It’s even more inportant than ever to support our local farmers and so yesterday I did just that. I drove just across the Northamptonshire border over to Napton Water Buffalo in Warwickshire to fetch some milk for our practice run of the new cheese making course. I have to tell you that I am just a tiny bit excited about it!
I’d wanted to add a cheese making course ever since I read this article in the Telegraph, but I’ve only ever made soft ricotta like cheese at home so when I came across Chris Ashby who is one of the most prominent cheese makers in the UK I was so pleased that she’s agreed to teach that I couldn’t stop smiling all day. Luckily Chris lives over in the next county, Leicestershire in the Vale of Belvoir, which where the majority of Stilton Cheese creameries are situated. Chris who has been making cheese for 45 years has spent 12 years working with Stilton and two years making cheese in Kenya. There not much she doesn’t know about cheese making – although she is very modest about it.
This is the link to Chris chatting about he course:
I’m really lucky to know Roger and Steve from Napton Water Buffalo, and absolutely delighted that they agreed for us to use their buffalo milk. They are based just the other side of Daventry. After several generations of milking Friesians in Napton Roger told me that there was quite simply no money on producing cows milk to they decided to diversify into milking Water Buffalo.
Interestingly buffalo milk has 58% more calcium, 40% more protein, and 43% less cholesterol than cow’s milk. It is significantly lower in cholesterol and higher in calcium than cows, sheep or goats milks and is also a rich source of iron, phosphorus, vitamin A and protein
Roger explained that unlike the modern dairy cow, buffalo can thrive without the need to use high levels of concentrated feed so they are less intensive to keep. Normal grass makes up the bulk of a buffaloes diet an they dnot have the ususla health problems aociatd with the interbreeding of our normal dairy cows.
I don’t suppose I picked the best day to look around their 250 around Chapel Green, Napton as it was throwing it down, but I am told that the Buffalo are a well known sight to boaters on the Oxford Canal. The farm is currently in organic conversion and the farm will be wholly organic by this time next year, so we’ll be practicing making so really fabulous organic buffalo mozzarella cheese this Friday .. . ready for the first cheese making course next month. The water buffalo are sometimes called or Asian buffalo and is the largest member of the Bovini tribe, which also includes yak, bison, African buffalo, various species of wild cattle.
They stand about 5 feet tall at the shoulder mammals with crescent-shaped horns and although wild water buffalo are a formidable sight the females that I saw yesterday behaved in a very mild and gentle manner. In the wild water buffalo spend much of their day submerged in the muddy waters of Asia’s tropical and subtropical forests so with such a wet spring I think they feel right at home here! They have wide-splayed hoofed feet prevent them from sinking too deeply in the mud and allow them to move about in wetlands and swamps however water buffalo actually prefer to feed in grasslands on grass and herbs.
It seems that females normally produce calves every other year, after a gestation of 9 to 11 months, and although they may seem like an odd sight in the fields of Warwickshire Water buffalo have been domesticated for more than 5,000 years.
Sadly Wild water buffalo are endangered can only be found in a small numbers of protected areas stretching across India, Nepal, and Bhutan, and a wildlife reserve in Thailand. Unfortunately their populations are still likely to diminish further as they are interbred with domesticated water buffalo.
Starting a the end of 1999 with 20 milking cows and a bull they now have a herd of almost 250, and have 80 milkers currently.
I don’t suppose I picked the best day to look around their 250 around Chapel Green, Napton as it was throwing it down, but I am told that the Buffalo are a well known sight to boaters on the Oxford Canal.
The farm is currently in organic conversion and the farm will be wholly organic by this time next year, so we’ll be practicing making so really fabulous organic buffalo mozzarella cheese this Friday .. . ready for the first cheese making course next month.
Listen to Roger chatting about the Buffalo