A small herd of Australian water buffalo is on its way here, where its milk will be turned into genuine mozzarella made in the Italian style.
Northern Territory livestock officer Barry Lemcke said yesterday the herd of 17 riverine crossbred heifers and one pure riverine bull were thought to be the first to cross the Tasman.
The riverine animals have shorter horns than the Asian swamp buffalo, which have been farmed in the South Island for nearly two decades. They also grow a thick coat of hair which makes them suitable for cool conditions.
The Northern Territory buffalo were advertised on the internet.
The new owners now plan to milk the buffalo to make mozzarella cheese and other varieties of cheese for sale at farmers' markets near Auckland.
Swamp buffalo were used by West Coast farmer Darcy Craze to pioneer water buffalo farming here 17 years ago but they are relatively poor milkers, compared with the 18 other breeds.
Northern Italian mozzarella makers tend to use the murrah breed.
At least one Italian restaurant-owner in Wellington began sourcing milk from animals imported as embryos in the early 1990s.