Immersive Cultural Experiences Sallyan village

Witnessing the birth & demise of a Buffalo

At 8pm one evening, Ama called Ganesh to the buffalo shed. When he returned, I asked what happened, and he casually said, “There are legs are sticking out of the buffalo’s behind.” What?! I want to see that! I quickly rushed to the shed, and behold, there were actually legs and hooves bulging out of the pregnant buffalo. 30 seconds later, a baby buffalo fell out of the buffalo’s uterus, and the baby fell right on it’s head into a massive pile of shit. Damn, those buffalos are huge when they’re born. The mother buffalo was making a raucous from the pain of giving birth, and she had a water-filled sack hanging from its uterus. In her hysteria, she accidentally hit the water bubble on the wall, which popped it and caused even more raucous. Meanwhile, Ganesh pick up the calf covered in poop (mind you, he had just showered) and pulled it to safety to protect it from getting stomped on. I watched the whole time in complete shock.

Next, they needed to milk the mother buffalo. This was the first time this buffalo produced milk for the first time, meaning it’s never been milked before. Baba attempted to milk it, but the buffalo wasn’t having it. She kicked Baba’s hand off her virgin teats with her hooves, splashing poop on him. Eventually, Baba tied one of her legs to a post , Ganesh and Ama stroked her back to help calm her, and I held the flashlight for them. It took 4 people to milk this buffalo!

I was confused by the whole situation, just as you may be. Ganesh explained they only got the buffalo pregnant 🤰to produce milk for their family. They already have a baby buffalo, and they can’t have another one (i.e., they don’t want to collect more grass to feed, and they have enough space in the shed). Rather, they’re going to give the calf away the following day.

Since the purpose of the pregnancy is to produce milk, they didn’t allow the calf to feed off its mother’s udder (i.e., this would use up their supply of milk).

He explained the buffalo will produce milk for 1.5 years, and then they will get her pregnant again in order to produce milk again.

Aww, the baby was just lying there on the ground helpless. Every time it tried to stand up, it collapsed right to the ground. Ganesh placed the calf into a small shed and tied one of its legs with a rope. He tried to feed the baby some milk, but it didn’t know how to drink yet (i.e., it only knows how to suck on the teat). Ganesh stuck his fingers in the baby’s mouth to hold it open as he poured some milk in its mouth. The baby acted like it was drowning each time Ganesh poured more milk… swallowing seemed so foreign to the baby.

After all this, it’s not over yet… we had to wait for the placenta to emerge from the mother buffalo, and then remove it from the shed. Otherwise, the buffalos would accidentally eat the placenta, causing a whole mess of vomiting in the shed. The placenta didn’t fall out until 11pm! Wow, what a long tiring day for the family.

The funniest part of it all: Baba walked into the kitchen for dinner at 6pm and said in his broken English, “You know, I very tired today.” He had a full day of harvesting rice under the hot sun… 3 hours later (9pm), he was on his knees getting poop kicked in his face as he attempted to milk the buffalo.

The following day, I saw a man pick up the calf from the shed. I didn’t think much of it. When I walked over to the neighbor’s home 20 mins later, I saw the man who took the calf with his kids…. They chopped off the baby buffalo’s head and were dehairing its body with a cup! Apparently, this was a boy buffalo, and since their’s no profit generate from a boy buffalo (i.e., no milk), they kill them for food.

As the man didn’t want to carry the calf all the way to his village (i.e., the calf doesn’t know how to walk yet), they killed it, cut it up into pieces, and stuffed it into a large sack to carry home.

My thoughts on the buffalo incident:

Watching a buffalo give birth to a living breathing calf was humbling. Birth is a miracle- the fact that babies grow and live in a water-filled sack until birth is mind-boggling. We are so accustomed to the birth of babies that we lose sight of how miraculous it is.

It was heart-wrenching to separate this newborn baby from its mother. It saddened me to see the calf sitting on the floor of the shed, all by itself, in the dark. It looked so confused, so lost, and as if it had no clue what was happening. It was completely quiet. I felt terrible separating the baby from it’s mother…. the baby is in a new world, surrounded by human. What was it thinking? Must have been so frightened!

Seeing the calf killed the following day really top off the emotional train for me.

I didn’t think that witnessing these events would impact me so severely. How conscious are animals, really? What does ‘animal rights’ entail?… time to do some research. Leave a comment below if you have any thoughts on this!

On the day I left the village, I felt full of love and appreciation. Thankful to my kind hosts for making me feel like part of the family. The whole fam came to say their farewells of smiles and hand-waiving (i.e., they don’t speak English).

In Hindu culture, guests will give a few rupees to the each of the family members out of respect. As I said goodbye to Baba, Ama, Ganesh, Sita, and Rohit, I happily placed a few rupees in each of their hands. During the Dashain celebrations, I noticed people touching and kissing the feet of their elders out of respect. In attempt to be extra cultural, I bent over to touch the feet of Ama…. Ama was baffled, and she jumped up, pushed my hand away, and giggled. Apparently, only close family members are allowed to touch the feet! Whoopsies 😬

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