The Gleaner
Agriculture

Winsome water buffalo: A whole new bull-game

When water buffalo are mentioned, thoughts of either the delectable mozzarella di bufala cheese or powerful beasts doing fieldwork (they have been nicknamed “the living tractors of the East”) might spring to mind. As one learns more about them, a number of unexpected things begin to emerge: they have endearing and curious personalities, and, perhaps more surprising, there are a handful of these impressive bovines right here in the Chateauguay Valley.

When George Boyes of Ormstown’s Ferme Sentier Sud happened to be lodged at a bed and breakfast with water buffalo in an adjoining field, he says he found them very interesting. “They were so cute!” he says, adding that he also liked that they were so “different” from other more common livestock. “They are a bit like goats,” he says. “They are interested in people.” When he was looking into what kinds of meats he and his family would sell at their on-farm boutique (La Boutique Fermière is owned and run by his wife and daughter), he was decidedly drawn toward water buffalo.

 

Long before they boast impressive backward-curving crescent horns, water buffalo steers like those being raised by Tiffany McNaughton will show the lively and curious personalities for which they are known. PHOTO Tiffany McNaughton

 

Though they have a reputation for being sensitive and sometimes stubborn, Boyes describes them as loving to play (“they run around a lot”). He notes that one does need to be careful when in the pen with them. He says they have been straightforward to care for, and that he was “quite shocked” at how much less they eat than standard beef cattle – he estimates they only eat about two-thirds as much as a beef cow, despite their impressive size.

In terms of their clientele’s reaction to the water buffalo meat, Boyes says consumers seem “interested in trying something different,” much like he was, and that the buffalo chili they sell at the boutique is a very popular item.

It was after she tried a water buffalo roast from La Boutique Fermière that Hinchinbrooke’s Tiffany McNaughton decided to try her hand at raising some of her own. “It was the best meat I have ever eaten,” she says, explaining that she promptly got herself on the waiting list for a steer from one of the just two breeders in Quebec. She remarks that water buffalo are somewhat less hardy than the cattle she has worked with her whole life, needing better shelter during inclement weather due to their finer haircoat, but despite this she too has been won over by their charms. “They are playful and easy to train,” she says, adding that her steers all know their names. She explains that the species is aptly named; any time she turns on a hose at her farm, even when the buffalo have a full trough, they delight in splashing around and being sprayed. “I have never seen an animal so excited over water!”

Latest stories

OSEntreprendre Challenge: Framboises et Parapluies win at the local level

The Gleaner

Farm Supplement PHOTO of the week

The Gleaner

Special guest will open LBA Fall Festival

Sarah Rennie

Leave a comment

* By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website.

RSS
Follow by Email
Facebook
Twitter
YouTube
LinkedIn
Instagram
WhatsApp

You can read 4 articles per month for free, but if you are hungry for more, "buy local” and help sustain your source for local news.

Breaking & Community news are always free!

Our Community, Our Newspaper!

Print edition & full digital access

for only $60 per year.

Full digital access

for only $40 per year.