Friday, February 4, 2011

Warm Buffalo

Many folks have asked about how the water buffalo fare during a cold, snowy winter. Riverine buffalo seem to do fine as long as they have some way to get out of the worst of the wind and wet. Ours have an old barn, which while far from airtight, gives them a place to hunker down in a big pile of straw in the worst of the weather. They're free to come and go as they please and they choose to stay in at night and on snowy or really rainy days. I've seen them out in single-digit weather if it's dry and the sun's out.

We noticed that all of the buffs grew a winter coat to help keep them warm. Even Audrey, the hairiest of the bunch to begin with, grew longer locks. We didn't see as much beard on her but she has these funny, long tufts of hair extending out from her knees and you can hardly see her toes for the hair that has grown over them. All three have these great rings of hair on their necks. I wish the detail showed up better in these pix. At least you should be able to see that their horns are getting longer, thicker at the base, and curling in more. Here's Audrey:

Most helpful from a warmth standpoint is the fact that all three of them have put on weight. I haven't gotten out the tape measure to see how much but it's obvious to us that they're growing up. Eschol has changed the most. He came to us a bit on the skinny side and now he has filled out and grown so much hair that I sometimes mistake him for Audrey at a distance. Maybe I should put marks on one of their rubbing posts so I can see at a glance how much taller they have gotten. I was worried that Eschol might lose weight over the winter but clearly he is thriving:

Effie never got as much hair as the other two, though she has much more than she did in the summer. Maybe her less-hirsute condition explains why she is the most likely to wedge herself in between the other two in the straw pile. She's no dummy. Audrey usually stakes out the high ground against the wall where the deepest, freshest straw is (she'll skip dinner rather than lose pole position for the night). Eschol tries to get close in but Effie the Enforcer always makes sure he ends up on the side closest to the door where the straw has been trampled to its thinnest and he takes the brunt of any wind that makes it to the back of the barn. On the day I took these photos, there was a bitterly cold wind. The other two wandered around but Effie staked out a position along the lower barn that kept her out of the wind but in prime position for soaking up the sun's rays:

They definitely aren't thrilled about the cold and the snow but then again, neither am I. We all get in a better mood when the sun comes out and isn't thwarted in its warming efforts by an arctic blast. When the temps got up into the 50s and 60s recently, there was a massive lovefest. The buffs were incredibly affectionate and soaked up every bit of attention we were willing to give. Even Eschol toned down the testosterone surges long enough to get some tummy rubs. Jim nearly lost his Adam's apple to some very enthusiastic under-the-chin licking by both girls simultaneously. Sure wish I'd had the camera for that moment.

The grass is showing signs of wanting to regrow and the buffs are eagerly going after every green thing they spot. We've got another bad cold snap coming soon so it will be awhile before the grass really gets going. Fortunately, there was no drama when we switched over to new hay this month. They had previously rejected the second-cut hay in favor of the first-cut (no doubt because the former is lower in nutrients) but when we ran out of their favorite, they didn't hesitate to eat the newer hay. Good thing because I wasn't sure the airplane trick was going to work on these clever critters. For those keeping score at home, that was 100 square bales of timothy/orchard grass hay through the end of January. We've got 100 more to get us through until we're back to 100% grazing sometime this spring.

1 comment:

  1. That last photo with the buffalo face forward is pretty cute! I remember having chai with buffalo milk in India. that was the standard milk of choice, and it was actually pretty wonderful!