Jochen Fritz Keeps Water Buffalo in Werder: Life with Big Cute Buffaloes – Potsdam Mittelmark

Werder (Havel) – “Kooommet, kooommet,” these are the calls that Jochen Fritz’s animals seem to hear. First, then the other, and finally the whole herd of water buffalo moves towards the farmer from his shady spot in a pasture above Great Plessower See in Werder (Havel). For animals, this is an effort, because this Wednesday a new heat record will be set in many parts of Brandenburg. The weather app shows 37 degrees in the morning. “Heat is also pure stress for animals,” says Fritz.

The farmer, who runs Werder Organic Farm with farmer Demeter Roland von Schmeling, his wife Regina and partner Rahel Volz, has already acquired the most popular Asian buffalo. Because the lawns they rented a few years ago were wet, and “water buffaloes are like wet soil,” says Fritz. Since they have fewer sweat glands, they like to cool off in moist water. Farming families signed a wet lawn lease about six years ago. Today the pastures are dry.

The whole soil of Brandenburg is dry in large portions of dust

Although large animals with huge horns and cute brown eyes can also be kept on dry pastures like traditional cattle, they then need to be soaked. So the farmer dug a hole. But that too has now dried up. “It’s scary how dry it has become in here.”

According to the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research’s Drought Monitor, most of the soil in Brandenburg – meaning at a depth of 1.8 meters – is dry. Even for up to 25 cm, the depth that most plants can reach, the map shows severe drought in about half of the country.

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The agronomist explains that the water buffalo on the organic farm also serves to “preserve the cultural landscape.” Animals ensure that the areas remain free of competing plants. It is paid for by eating the meadow. Many plant species can then develop again. It serves this biodiversity, i.e. the abundance of various plants, animals, and microorganisms in the landscape.

“Everything is a cycle for us”

Two farm families run the farm, which is actually not a real farm, but consists of pastures and farms scattered throughout Werder, using ecological agriculture. The farm does not use artificial fertilizers or pesticides. “Everything is a cycle for us,” explains Fritz. In addition to areas that keep buffalo free, there are other areas where farmers mow lawns and give cattle hay.

A special type of plant has been grown in a field on an organic farm for some time: alfalfa, a clover plant that has particularly deep roots and is therefore more resistant to heat and drought. “For Brandenburg a future factory,” Fritz is convinced. It can be cut three to four times a year. It also becomes animal feed for buffaloes.

Farm families sell beef once a month – mostly on Fridays – in their shop on Eisenbahnstraße 158 in Werder. Organic farm customers can find out when fresh meat is available via the newsletter, which can be subscribed to on the website (www.biohof-werder.de). The most delicious buffalo meat, a mixture of venison and beef. You can buy buffalo sausages, steaks and burgers. Grilled buffalo costs between 20 and 30 euros. “The prices are like a health food store,” says Fritz.

For Jochen Fritz, traditional farming is a taboo. Photo: Otmar Winter

The farmer noticed that his customers, despite their love of organic farming, were becoming more reluctant to spend the money. For Fritz, the solution is to buy less meat, but instead buy it from sustainable farming, and above all from the region. In addition to low consumption, the farm also suffers from high energy and feed prices. “Now we have to pay twice that amount for silage.” In order to raise awareness of food and regionalism, the farm regularly invites school classes to its farms. “There are children who have never seen a chicken before,” says Fritz.

A hunter shoots buffalo directly in the pasture

About eight buffaloes are slaughtered by the herd each year. The hunter comes and shoots the animal right in the pasture. This way there is no stress caused by transportation to the slaughterhouse, says Fritz.

His animals stand outside in the pasture all day long. They have a night shelter. Therefore, organic farmers have to go out to the animals more often to renovate fences and do other grazing work. Perhaps stable housing will be easier and cheaper. However, the farmer did not want to give up his livelihood or cultivation because of it. “Sometimes I have these thoughts,” he says. But it is not a solution. “Someone should keep the animals. And in the way they deserve.”

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