Legacy of Appleton’s Maine Water Buffalo Co. coming to an end

Posted:  Saturday, October 7, 2017 - 2:15pm

APPLETON – Sunday, October 8 will be a bittersweet day for the Maine Water Buffalo Company. The farm, owned by Brian and Jessica Farrar and home to Maine's only herd of Water Buffalo at 91 Old County Road, will be open to the public for the last time. The herd has been sold and will be moving to New York at the end of October. Sunday will be the last day you can see this magnificent breed of animal.

"We had really hoped for the herd to go to a farm in Maine," said Jessica Farrar. "It just didn't work out that way, but we know they'll be well taken care of where they are going."

"It just didn't work out housing wise for the herd, so we had to sell them," said Brian. "This guy bought the whole herd, so we're happy they'll all stay together and he bought all the dairy processing equipment, too. I can't lie, I'm going to cry when they leave and I've shed many a tear just thinking about it."

It's obvious the herd is well loved.

"I really hope this family takes a shine as to the way these guys really are," said Brian. "As far as their gentleness, we're really going to try and convey how affectionate they can be."

The buffalo are actually smarter then cattle.

"They're trainable and they know their names," said Brian.

Jessica said it was simple how they got involved in Water Buffalo.

"I asked for one for Christmas one year and I got it," she said. "That was nine years ago. I wasn't a child, we were already married and it has been awesome."

"Our kids grew up with the Water Buffalo," said Jessica. "Our youngest, Aniston, was two when we got the buffalo, so he doesn't really know life without them."

They have another son, Aidan, and a daughter, Aislinn.

This Sunday will be the last farm event. There will be wagon rides to see the herd and the farm store will be open where you can purchase meat and dairy products.

The Farrars' do the Rockland, Camden and Belfast Farmers markets.

How do the buffalo tolerate Maine's cold winters?

"You have to keep them inside in a shelter," said Brian. "They can go in and out for short periods, but they can't stay out like cattle can.”

Water Buffalo have thin coats, but very thick skin. Brian said there is a company in Saco that does rawhide mallets. He said the Garland Mallet Company has been making mallets for over a hundred years using Water Buffalo hides.

The buffalo are 100 percent grass-fed. The Farrars felt it was important to have people come to the farm and see how their food is raised. The meat is processed at Luce's Meats in North Anson and carries a USDA certification.

Cape Buffalo, from Africa, are the ones associated with the nasty disposition. Then come Water Buffalo that hail from Asia. These are the one' you see in pictures with little children walking them.

The Water Buffalo are very docile creatures and stronger then an ox. They are known for their massive chest and pulling power.

Next would come bison or what we call the American Buffalo, cattle and Yaks. Bison, cattle and Yaks can all cross breed, however Cape and Water Buffalo cannot crossbreed with anything. The herd is genetically pure.

Brian said you must switch out your breeding bull every two years to keep the breed pure which is why the males go for processing every two years.

"Especially if you're doing milk," he said. "If you're just doing meat it doesn't seem as crucial. The milk has a very high butter fat content and that's what makes it great for cheese. Especially mozzarella."

"We don't artificially inseminate," said Jessica. "We keep a bull on site and everything happens naturally. The cows come into season usually twice a year. Once a cow is pregnant the gestation period is ten and a half months. Their normal breeding season is in the darker, cooler months, so right now we have the girls coming into heat."

The buffalo are very family oriented and will stick together in family groups.

Brian and Jessica have been raising the buffalo for nine years and have 27 head in the herd. All but two were born on the farm.

"It's been an amazing journey," they said. "We will truly miss them."