It has been just over two weeks since our first buffalo arrived. This was the beginning of our “mini farm”. The idea of our mini farm was to start our first few months with 5 buffalo so that we could train our staff, perfect our recipes, and get the word out about our business while our main farm gets built.
Getting our second buffalo was almost as hard as the first, but for an entirely different reason. One family in Muang Khay Village (where our dairy is) had always said they would like to rent us their buffalo, but that they wanted to be the second family just to make sure that other people were joining as well. Naturally, once we got the first buffalo, we called this buffalo owner and told him that he would now be second. He came and saw our farm, signed the rental contract and brought us the buffalo. The very next day, we went out to start milking our 2 buffalo to find that there was only 1 there again. We found out that the man’s wife had arrived and taken her buffalo back because she did not know about our company. We quickly backed away as the family quarrel started to rage. Thankfully, once we had a few more buffalo, the wife agreed and they brought their buffalo back together (and she is one of our best milking buffalo!).
Before we could have any doubts about how hospitable our land is, we learned the need to keep other buffalo off of our land. As we store our quality feed and are implementing strict health standards for our buffalo, it is imperative that no other buffalo comes on our land to steal the feed or cause any contamination. On one day, we had staff at one gate bringing in one of our new buffalo, while other staff members were chasing about 10 buffalo off of our land at the other gate. We have painfully discovered each weak fence post and every fence wire that was too short. Admittedly, it has been a useful sales pitch to buffalo owners that their buffalo literally can’t resist coming into our farm!
Part of the procedure of learning to milk buffalo includes separating the babies from their mothers and feeding the calves milk concentrate and roughage. We got adorable calf feeding bottles from a dairy in Bangkok and taught our staff how to make the concentrate. Our first day was a little pathetic, as two of our staff tried to feed the baby buffalo a bottle, while the calf ran away. After a bit of research that night, we realized we would have to be a little more aggressive. Our research said to try and straddle the calf and use one arm to turn the head back and the other to put the bottle in the mouth. After drawing straws of who had to do it, we sent our first staff member in, who basically tried to straddle the cow and was immediately thrown off. We slowly added more staff members until there was 4 people trying to hold the buffalo still while one person poured the milk in.
We had always known it was better to get the calves young, as it means more milk in the mothers and that it is easier to train the calves to drink from the bottle. We have officially learned that lesson the hard way, as our first two buffalo calves were already a month old. However, now these two easily take the bottle from just one staff, and drink it twice per day! It was that much easier to put the next three calves on the bottle, as they were much younger (and cuter!). Raising buffalo is just like raising dogs – well, except when they’re like buffalo.
So many trying lessons (and laughs and photos) to get us prepared for the big farm!