Perth County leading charge with water buffalo herd
A little over 10 years ago, Henry and Inge Koskamp took a leap. The Perth County farmers bought a herd of 150 water buffalo from Florida in hopes of diversifying their dairy operation near Stratford.
It was love at first sight.
“They’re like a really big dog. They love attention. They want to be relational. They’re just really nice animals to work with,” says Henry.
But the Koskamp's water buffalo weren’t brought to Perth County to be pets. The family saw an opportunity for their five children to enter the farming business, by creating their own Ontario market for buffalo mozzarella, which was being imported at a very high cost from Italy.
So far, so good.
“We milk about 140 water buffaloes right now. The majority of the milk goes for cheese production, but just recently we started selling bottled fluid water buffalo milk. We just started two months ago, and it’s going really good,” says Philip Koskamp, one of the Koskamp’s five children.
Water buffalo don’t produce as much milk as dairy cows, but it is high in milk fat and protein, making it nutrient dense. That's one of the main selling points the Koskamp family uses as they literally sell their milk door-to-door.
“A lot of the milk is selling in Toronto on home delivery. We have about 20 retailers now carrying our milk in Toronto, London, Woodstock and Kitchener. Mozzarella is our main cheese market. That’s also in stores in those areas too,” says Philip.
“We have a lot of people who want the straight buffalo milk so they can make it into their own sweets, their own Greek yogurt, make their own cheeses. So, for people that really want to do it yourself at home,” says Jacqueline Koskamp, another Koskamp child running the family’s water buffalo business.
The Koskamps operate one of only approximately 10 water buffalo farms in all of Canada, milking their Holsteins, and water buffaloes, all in the same milking parlour.
They now have 400 head of water buffalo, with plans to expand, as their Koskamp kid-made market dictates.
“The oldest four are all working here on the farm. Either sales, marketing, milking, feeding or running our biogas plant,” says proud mom Inge.
“We’re trying to find out where the frontier is. We don’t know where it ends. You just keep trying things. There’s no such thing as failure, you just learn something you didn’t know before,” says Henry.