An association study between the milk yield trait and the stearoyl-CoA desaturase (SCD) polymorphism (g.133A > C) in Italian Mediterranean river buffalo was carried out. A full characterization of the river buffalo SCD promoter region was presented. Genotyping information was provided and a quick method for allelic discrimination was developed. The frequency of the C allele was 0·16. Test-day (TD) records (43 510) of milk production belonging to 226 lactations of 169 buffalo cows were analysed with a mixed linear model in order to estimate the effect of g.133A > C genotype, as well as the effect of parity and calving season. The SCD genotype was significantly associated with milk yield (P = 0·02). The genotype AC showed an over-dominance effect with an average daily milk yield approximately 2 kg/d higher than CC buffaloes. Such a difference represents about 28% more milk/d. The effect of the genotype was constant across lactation stages. The contribution of SCD genotype (r2SCD) to the total phenotypic variance in milk yield was equal to 0·12. This report is among the first indications of genetic association between a trait of economic importance in river buffalo. Although such results need to be confirmed with large-scale studies in the same and other buffalo populations, they might offer useful indications for the application of MAS programmes in river buffalo and in the future they might be of great economic interest for the river buffalo dairy industry.