I awoke to the sound of someone thumping on wood, and for a sleepy moment I thought perhaps one of the dogs was making that knocking sound on the floor while having a good scratch.
Then I realized that neither of our small dogs could make a sound that loud, and then I realized someone was hammering away at our front door. At 6 a.m.
A second after that I realized what it was must be: The water buffalo had arrived!
It took months of planning on the part of several people, but finally Randy and Cheryl of Done Right Hauling in Texas had loaded their cargo in Texarcana, Arkansas, driven for three days and crossed the water by a 4 a.m. ferry to arrive at our farm, Red Roof Acres, on San Juan Island. The items in question? A water buffalo cow and her heifer calf, who I had bought weeks before from Turkey Creek Water Buffalo Ranch.
I had become mildly obsessed with the idea of having water buffalo after we realized we needed some type of livestock to live in the timbered area of our farm in order to regain its agricultural status. I don’t particularly like goats or cows, so one day while searching online for woods-friendly livestock I read an article about water buffalo…and fell in love as soon as I saw a photo of one of these large-eyed, curly-horned giants. I found a water buffalo ranch in Texarcana and after much research, decided on Lil Bit, who was known for her good nature, and her calf, who was still nursing and who I asked to not be weaned so that Lil Bit would arrive with milk.
Did you know that buffalo mozzerella comes from buffalo milk? That’s the goal, down the road…
Like everything else, however, I discovered that it’s not easy to get water buffalo onto the island. Their arrival kept getting postponed while the shipper looked for another load that was also headed this way in order to save money. Finally, after six weeks of searching and two rounds of health certificates after the first one expired, they found a mule that needed to be delivered to Idaho, and set off.
We were prepared: We had hay, water, a salt and mineral block and a paddock safely cordoned off with hot wire.
The horses were all on high alert in their paddock across the way as the new residents lumbered off the truck.
The two water buffalo walked calmly into their paddock, where the cow, whose name is Lil Bit, began to stalk around in a dignified fashion, her head high in the air sniffing away, while her calf trailed behind her.
It didn’t take us long to discover two things:
1. Our water buffalo were very gentle and sweet, sort of like huge, slow dogs, and
2. Our water buffalo smelled really, really awful after three days of wallowing in their own poop on the truck.
The musky, skunky odor of a dirty water buffalo is not one easily forgotten, or washed off your hands. Three days after their arrival, during which we got tired of watching flies swarm around the dried poop that was caked on their faces and bodies, we decided to give the water buffalo a bath.
Would they cooperate, or use their horns in protest? They are water buffalo, we reasoned, and with that, we got buckets of water, eco-friendly moisturizing soap and some soft rubber curry combs…and approached with caution.
We needn’t have worried. They loved their baths, shoving each other out of the way to vie for our attention. Matt and I scrubbed and rinsed them both, and Matt even washed their long, ropey tails.
After a couple of hours of water buffalo bathing, they smelled much better–the poop smell was gone, and all that remained was a slightly musky odor, like that of a massive wet dog. We decided to call it a day, although I’m still pondering how to best clean the grooves on their horns for next time.