Learn more about the history of Laos Buffalo Dairy

The Story Behind Laos Buffalo Dairy

In 2010, business commitments in Singapore brought our two families together for what would prove to be a very fortuitous meeting. After many years of either working for multi-national corporations or running our own companies, we (Susie, Steven, Rachel and Matt) discovered that we had complementary skill sets and were ready for a new adventure - aka a mid-life crisis with a purpose rather than a Porsche.

In 2014 we moved to Luang Prabang in the heart of Laos and soon realized that in this land full of buffalo, a dairy industry was non-existent. Needless to say, this made finding good quality cheese very difficult. And we love our cheese!  After some sleepless nights and much research, we came to the conclusion that we can do it ourselves and the local community could benefit in the process.

To test the idea, a proof of concept was implemented, which is just a fancy way of saying "Let's all watch YouTube videos on milking, get hold of a buffalo and see what we can do". We rented 3 buffalo from Mr. Eh in Thin Keo Village, about 30-minutes outside of Luang Prabang town (Mr. Eh and family pictured above). While nobody in the area had ever seen a buffalo milked before, Mr. Eh gave us the chance to pilot the procedure. We milked the three buffalo every day for 6 weeks, invariably with quite an audience. We then brought the milk back to town and, as if by magic (and after a few initial tears :-) , our Chef, Rachel turned it into the first batch of truly delicious cheese.

We then made our own mozzarella, ricotta, yogurt, ice cream and cheesecake, and shared our trial product line with local food suppliers, grocery stores, restaurants and friends. We were only asked one question: “When will you start?”

Our first year was full of trials and tribulations trying to get the business up and running. It started with applying, and being approved for, 9 different government licenses, which was no easy feat. We held interviews for staff positions and hired 25 adventurous souls who were prepared to work with the crazy Falang (a friendly term for foreigners).

Our veterinary consultant, Dr. Som, was trained in Cuban as a vet with 7 years of experience in the dairy business and speaks Lao, English, Spanish & French. He has been helping us from the beginning, with proper buffalo care, hosting information sessions with farmers in over 17 different villages, about milking, vaccinating and general care of buffalo plus training (and a few entertaining moments) on Artificial Insemination.

After months of building and planting 15 hectares of Napier grass in preparation, on the 18th of July 2016 our first buffalo arrived, and the Laos Buffalo Dairy became the first of its kind in the country. 

To read more about the Laos Buffalo Dairy team, click here.