Two FMG clients are working together for mutual benefit, producing healthy rich soil and award-winning fresh buffalo cheese and yoghurt.

With current strains on global supply chains there’s something to be said for keeping them as short as possible. Just south of Auckland two producers have done just that and built a wonderfully symbiotic relationship.

Clevedon Buffalo Co. is run by Richard and Helen Dorresteyn, true pioneers and the first to farm buffalo in New Zealand in 2007. Helen describes her unique livestock as “akin to a hippo with legs.”

“15 years ago, when we first conceived of the project, I didn’t realise that I would be able to look at a buffalo in my fifties and go ‘Wow that is a nicely bred buffalo!’.”

Their research led them to a Buffalo Bull show in Italy which was followed by a few vinos with a local buffalo

“He kept saying ‘It must be Medica grass, Medica grass’ and that’s about as far as the conversation went. We worked out Medica grass is Lucerne, which is a big part of the protein in their diet, so it’s important.”

And it just so happened that just down the road in Pukekawa, Hinemoa Quality Producers had also discovered the wonders of the Medicago sativa plant.

Chris and Vikki Nicholson own and run the operation that’s blessed with beautiful Pukekohe volcanic soil.

Vikki says that initially the Lucerne was a rotational crop put in in between resting paddocks as part of their vegetable growing operation.

“We couldn’t believe how many cuts you could get off a Lucerne crop,” says Vikki. “We can get about eight cuts a year as opposed to other grasses that just don’t perform like that.”

“We initially planted it to improve our soil health as we had some disease from our onion paddocks. So, you put the Lucerne in for three to four years and it’s got such deep roots it goes down and improves the soil condition of the farm.”

A vet made the introduction between the two producers and the relationship blossomed.

“It’s been great” says Helen. “At the moment the Buffalo eat a bale a day and when the grass is growing it will be half, but it just keeps the condition up, keeps the protein going to the animals, and keeps the milk flowing.”

“It’s good to know who’s supplying you when you’ve got to feed your animals. 150 hungry mouths looking at you and if you don’t feed them, they’ll eat the neighbour’s lawn!”

“I love that our food chain is so short!” says Helen. “The Lucerne is not far, and the milk’s going to the factory which is not far, and then it’s going out – so shortening up the whole supply chain. There’s nothing coming in from overseas going into
our animals. It’s very sustainable.”

Helen and Vikki both agree that having good insurance cover means they can get on with the important stuff like investing their valuable time in their business.

“If we’re in the middle of harvest and an important piece of machinery breaks down, we need it fixed ASAP” says Vikki.  “The way that FMG works is we just go and get it fixed and worry about that paperwork later.

The claims system is really easy and we’re all so time poor we don’t have time to sit down and fill out screeds
of paper.”

“You’ve got the peace of mind knowing you’ve got that cover. You just have to have it. We’ve got millions of dollars’ worth of plant and machinery and when something breaks down its expensive. It’s really
important to be covered so we can get on with it,” says Vikki.

Helen agrees and says insurance is critical to keep your production schedule going. “If you have a breakdown, you can carry on. Likewise, if you didn’t have it, it would have a flow on effect and the whole relationship would break down.”
“Whatever process was interrupted if we can’t make cheese at any given time the bills are still going to come in,” says Helen. “We’ve still got to run the factory with staff and managers. It’s too big an undertaking that you wouldn’t sleep at night if you didn’t have good insurance cover.”