Tenderbuff Water Buffalo – the Koskamp family
By Melanie Epp
Tenderbuff Water Buffalo has a “whole circle” approach to farming
Koskamp Family Farms Ltd. is a dairy farm near Stratford. Several years ago, brothers Fred and Henry Koskamp, along with their wives, Irene and Inge, decided they wanted to expand their operation by adding something new to their dairy cow herd. The goal of the two-family operation was not only to make the farm more economically viable, but also more environmentally sustainable.
In May of 2007, the Koskamps began looking for a herd of water buffalo that would meet Canada’s import requirements for dairy production. Their first young female calves arrived later that year. Beginning in 2009, their first water buffalo calved and were ready for milking under the company name Tenderbuff Water Buffalo. At the time, according to Koskamps, it was Canada’s second water buffalo herd – and Ontario’s first.
The Koskamps chose water buffalo because they knew there was a market for it. Canadians import large quantities of buffalo mozzarella from Italy on a weekly basis.
Water buffalo as well as sheep and goat milk are not part of the Canadian quota system. Quota is the right to produce milk in Canada as part of its policy on supply management and covers milk from dairy cows.
“However, you must negotiate your own contract with the processors,” adds Henry.
The Koskamps have a ‘whole circle’ approach to farming which means that absolutely nothing on their farm is wasted. The two families pride themselves on practicing responsible agriculture by producing animals that are raised in both an environmentally-sustainable and welfare-friendly system.
Animal feed for both the buffalo and the Holstein cows is produced on-farm, and they have been following a government-approved nutrient management plan for their manure since 1999.
Female calves enter the milking system while bull calves are hand raised for meat purposes. They’re sent for processing between the ages of 10 and 13 months when the meat is at its most tender. Buffalo meat is being touted as a low cholesterol and low fat meat product. The Koskamps sell it to local restaurants and on-farm by appointment.
The 100 females produce milk that is processed by Quality Cheese Inc. in Vaughan for water buffalo mozzarella, gouda and ricotta. The mozzarella is sold under the Bella Casara brand.
Even manure is put to good use on the farm. The Koskamps invested in a 500-kilowatt biogas facility, turning animal manure into useable biogas. Manure is put in a large tank and then constantly mixed at 38 degrees for about 50 to 60 days. As the organics break down, bacteria eat all of the sugar and produce methane. The methane, being a combustible fuel, is used to operate an engine which turns an electrical generator. The electricity is then sold Hydro One.
Henry and Fred say that their goal is to run a profitable business to ensure its sustainability. That will allow them to provide their children with post-secondary educations and whatever their passions may then lead them to. Whether they choose to farm or not will be for them to decide. On the farm, their opportunities include the biogas, livestock or cropping enterprises.
The Koskamps hope to expand the biogas part of the operation by adding a 250-kilowatt facility next to the water buffalo barn. It would be North America’s first complete water buffalo-biogas facility, says Henry.
“Every single thing is environmentally sustainable. We harvest what the animal eats. We harvest its milk, we harvest its meat, and we also harvest all of the remaining energy in the manure before it is recycled back,” says Henry.
To learn more about this farm family business visit www.waterbuffalocanada.ca/