the weigh in half the time because the harness and hames do not constrict the buffalo’s breathing ability as do the straps/lines on wooden yokes;

Update 3/10

Our bull Kane is now halter trained (Figure 9).  We are making the bull a custom wooden yoke and we have purchased the bull’s yoke bow, britchen, hardware for the yoke and the single tree, all of which are needed for harrowing and leveling our taro pondfields, and for pulling our agrotourism wagon in Year 3 of this project.

Halter-Trained Kane, our 18 month old, 1178 lbs, bull (photo above & below)

Objective 7.  Produce Value-added Cheeses.

Update 3/10

Cheeses will be made in Year 2 or 3 of this project for reasons explained in Objective 3 above. 

8) Begin KOA "agrotours" using draught buffalo bull to pull wagon carrying 6 passengers during farm tours; agroturists will be required to fill out and sign the WSARE Survey;

9) Dairy Water Buffalo fact sheets and pamphlets will be made available at all of our PowerPoint presentations, farm demonstrations and workshops, which will also be video recorded and placed on YouTube; a final YouTube video of the entire projects goals, objectives, findings and recommendations will be made available in April 2023 to SARE, UH/CTAHR, producers, collaborators and to all public libraries on Kauai; among others, these educational outreach efforts will clarify the confusion that exists in regulatory agencies and the general public regarding the difference between domestic dairy water buffalo (domesticated for over 5,000 years) and wild buffalo (e.g., African cape buffalo and American bison, neither of which have ever been domesticated and are very dangerous wild animals).  

Research results and discussion:

Objective One 

Unfortunately, none of the three AI’ed adult cows became pregnant, and it is important to note here that AI in buffalo is much more difficult than in cattle because buffalo have “silent estrus” which makes AI very difficult (i.e. very low pregnancy success rate). It is for this reason we now have our young (19 month old) but mature bull in the same paddock with our four adult buffalo cows, which may already be pregnant and would calve in either October or November 2021.

Objective Two

An aerial view of the paddock layout is shown in Figure (1). Photos of our buffalo herd are shown in Figures (2) and (3). Photos of the buffalo grazing on Guinea grass and Leucaena are shown in Figures (4) and (5), respectively. Guinea grass is the most productive forage in tropical America and is a valuable pasture grass for cattle and for buffalo; the same is true of Leucaena a highly palatable legume that provides high-quality nutrition for all ruminants. Additionally, buffalo browse readily on leaves of several other invasive trees, including: Macaranga grandifolia, the umbrella tree

(Brassia actinophylla), hau (Hibiscus tiliaceus), satin leaf tree (Chrysophyllum oliviforme), autograph tree or copey (Clusia rosea), Java plum (Syzygium cumini), the woodrose vine

(Operculina tuberosa), and three semi-aquatic to aquatic weeds- honohono (Commelina diffusa), cat-tail (Typha angustata), and the umbrella sedge (Cyperus involucratus).

sing the methods described by Thorne and Stevenson 2007a1, Thorne and Stevenson 2007b2 and Savory Holistic Management with Intense Rotational Grazing (Savory Institute 2021),  KOA has developed 6 paddocks (Figure 1), with an average size of 2.5 acres (range= 2.0 to 4.5 acres), dominated by tropical Guinea grass (Megathyrsus maximus) and the legume Leucaena glauca, both highly invasive but are excellent forage species for buffalo. We graze the buffalo in paddocks 1,2,3 and 6 for 2-3 day intervals, paddock 4 for 4-5 day intervals and paddock 5, the largest, for 5-6 day intervals. Since we receive between 60-75 inches of rainfall per year, with rainfall spaced relatively evenly throughout the year, and because we have very fertile soil, our grass grows and recovers very fast.

An aerial view of the paddock layout is shown in Figure (1). Photos of our buffalo herd are shown in Figures (2) and (3). Photos of the buffalo grazing on Guinea grass and Leucaena are shown in Figures (4) and (5), respectively. Guinea grass is the most productive forage in tropical America and is a valuable pasture grass for cattle and for buffalo; the same is true of Leucaena a highly palatable legume that provides high-quality nutrition for all ruminants. Additionally, buffalo browse readily on leaves of several other invasive trees, including: Macaranga grandifolia, the umbrella tree

(Brassia actinophylla), hau (Hibiscus tiliaceus), satin leaf tree (Chrysophyllum oliviforme), autograph tree or copey (Clusia rosea), Java plum (Syzygium cumini), the woodrose vine

(Operculina tuberosa), and three semi-aquatic to aquatic weeds- honohono (Commelina diffusa), cat-tail (Typha angustata), and the umbrella sedge (Cyperus involucratus).

Based on the growth rates we have measured on our four buffalo calves (see below for detailed growth data), our calves have grown faster and larger than those listed in the literature on dairy water buffalo calf growth in Italy and Bulgaria (Borghese 2013) and in Arkansas, USA (Tom Olson, per.com.). These excellent growth rates are likely due to the abundant and high quality forages found in our tropical Niumalu, Kauai pastures.

1 Thorne, M.S. and M.H. Stevenson. 2007a. Stocking Rate: the most important tool in the toolbox. Pasture and Range Management, PRM-4, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR), University of Hawaii, Honolulu, 1-10pp.

2 Thorne, M.S. and M.H. Stevenson. 2007b. Foraging Behavior and Grazing Management Planning. Pasture and Range Management, PRM-2, CTAHR, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, 1-11pp.

Aerial view of six buffalo paddocks used in intensive rotational grazing. Mean paddock size=2.5 acres, range 2.0 to 4.5 acres.
Photo of buffalo with three calves, 2 months old and one on the way (15 Oct. 2020)
KOA’s 8 dairy buffalo: 4 adult cows, 3 heifers, 1 bull, showing electric fencing and solar charging unit (photo taken 19 April 2020).
Buffalo grazing on Guinea grass in paddock 3
Figure 5. Buffalo feeding on Leucaena surrounded by Guinea grass.

Based on the growth rates we have measured on our four buffalo calves (see below for detailed growth data), our calves have grown faster and larger than those listed in the literature on dairy water buffalo calf growth in Italy and Bulgaria (Borghese 2013) and in Arkansas, USA (Tom Olson, per.com.). These excellent growth rates are likely due to the abundant and high quality forages found in our tropical Niumalu, Kauai pastures.

1 Thorne, M.S. and M.H. Stevenson. 2007a. Stocking Rate: the most important tool in the toolbox. Pasture and Range Management, PRM-4, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR), University of Hawaii, Honolulu, 1-10pp.

2 Thorne, M.S. and M.H. Stevenson. 2007b. Foraging Behavior and Grazing Management Planning. Pasture and Range Management, PRM-2, CTAHR, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, 1-11pp.

Objective 3. Monitor Milk Production and period of Lactation. We had no lactating buffalo cows during year 1 for reasons described in Objective 1 above.

Objective 5. Growth rates of our existing four calves, born on August 23, 26 and 27, 2018 (two cow calves and one bull calf), and one cow calf born on November 19, 2018, are shown in Table (2) and Figure ( 8 ).  Borghese (2013)4 states that dairy buffalo bulls in Italy at 15 months old weigh on the average 400kg (880lbs) and our bull Kane weighed 474kg (1042 lbs).  A comparison of growth rates between our bull and dairy water buffalo bulls from Italy show that our bull has grown larger than the average bull weight in Italy.  The excellent growth rates of our calves are likely due to the abundance of high quality forage in our tropical Niumalu, Kauai pastures.

Sozanska,B. 2019. Raw Cow’s Milk and Its Protective Effect on Allergies and Asthma. Nutrients 11(2): 469

4 Borghese, A. 2013. Buffalo Livestock and Products in Europe. Buffalo Bulletin Vol.32: 50-74

Buffalo Calves Growth Rates
Figure 8. Graph of Buffalo Calves Growth Rates (see Table 2 for more details) Table 2. Buffalo Calves Growth Rates

 

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

1 Online trainings
2 Webinars / talks / presentations

Participation Summary:

22 Farmers
22 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

Year 1:

  1. Five (5) well advertised public PowerPoint presentations entitled, “The potential of dairy water buffalo integration into whole farm systems in Hawaii: economic, environmental and social benefits" ( see Supporting Documents), will be given at the Lihue, Kapa’a, and Waimea Public Libraries, to Kauai Community College’s Go Farm program, and to Waipa Foundation during the first year.  PowerPoint presentations, and producer/public interactions, will be video-recorded, edited and shown on Public Access Television locally (Ho'ike)and statewide, on YouTube, discussed on Kauai’s Public Radio (KKCR), and written up for local newspapers; factsheets, pamphlets and the Western SARE survey “sign up and outreach survey sheets” will be made available to all attendees at all these public presentations, and another questionnaire (to be developed) will be distributed at these presentations in order to measure producer’s and the public’s specific interest in dairy water buffalo, in their nutritious raw milk, and the possibility of integrating dairy water buffalo into their farms;
  2. Develop Fact Sheet explaining how dairy water buffalo are gentle, intelligent, and easy to milk and train; how they are biologically and ecologically adapted to tropical/subtropical wet areas, and why they are such a great multi-functional farm animal that can be used for: milk, cheese, meat and fertilizer production, and for plowing, puddling and leveling taro or rice fields, for controlling invasive wetland weeds, restoring endangered water bird habitat, and for logging and transportation; water buffalo also live twice as long as cattle and produce twice the number of calves; this Fact Sheet will be a hand-out at all public PowerPoint presentations;
  3. Develop dairy water buffalo Pamphlet showing photos of dairy buffalo and all the multi-functional uses they provide for enhancing sustainable whole farm systems;

Year 1-3:

  1. Four Farm Demonstrations/Workshops/Field days for producers, research/extension agents, and agriculture students will be held on, how to:

            (1) Manage and care for your dairy water buffalo: the economic, environmental and social benefits,

            (2) Milk a water buffalo, and to sanitize, filter and refrigerate fresh milk and make mozzarella cheese;

            (3) Train your water buffalo to be a draft animal: harrow, puddle and level taro pond fields (lo’i);

            (4) Develop a GMP, an intensive rotational grazing system and calculate appropriate stocking rate with dairy water buffalo. Additionally, four YouTube videos will be produced primarily from these workshops, with the same titles, over this 3-year project, and posted on YouTube on Year- 3, and incorporated into the final YouTube video on Year-3;

Year-3:

5) Give five (5) final PowerPoint presentations on project’s final research results and recommendations to Lihue and Kapa’a Public Libraries, Kauai Community College’s Go Farm program, the Kauai Chapter Hawaii Farmer’s Union, and the Kauai Farm Bureau); presentations will be video recorded and shown on Hawaii Public Access TV, on YouTube, and written up in local newspapers; Western SARE’s “sign up and outreach survey sheets” and a similar questionnaires (to be developed) that measure producer’s and public’s interest in dairy buffalo or dairy products will be handed out at all presentations;

6) All agrotourists that tour farm will be required to fill out and sign the WSARE Survey form;

7) Edit and produce final YouTube video that incorporates all 4 YouTube videos, overall goals and objectives of the project, and project’s final research findings and recommendations; final YouTube link will be distributed to producer groups, Western SARE, University of Hawaii/CTAHR Extension Agents, Kauai Community College’s Go Farm program, Kauai Chapter of Hawaii Farmer’s Union, Kauai Farm Bureau, the Hawaii Dept. of Agriculture, Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, to all Kauai Public Libraries, and this information will be written up and submitted to local newspapers and discussed on local public radio and TV.

Update 3/10

Conduct Educational Outreach. Developed an educational PowerPoint presentation entitled, “Integration of domestic Water Buffalo into a Taro Farm on Kauai: ecological, economic and

sociocultural benefits” (see YouTube link below). This educational PowerPoint was presented at the annual meeting of the Hawaii Farmer’s Union on October 15, 2020, it was discussed on the “Garden and Farming Show” on Kauai Public Radio on January 20, 2021, and was narrated and presented on YouTube on February 24, 2021 (youtu.be). 

Additionally, we have made a video to be placed on YouTube entitled, “Basic Biology, Ecology, Care and Feeding of Dairy Water Buffalo” and plan to place this second PowerPoint on YouTube also in March 2021. Because all public libraries on Kauai were closed due to Covid pandemic these educational venues could not be used for public educational events.  Also, KOA has developed a draft website at www.koafarms.org for both business and for educational purposes.

Information Products

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.