NZ Dairy Winter 2022

10 | nzdairy DAIRY PEOPLE » Wairiri Water Buffalo Farming buffalo a sideline for dairy operation Wairiri Buffalo produces cheeses such as scamorza, mozzarella, halloumi, feta and caciocavallo. The Canterbury business is owned by Christo Keijzer (below) and business partner Lucy Appleton. Karen Phelps Farming buffalo could be a way for Kiwi dairy farmers to diversify and would t in easily with most dairy operations, says Lucy Appleton from Canterbury based Wairiri Buffalo. “It could sit on the side of a dairy operation very well with little additional investment required. Buffalos produce high fat, protein and mineral milk. It’s less watery than cow milk, ne in structure and tastes clean on the palette. It gives good returns to farmers who could supply cheese-making dairy companies in New Zealand and we are hopeful the industry will grow in New Zealand.” Wairiri Buffalo is owned by Lucy and business partner Christo Keijzer who started their herd in 2008 importing a small number of animals from Riverine Buffalo from Melbourne. Both came from rural backgrounds and had a desire to create a sustainable niche farming operation. They chose to farm buffalo as they had experienced the sought after buffalo mozzarella in Italy. Also the animals were well suited to the high rainfall area they are farming at Glenroy between Methven and Dar eld. They now have a herd of 60 buffalo milked through a DeLaval robotic milking system. Lucy, who has been the head cheese maker, says the robotic system has further improved the quality of their milk. They milk year round and 20 of the herd are milked at any one time. Calving is staggered to ensure continuous supply. Lucy says that buffalo are robust animals and have virtually no health issues. The farm is converting to mixed species plantations and organic principles are used where possible with Christo in charge of the farming side of the operation. Lucy says they started introducing plantain into the farm around 10 years ago but two years ago took things to a different level in terms of introducing even more species into their pasture. The difference was palpable. “Normally we’d break feed a metre at a time but that reduced to 20 cm breaks as the pasture was so thick I could hardly walk through it,” says Lucy. “Animals don’t punch through the soil to the same extent on the mixed plantations because the varied root structures form a deep fabric. We tend to think of plants as extracting goodness from the soil but they can improve soil quality. We’re also looking at introducing tree crops that are palatable to the buffalo. They enjoy willow when we fell it for them.” She says they remain committed to sustainable and symbiotic farming on the 40ha farm that includes a native forest and wetland reserve. They have no desire to grow their herd numbers further as this goes against their philosophy to farm less extensively. Wairiri Buffalo produces yoghurt, labneh, milk and cheeses such as scamorza, mozzarella, halloumi, feta and caciocavallo. Covid-19 initially hit the business hard when restaurants suddenly shut down during lockdowns but they were fortunately able to supply MIQ facilities, pivoting their business model to favour bulk supply, and of course pizza became a popular takeaway option. Lucy is surprised at how quickly the business has bounced back after Covid-19. “We can’t supply enough to meet demand so we hope more farmers will start buffalo milking operations. That way we could share resources and really take things forward.” “It could sit on the side of a dairy operation very well with little additional investment required. DeLaval VMS™ V300 DeLaval InSight™ - a smoother, faster, more accurate arm than we’ve ever created. DeLaval PureFlow™ - a totally separate cup delivers the ultimate teat preparation DeLaval InControl™ - A seamless user experience keeping you connected to your system wherever you are. 03 308 8226 Robotic Milking Technology Contact us to hear how this milking system can work for you