By Zac B. Sarian
Thailand has the most developed dairy industry among the Asean countries, with more than 400,000 dairy cows producing more than 2,800 tons of milk a day. There’s one lady businesswoman, however, who believes that the Murrah buffalo is the better dairy animal for milking in Thailand. That’s why in 2003, she imported 50 Murrah buffaloes from India to put up Murrah Dairy Company in Chachengsao province northeast of Bangkok.
The lady is Runchuan Hengtrakulsin, who has her own reasons for choosing buffalo for her dairy project. For one, as a business strategy, she wants to have something different. She says Murrah milk is more nutritious than cow’s milk as it contains more protein and calcium, lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, too.
We met Runchuan and her daughter Charinee Chaiyochlarb at the 6th National Farm Tourism Conference in Cebu City on November 7, 2019. Charinee, who is now the general manager of the company, made a presentation of Murrah Dairy as a farm tourism destination. The conference was under the auspices of the International School of Sustainable Tourism headed by Dr. Mina T. Gabor.
Charinee reported that the 50 buffaloes that her mother imported some 16 years ago have grown to a herd of 400 head. About 100 are currently in the milkline producing about 300 liters a day. Of this amount, 200 liters are bottled as fresh milk, whereas the rest is either made into mozzarella cheese or yoghurt. Being organic, the dairy products command a high price. For instance, one liter of fresh buffalo milk fetches 200 baht, compared to only 80 baht for cow’s milk.
According to Charinee, their mozzarella cheese is something special because it’s made the same way as they do in Italy, where it is called Mozzarella di Bufala. The cheese is best used one to three days after it is made. It can be put in fresh salad with tomatoes and Italian basil, which is called Caprese Salad. Fresh ricotta cheese is also a saleable product of Murrah Dairy.
Charinee says that their Murrah yoghurt is a rich source of protein, calcium, and probiotic microbes. Their yoghurt is produced from 100% organic buffalo milk with no preservatives and artificial flavors added. Yoghurt is a healthy food that enhances digestion. Another special product is Murrah Milky Soap, which is made using the cold process.
The Murrah Dairy Company does not only derive income from its milk and other products. It also makes money from the various fun activities which are also educational. One such DIY (Do-It-Yourself) activity which kids and their moms enjoy very much is Making Your Own Pizza with mozzarella cheese and other ingredients and then eating the results afterward. This takes about 40 minutes, with each participant paying 250 baht, which is about P400 in Philippine money.
The fun activities are held during weekends where as many as a thousand visitors or more attend. Other DIYs include ice cream making, butter making, growing your own organic garden, creating your own organic rice plot, and more. Something that attracts a lot of young people is the petting zoo. This is where the kids get acquainted with friendly small animals like rabbits, goats, sheep, ducks, chickens, and even well-scrubbed pigs.
To reach a wider market, the company put up Murrah House in Bangkok. This is where the various products of the farm are made available to a bigger market. Murrah House includes a coffee shop where customers can enjoy pizza with mozzarella cheese, fresh salad with mozzarella cheese, Murrah milk ice cream, and a wide variety of baked goodies.
Charinee revealed they will not increase their buffalo population beyond 400 head. Instead, they will multiply their animals for dispersal to farmers in Chachengsao. Then they will buy the milk for processing into bottled fresh buffalo milk, cheeses, yoghurt, and milky soap. With this strategy, the farmers in the countryside will also reap the rewards of raising Murrah buffaloes.
This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s January 2020 issue.