In order to contribute to the breeding programmes of Asian water buffalo, the aim of this study was to analyse the influence of genetic effects in the stayability of Murrah dairy buffaloes. The stayability trait (ST) was defined as the female's ability to stay in the herd for one (ST1), two (ST2), three (ST3), four (ST4), five (ST5) or six years (ST6) after the first calving. The same trait was also considered as continuous and was designated stayability in days up to one (STD1), two (STD2), three (STD3), four (STD4), five (STD5) or six years (STD6) after the first calving. Data from 1016 females reared in nine herds located in the State of São Paulo, Brazil, were analysed. Statistical models included the additive genetic effect of the animal and the fixed effects of the buffalo breeding herd, birth year and birth season. Additive effects for ST were estimated by approximate restricted maximum likelihood using a threshold model, while for STD, the additive effects were estimated by restricted maximum likelihood. Heritability estimates were lower for ST, except for ST1, (0·11±0·07, 0·17±0·06, 0·23±0·06, 0·16±0·08, 0·14±0·09 and 0·16±0·10 for ST1, ST2, ST3, ST4, ST5 and ST6, respectively) when compared with STD (0·05±0·06, 0·18±0·08, 0·40±0·10, 0·49±0·11, 0·41±0·11 and 0·30±0·13, for STD1, STD2, STD3, STD4, STD5 and STD6, respectively). Considering the values of heritability and owing to the serial nature of STD to a specific age, selection for STD3 should have a favourable influence on STD to other ages.