A TRIP to Italy spurred Ian and Kim Massingham’s passion for fresh cheese, and what started as a hobby has become a full-time business.
After sampling the best buffalo mozzarella in Italy 10 years ago, Ian and Kim Massingham were hooked, but on their return to Australia, they couldn’t find fresh mozzarella.
So they bought a pregnant buffalo, then added to the herd with 11 buffalo from Victoria, and six years ago they moved to Eungai Creek, near Macksville, from East Kurrajong.
Buffalo currently produce 29 per cent of the world's milk.
The Massinghams now run 88 head on 120 hectares, with 30 in the milking herd. The males are grown out for meat.
The couple runs the Eungai Creek buffalo farm and gourmet cafe, and sells cheeses – pecorino, feta, mozzarella, halloumi, Persian feta, havarti, parmesan and quark – as well as gelato, yoghurt, and labna, through the cafe and at markets at Port Macquarie, Kempsey, Coffs Harbour, Bellingen, Gladstone, and Eungai Creek (Funkya at Unkya markets).
Restaurants in Port Macquarie and Bellingen use the Persian feta, one of most sought-after products.
The buffalo are milked two or three days each week, producing about 120 to 180 litres. Kim handles the cheese making, which has been a learning curve, as buffalo milk has a higher butter fat content than traditional dairy cattle.
“They have about eight per cent total butter fats, compared with an average Freisian at 2pc and Jersey at 4pc,” Ian said.
“Many of the recipes we originally had are completely different with buffalo milk because of the higher fat content and different protein structure.”
Pure Italian bulls are sourced from other buffalo dairies or from a research station in the Northern Territory.
Ian said there were a lot of opportunities in the growing industry, with buffalo a good option over cattle in the dairy industry.
They also produce lean meat that’s high in protein and iron.
“Buffalo currently produce 29pc of the world's milk,” Ian said.
“It’s not a small industry, it’s just small in Australia.
“We get 350 cents a litre for buffalo milk and dairy farmers are getting 50c/kg, and buffalo can produce up to 10 litres a day in spring.”