Buffalo are strong-willed creatures – they don't like to be pushed. Even when afraid, dairy cows can be pushed into the milking belt. The same cannot be said for buffalo.
“They will only take so much, then they will turn on you if you’re being unfair or push them too much,” Bungwahl-based Burraduc Buffalo Farm owner, Elena Swegen.
“They can break through everything. You cannot contain a buffalo if it doesn’t want to be there,” Elena said.
“So you need to have a good relationship with them rather than trying to push them.”
Swegen’s buffalo come willingly to be milked.
They like it. Sometimes she has a hard time getting them out of the dairy.
To get the buffalo on side, Elena does things differently than most traditional dairy farmers. She does not separate the calves from their mothers.
“This means we don’t upset the mothers and we don’t have to try to put the buffalo babies on the bottle,” she says.
When it comes to dairy cows, the calves will quite happily feed from the bottle from day two. Buffalo on the other hand, will often refuse.
“We are happy to share the milk with the babies because we don’t have to feed them by the bottle, they grow much better and the mothers come to the dairy happily in the afternoon.”
Elena says it’s all about having a partnership with the buffalo, rather than exploiting them. This ethical farming style has even attracted vegan customers.
Swegen’s happy buffalo which graze Burraduc’s lush, nutrient-dense pastures, produce outstanding milk, which she transforms into buffalo mozzarella and scamorza (a drier, saltier version of mozzarella), pot set full cream natural yoghurt, docenina, fetta, pure whey ricotta and clarified buffalo butter.
Her buffalo mozzarella was a State winner in the 2018 Delicious produce awards, a huge accolade for outstanding Australian producers.
Elena travelled to southern Italy to learn the art of making fresh buffalo mozzarella.
“I needed to have confidence that my handmade mozzarella was as close as possible to the authentic product of Campana,” she said.
Elena describes how around Naples, buffalo farms sell hundreds of kilograms of freshly made mozzarella each morning from farm-gate shops.
“Real, fresh buffalo mozzarella is a big addiction in Italy, especially in the south.”
Her customers with Italian backgrounds get very emotional over her mozzarella and scamorza.
“One Italian lady was nearly crying when she found the mozzarella was exactly like the one her mother used to buy back in Naples.”
Australian customers share the passion for the product.
“It was amazing, we had so many messages, emails and phone calls from the first customers who took the time to let us know how they felt about discovering new flavours of buffalo milk, and how the freshness reminded them of their childhood and how much they appreciated our way of farming,” she recalled.
The freshness and clean flavours of her products she credits to the quality and richness of the milk her buffalo can produce in the high rainfall climate of the Great Lakes.
Her job is to handle and process the milk without interfering too much; turning it into cheese without any artificial aids and preservatives.
The result is flavours that simply cannot be found in heavily processed products on supermarket shelves.
Restaurants incorporating Burraduc products into their menu include Moor and Lizotte’s in Newcastle and Moby’s Beachside Retreat at Boomerang Beach.
Elena’s vision includes educational farm tours and connecting people to the principles of organic farming and the importance of bio-diversity and co-existing with wildlife, including predators.
The farm tours are part of The Great Lakes Food trail (thegreatlakesfoodtrailnsw.com.au).
This article was originally published in the Newcastle Herald.
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