The Water Buffalo – a genuine dual-purpose alternative to the dairy cow
The buffalo produces around 10% of the World’s milk but within Europe the buffalo has been primarily limited to southern Italy and Transylvania in the Carpathian Mountains. Wherever it has lived it has been a provider of milk, of meat and of draft power. It is truly multi-purpose.
Much more recently the water buffalo has found its way to the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany and Ireland. In Europe the buffalo is synonymous with Mozzarella di bufala but that one product alone does not do the buffalo justice; its milk can produce superb yogurts, ice cream and blue cheese and its meat, steaks and burgers for a low cholesterol BBQ. The buffalo’s potential in Europe is still far from fully recognised.
The author came to know the water buffalo whilst establishing a herd of a few hundred buffalo in Transylvania. An information summary about the water buffalo is linked below.
The water buffalo is present in Transylvania and the Carpathians even though the animal is originally of Indian origin. They have adapted over the centuries but the cold winters are still extremely cold for an Asian animal. The other European home of the water buffalo is around Naples which is another climatic extreme. The author does wonder whether the best climatic compromise within the European Union for the buffalo is, indeed, Ireland.
Thankfully there is now some experience of farming the buffalo in Ireland.
The water buffalo can provide a range of premium food products. In the author’s opinion it is the kind of alternative enterprise that is needed in Ireland. It requires a high degree of animal husbandry skills and that is one of Ireland’s strengths. Its milk and meat is also ideal for the local, smaller-scale, artisan-style processing into luxury products that rural Ireland needs.
For those looking to make investment in dairy farming and who prefer the idea of producing milk whereby there is serious scope for adding-value to farm produce and operating outside the constraints of Ireland’s commodity-focused milk processing sector, the author would recommend taking a close look at the potential that the water buffalo offers.
Photo credit: With many thanks to former colleague Calin Calugar for the buffalo herd photo.