Buffalo has many excellent economic traits and it is one of the greatest potential livestock. Compared with cattle, buffalo has poorer reproductivity, it is of great significance to improve the development potential of oocytes. Buffalo oocyte in vitro maturation (IVM) has been widely used in production, but the poor development ability of bovine oocytes IVM limits the development of buffalo reproductivity. Milrinone as a phosphodiesterase inhibitor could affect the maturation of oocytes in goat and mice, but there have been few reported studies in water buffalo. To optimize buffalo oocyte in vitro maturation systems, the effects of phosphodiesterase inhibitor (milrinone) on pre-maturation culture of buffalo oocytes were investigated in this study. Buffalo cumulus–oocyte complexes (COCs) were cultured in medium with different concentrations (0, 12, 25, 50 and 100 mol/l) of milrinone for different times (0, 4, 8, 12, 16, 22 and 24 h). The results showed that the buffalo COCs nuclear maturation process could be inhibited by milrinone (25–100 mol/l) in a dose-dependent manner. The inhibitory effect of milrinone on in vitro maturation of buffalo oocytes did not decrease with the extension of time. This indicated that milrinone can be used as a nuclear maturation inhibitor during the maturation process in buffalo oocytes. In addition, milrinone can inhibit the effect of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH)-induced IVM of buffalo oocytes, but with time FSH partially eliminated the inhibition. Therefore, inhibition of milrinone on the nuclear maturation of buffalo oocytes was reversible, and buffalo oocytes can mature normally after the inhibition is lessened.