Buffalo bring fresh challenges

Buffalo dairy herd presents fresh challenges


Dairy
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Experience in a regular dairy assists with running SA's only commercial buffalo dairy.

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IT HAS been a steep learning curve for the state’s only buffalo dairy across the past four years but owner Corey Jones, SA Buffalo Company, Mypolonga, said treating it like a regular dairy system helped.

Corey began milking buffalo in August 2014, with 30 cows sourced from Vic.

He milks 60 cows but expects that number to grow to 90 or 100 head by summer, with the recent addition of 70 Italian Riverine buffalo from Darwin.

He said good genetics helped production.

“We started with three to four litres a buffalo and now they’re averaging 9-10L,” he said.

“Some of the good ones are up to 15-20L.”

Milk herd tests average 5 per cent protein and 8pc fat.

He knows the number of every animal on the farm and herd records once a month with all data kept on Easy Dairy.

“I like looking at the numbers and seeing what each is doing at lactation,” he said.

Corey prefers to use AI with semen imported from Italy.

“In Italy they’ve got some good milking buffalo,” he said.

“Anything I can get in calf with AI is better than what I can get with my bulls.

“But AI is a lot trickier than other dairy cows with heat observation.”

He has three bulls, sourced from Darwin, to clean up any cows not successful with AI.

Corey grew up on a conventional dairy farm, owned by his parents Paul and Vicki Jones, and said that experience helped him during the transition.

He leases the dairy, along with 24 hectares, from his parents, while his mother works in the dairy full-time, milking and calf rearing, and his father also helps.

The traditional split herringbone dairy required some adjustments to fit the horns of the buffalo – with them only milking on one side, 20 at a time.

In the past four years, Corey and his wife Mollie, have grown the farm, going from the original 60ha to about 90ha.

“I don’t like to stand still too much, I want to keep progressing,” he said.

Mr Jones said the operation kept him busy.

“The first couple of years were pretty tough and many times I thought I should throw it in,” he said.

“Now it’s all going pretty smoothly but no day is ever the same. The buffalo have all got personalities.”

In the past four years he has gone from calving within a two to three month period to year-round calving, to enable consistent supply to his customers.

He has access to river and flood irrigation, which helps with good feed – although the cold this year has created issues with feed supply.

He said having irrigation channels was also ideal for the water buffalo, particularly during summer months.

SA Buffalo Company began by supplying one client – Woodside Cheese Wrights – but in the past four years its customer base has grown.

Corey has added another two milk vats for added storage to meet this demand, especially since milk cannot be picked up every day.

Milk goes to Floridia Cheese Co in Melbourne, Woodside Cheese Wrights in the Adelaide Hills and La Vera in Adelaide from this year.

Corey said he has also had inquiry from as far away as Perth, since the Mypolonga dairy is the closest buffalo dairy to Perth.

In recent months, some of the Woodside Cheese Wrights’ buffalo cheese has been exported and sold in the United States.

“It’s pretty cool to think of our milk making its way over there,” he said.

Corey has also found markets for the meat, growing out steers.

“Everything that hits the ground is reared,” he said.

He rears the steers for 18 to 24 months, which results in an average carcase of 250 kilograms on-hook.

“To me it’s similar to beef because it’s not farmed out in the wild on rough stuff,” he said.

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