Back in the last century, when I was a mere slip of a thing, the entirety of my cheese experience consisted of the nasty blue boxes of Kraft “cheese” that were found on every school sandwich and the Coon or crumbly Cracker Barrel that my mother brought out for special occasions. Cheese stores were unheard of and the idea of a goat cheese or, god forbid, a buffalo curd was utterly unimaginable.Times have changed, we’ve all grown up and the selection of cheeses in my fridge, let alone those in the store, far exceeds anything my grandmother would have thought of.
Thanks to local South Australian cheese makers like Sheree Sullivan of Udder Delights and Victoria McClurg of The Barossa Valley Cheese Company we can indulge our cheese needs in any number different ways, but Kris Lloyd of Woodside Cheese Wrights has just taken us up a notch. Seeking to expand her repertoire, a few months ago Kris mentioned to Mypolonga dairyman Corey Jones that she’d love to get her hands on some buffalo milk. Corey, to his absolute credit, went home, had a little think and a little wander on the internet and in a surprisingly short time found himself the proud owner of South Australia’s first, and so far only, dairy buffalo herd.
These ladies (and their bloke, plus a couple of young steers at foot) came from a Victorian couple who had been milking buffalo for about 15 years, but were ready to retire. Corey comes from a dairying family himself, although the family dairy was mothballed – but fortunately not dismantled – by his father 10 years ago, during the drought. Corey has been milking cows and goats locally in the Murray Bridge region and has managed to fit his new buffalo responsibilities conveniently into the dusted off family dairy and around his existing ones.
Milking buffalo has put Corey on something of a learning curve and it’s one he is navigating mostly solo, with no other local knowledge at hand. The learning curve started as soon as the girls arrived from Victoria, when they took one look at the ramp to get off the truck and decided they didn’t really care for it. A little sideways thinking, some digging and truck maneuvering and not long later they were happily ambling down the dirt slope he hastily prepared for them.
The herd settled into their new home immediately and Corey has settled in to his milking schedule, milking once a day at this stage. The girls are a little different in temperament to dairy cows and Corey say’s they are noticeably smarter. They’re not keen on any changes to their milking routine or personnel and can get a little toey if strangers are about. He’s found he needs to exercise as much patience as he can muster, always speaking in low, soothing tones and never getting cranky with them – he gave one of the girls a smack one day when she wasn’t cooperating and the next day he had all kinds of trouble getting her into the dairy. Clearly, they are sensitive souls.
Kris Lloyd is taking every drop of milk Corey can (literally) squeeze out of the herd and has produced a sublimely creamy buffalo curd, with a delicious depth of flavour, which she is marketing under her Kris Lloyd Artisan dairy range. However, that woman rarely rests and I noticed an ashed buffalo brie at her factory door the other day. With limited buffalo milk, there are obvious limits on the amount of buffalo products that she can produce at this stage, but I’d strongly recommend seeking out the Buff Curd, which I enjoyed on it’s own with some local honey drizzled over it. It was so good that I have hidden the rest of the tub for future, secret consumption.
I think there are two great things that we, as food consumers, get from this partnership between Corey Jones and Kris Lloyd. First, we finally get access to fresh, locally produced buffalo milk products, rather than having to source them from interstate. Secondly, Kris has, and not for the first time, taken a local dairy out of mothballs, creating opportunity and helping to secure the future and diversity of our local dairy industry – and putting another notch in the belt of South Australian food security .