Baby buffalo boom gives rise to the next generation of mozzarella cheesemakers

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The next generation of mozzarella makers are being born at Australia’s only buffalo research and development facility.

The Northern Territory Government’s Beatrice Hill farm near Darwin runs one of the nation’s biggest herd of Riverine buffalo — the breed whose milk is used to make genuine mozzarella cheese.

The farm is in the middle of a baby boom, with up to 250 calves due to be born over the wet season.

“This is definitely one of our biggest years,” assistant manager Bob McDonald said.

Buffalo industry headquarters

Beatrice Hill is the headquarters of Australia’s buffalo dairy industry, with most of the farm’s young buffalo destined to be sold to dairies scattered across Australia.

Buffalo on the farm are either impregnated through artificial insemination (AI), or by the traditional method.

“The semen for the AI treatment gets imported from Italy,” Mr McDonald said.

Bob McDonald checks up on the herd.

Buffing up the research

Researcher Jo Miller said the Australian buffalo industry was starting to rely less on the NT farm for buying stock, but were still benefiting from the farm’s ongoing research.

A buffalo with its calf on Beatrice Hill Farm.

“With the herd we’ve got now, we’re looking at refining the selection on fertility and honing in on highly fertile animals,” she said.

“We’re hoping to collaborate with some of the dairies we’ve sold animals to, to collect milk data and improve our EBVs [estimated breeding values], so we have data to provide to people looking to invest.”

The Northern Territory’s only buffalo dairy closed in 2015, but those working at Beatrice Hill are hopeful of a Top End comeback.

“It would be great to see a dairy [again in the Northern Territory],” Mr McDonald said.

“We’ve certainly got plenty of numbers here to sell, so let’s hope.”