Most people are familiar with cheese made from cow’s milk. However, a buffalo dairy farm in Laos offers more than cheese that everybody has learned to love. At the same time, it can address the farmers’ financial issues and boost the country’s economy.
Wide Range of Cheeses from Laos Buffalo Dairy Farm
Cheese lovers must not miss the wide range of cheeses made at the Laos Buffalo Dairy Farm. It’s the first dairy and buffalo farm in Luang Prabang, Laos. It was founded by Australian couples, Susie Martin and Steven McWhirter. Martin is the CEO while her husband is the farm GM.
“When we tried to buy buffalo milk to make the delicious yoghurt we had seen in Sri Lanka to use at the guesthouse, no one had any idea what we were talking about. Seeing that there was also growing demand from hotels and restaurants for dairy products such as mozzarella, we set up the dairy in 2017,” said Martin.
Approximately, Luang Prabang villagers travel two hours to bring their pregnant buffaloes to the dairy farm. According to Rachel O’Shea, the buffaloes should be eight months pregnant.
Once the animals reach the farm, they are put into quarantine and tested for diseases. Afterwards, they get vaccinations and are then trained for milking.
After giving birth, there would be no milk extraction for the first three weeks. This enables the calf to acquire all the nutrients from its mother’s milk. After three weeks, the mother buffalo will be milked in the morning, leaving the rest for the calf.
O’Shea said that by the end of the rental time, the farmer receives a lump sum based on how many days the buffalo milks. A farmer receives about $100 for each buffalo.
The farmer can bring his mother buffalo and calf home. He can bring the buffalo back again to the farm once it’s eight months pregnant. This will start the process once more at the buffalo farm, according to O’Shea who is the executive chef and GM of production at the Laos Buffalo Dairy.
Martin perceives the animals as “buffalo bank” which is worth about $1,000. It represents 50% of a farmer’s yearly revenue.
Traditionally, farmers use buffaloes to plough rice fields. However, more farmers now rely on tractors for help and sell their animals to fund their children’s education and to pay bills.
As farmers sell more male buffaloes, inbreeding sets in, resulting in less fertile and less robust buffalo breeds. The breeding program of the Laos Buffalo Dairy Farm steps in to address the issue.
According to Martin, with the permission of the Laos government, they used varied bulls with females from different villages. They will crossbreed the females with the Indian Murrah Buffalo to improve the milk yield in collaboration with the Lao Agricultural Institute.
The healthy offspring will return with their mothers to the owner. At the same time, farmers can have higher profits from their bigger and more productive buffaloes.
Currently, the farm has 85 buffaloes and hopes to increase it to 150 by 2024. They produce ricotta, feta, yoghurt, bocconcini, burrata (by request), and mozzarella. Moreover, they plan to add parmesan, cheddar, brie, and goat cheese.