NZ Dairy Spring 2021

| 19 nz dairy DAIRY PEOPLE » Clevedon Buffalo Co Helen and Richard Dorresteyn milk 150 Riverine buffalo in Clevedon. Buffalo Cherry Mozzarella (below). Taking the time to get it exactly right H elen and Richard Dorresteyn own a dairy herd with a difference. Instead of Jersey cows or Fresians they milk 150 Riverine buffalo on the farm they lease from the Duders in Clevedon, south of Auckland. Like many other small businesses The Clevedon Buffalo Company took time to get established after it’s inception in 2006, but the Dorresteyn’s love of the animals combined with their belief in their product kept them going. Their hard work and determination gradually gelled into what is now a thriving business selling their premium products to a dedicated clientele, with a steady string of awards along the way. “We won our first award in our first year of production actually,” says Helen with a laugh – “it was for our ricotta. We weren’t expecting to win anything but we went along all dressed up for a night out and we won with our buffalo ricotta which we now sell primarily to restaurants as well as a little bit at the markets.” Learning the process of making their premium ricotta was one of the bonuses of their trip to Italy where they went to learn to make mozzarella. “Buf- falo mozzarella is a really tricky cheese to make,” explains Helen. “It’s different to making cow’s moz- zarella, the milk is more delicate and it took us a lot longer to get it right when we began production, but we’ve now got a cult mozzarella which is beautifully soft and pillowy.” Winning awards early on earned the Clevedon Buffalo Company a place on Campbell Live and a lesson about supply and demand which has stood them in good stead ever since. At that time they were only milking five of the 60 animals they had imported from Australia, and suddenly the phone was running hot with people all over New Zealand wanting their cheese. “We were just completely overwhelmed and some people got a bit pippy, but we had to breed our herd up, we couldn’t just whistle up more buffalo,” says Helen. “It’s always been the case of having to grow the company slowly in terms of our production so that we don’t disappoint our custom- ers, because we sell everything we make. “ Being good to their clients, many of whom are chefs, and making sure they always provide what they’ve said they will, has since won them a Lewisham Award for service. “The good chefs find a way to use our product on their menu even though it comes with a higher cost. We just can’t make cheap cheese with our model, and with our animals,” says Helen. Virginia Wright The Dorresteyns farm, process and distribute their products and are very aware of the cheaper overseas varieties available in the supermarket. They’re grateful for the push to buy local but Helen still worries for the future. “If people stop supporting local producers there’s a real danger that all these forms of specialty food that New Zealand producers make so well will disappear. We pay good wages so we can’t com- pete price-wise, and I just wish people would ask themselves how much that European cheese-maker was being paid for their work.” The herd has now grown to 150 buffalo, with years of AI and selective breeding going not only into the milk they produce but their temperament. “They’re extremely big and strong,” says Helen affectionately. “You could call them vandals but they’re not nasty, they just muck with things. They’ll lean on a gate and bend it with their weight, so everything has to be reinforced and strengthened. They’re affectionate so you have to be careful that they don’t hurt you inadvertently with a flick of their head because of course they’ve got horns as well.” Ultimately the Dorresteyns would love to buy a piece of land of their own but given the cost of land they’re not sure that will ever be possible. In the meantime their products consistently win New Zealand Food Producer Awards and New Zealand Specialist Cheesemaker Association Awards, thanks to the quality not only of their milk but that of all the other ingredients they use as well, whether it’s Hawke’s Bay boysenberries for their yoghurt or the Heilala vanilla grown in a Tongan village who are in partnership with a New Zealand company. “It’s a delicious, absolutely beautiful prod- uct,” says Helen. “The provenance of everything we use is important to us, and to our customers who we believe want to know where it’s come from, so we control our process from the grass to the plate.” “ Proud to supply Clevedon Buffalo Co ” 518 Kaikorai Valley Road, Kenmure Dunedin 9011, New Zealand Ph: +64 3 453 0996 Email: Web: