August 4, 2022

Water buffalo farm meets guesthouse in Cowichan Valley

Almost 20 years ago, when Anthea Archer and her husband were looking for new animals to keep on their Cowichan Valley farm, they came across a rather unique possibility. – water buffalo.

They heard these animals – originally from Asia – were being milked for their dairy in England, so they went there and met the person who first introduced the animals to this country.

“Half an hour after visiting him and his wife, we thought, ‘Oh my God, this is what we want to do. “And we never changed our mind,” Archer said of Fairburn Farm.

Fairburn Farm is a 19th century building which also houses a guest house. (Sheila Peacock / CBC)

The farm now houses a few dozen water buffaloes, as well as a 19th century farm which is also a guest house.

A challenge at the start

The first few years of running a water buffalo dairy were anything but easy for the Archers.

Shortly after importing a herd of water buffalo from Denmark in 2000, a case of Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or mad cow disease has been found in a cow in this country, and Canadian authorities have ordered them to destroy the animals.

Anthea Archer talks to Sheryl MacKay of North by Northwest on her farm property in the Cowichan Valley. (Sheila Peacock / CBC)

For two years, the Archers fought against the order of kill, in a case that made the news in Canada and around the world.

Ultimately, they had no choice but to follow the rules. All of the original animals were killed, but the calves were allowed to stay.

With this, they were able to start a new herd.

Fat and creamy milk

“Farmers don’t give up very easily,” said Archer from north to north-west host Sheryl MacKay.

Now their herd is thriving, and the dairy products they collect from the animals are sent to farms that make yogurt, as well as the Natural Pastures Cheese Company in nearby Courtenay.

Archer said their milk is high in fat, but low in cholesterol.

Farmer Anthea Archer says water buffalo milk is very creamy, fatty and low in cholesterol. (

It’s kind of like half-and-half milk, a type of creamy milk because it has around eight percent fat, ”she said.

“So it’s nice on cereal, porridge … or coffee.”

She said animals can be quite stubborn, but “are just the sweetest animals you can meet.”

“They all have a character and they are looking you straight in the eye. You can sense that you have some kind of communication with them.”

She added that many who visit the farm fall in love with the creatures.

A lot of people want to take the calves home, and I tell them, “Well let’s go look at the big ones first, they take up your whole living room,” she said with a laugh.

With files from CBC’s North by Northwest

To hear the full story, listen to the audio titled: Water Buffalo Farm Meets B&B in Cowichan Valley