Buffalo surprise in the paddock

JOB OF PASSION: Bryan Jans takes pride in working with buffalo to produce a first class milk that is resulting in superb cheese and soap.


THINK of South Gippsland and milk, and one typically conjures up the image of a herd of Friesian or Jersey cows.

But in the far east of the region, there is an animal of a different kind in a milking shed, a bovine usually associated with Australia’s tropical top end.

Buffalo are being milked by Bryan Jans and his parents John and Tina on their Giffard West property, Sunrise Plains, between Yarram and Sale.

While their milk does not end up in a milk factory, their produce has gained international success.

Their milk was the key ingredient in the cheese that won Berrys Creek Gourmet Cheese’s Riverine Blue a silver medal in a global class at the Nantwich World Cheese Awards in the UK, as well as a gold medal in an Australian class.

The Fish Creek company is one of two destinations for the Janses’ buffalo milk. The other is Nicholson River Soaps near Bairnsdale.

Bryan’s family has been milking buffalo for six years, after moving to Giffard West from suburban Cranbourne North, lured back to the country by his parents’ ties with the Leongatha and Yarram areas.

So how did he come to be a dairy farmer milking a creature foreign to the cool climate of South Gippsland?

“When we bought the property, it was pretty much a blank canvas and we were looking for some options that would be good to ensure the property paid its way and buffalo was a bit different,” Bryan said.

“We had done some travelling up in the (Northern) Territory and looked into buffalo and found that milking them would be a good prospect.”

The Riverine buffalo at Sunrise Plains are in fact a different breed to the Swamp Water buffalo synonymous with the floodplains of the Top End, and so can handle southern weather – even donning a winter coat.

“They cope fairly well down here and the property is fairly sheltered,” Bryan said.

The Jans family milks 75 buffalo cows, each producing from five to 20 litres each milking, which occurs once a day, typically from 7am to 10am.

“Buffalo are a bit more resilient than a dairy cow and they like their roughage which is handy with the drought,” Bryan said.

“A dairy cow would not have done as well as they have. They convert their roughage well but they like their green grass too.”

The herd feeds on pasture and is supplementary fed hay in the paddock. In the shed, the animals receive a customised grain mix that includes barley and wheat.

“That depends on the time of the year and how the grass is going, to add a bit of protein,” Bryan said.

While a buffalo can look intimidating at first, he finds they all have a personality of their own.

“They’re happy to see you at the dairy and they all have a name,” Bryan said.

“When we brought the first lot down from the Territory, it took them about six months to even go near the dairy. We try to keep it low stress because a happy animal gives as good a product as possible.”

Nevertheless, Bryan said people who expect working with buffalo to be the same as working with dairy cows “are in for a shock”.

“They are headstrong so when you’re getting them to do what you want them to do, they have to want to do it as well,” he said.

“That’s what keeps it fun.”

Bryan rates his buffalo milk for its unique characteristics.

“It’s higher in fat content than cows’ milk and it has a bright, white colour which makes for a good appearance,” he said.

“Being higher in fat, it does not feel as heavy on the palate as cow’s milk does.”

Barry Charlton of Berrys Creek Gourmet Cheese said the creaminess of buffalo milk makes for a distinctive cheese.

 “It’s a sweetish sort of milk, and it’s high in fat and protein,” he said.

Buffalo milk’s very high content also makes it ideal for soap-making.

Bianca Ward of Nicholson River Soaps in Bairnsdale sources milk from Bryan’s farm and loves the result.

“Buffalo milk has three times more fat than goat’s milk or camel’s milk, making a very moisturising bar of soap,” she said.

Bryan Jans (L) and Barry Charlton of Berrys Creek Gourmet Cheese celebrate an award-winning buffalo cheese made with milk from Bryan’s Giffard West farm.
Buffalo milk soap is proving a winner for Nicholson River Soaps.

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=30697

Posted by on Jan 14 2020. Filed under Featured, Rural News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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