Farm Ireland
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Monday 22 October 2018

FarmIreland Instagram Takeover: Meet one of just three Irish buffalo farmers

Catherine Hurley

Catherine Hurley

Buffalo farmer, Liam Byrne will be taking over the FarmIreland Instagram account today and will be telling us and our followers why he made the move to become one of Ireland’s three buffalo farms.

The story of the Macamore Buffalo Farm, in Gorey Co. Wexford, started in November 2016 when owners Liam and Sinéad Byrne spoke about diversifying the farm, away from traditional beef farming.

Sinéad had left a note on the kitchen table for Liam one evening, telling him to watch a programme about a buffalo farm. It was here Liam had the lightbulb moment of running a buffalo suckler farm of his own.

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“We always wanted to do something different, we wanted to diversify. I got out of suckler farming into just keeping a few dry stock, but I had no love for it, and wanted a change,” explained Liam.

From there, he rang Johnny Lynch, who farms a milking buffalo herd in West Cork, who sold him four calves to get the Gorey herd started.

Since then, Liam has kept a great business relationship with the Macroom native who has supplied him with 30 or so calves each season, helping his herd grow 87 animals today.

One farmer in Wales was getting out of buffalo and was selling his stock the following summer, and Liam took advantage of this, bringing 16 in-calf cows, a bull and a single bullock across the water to the sunny south east.

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Although the first calves were quiet, this batch needed a few days to settle in. Coming off the lorry, the buffalo went ballistic, running out into the back of the field, through wires, ditches and sorts. Clearly the journey over hadn’t been as calm as roaming the open paddocks back in the UK was.

“When they first came, they went absolutely ballistic. I was thinking to myself, I’ve made a few mistakes but this one was the winner.

“For a full week, I only saw them from the tractor, I didn’t know what to make of them,” he said.

However, within a week the herd settled, and the brave move has proved successful, with Liam now supplying local restaurants, hotels and opening his farm shop to the public every Friday and Saturday.

The Macamore Buffalo Farm is the first Bord Bia approved buffalo meat farm. On site there’s a cold room for meat storage, shop and the buffalo themselves.  A local butcher, Richard Doyle, takes care of meat preparation at his own abattoir.

The buffalo are typically slaughtered between 28 and 30 months of age.

Cows and calves are generally left alone, usually weaning themselves. Calves that are brought onto the farm are bucket reared until 12 to 14 weeks of age on lamb milk replacer, which Liam said is the closest thing to buffalo milk.

“It’s much higher in fat than normal cow’s milk, costing me a fortune to feed them but it works.”

Winning the silver prize at the recent Blas na hÉireann awards, the buffalo meat burgers, that Liam sells in the farm shop or on his website http://www.macamorebuffalo.ie/ , are made from the buffalo meat alone.

“One thing we wanted, was to sell to the end user, farm to fork sort of thing. Our customers know exactly what they’re getting and where it’s coming from.”

Touching on the plans in the next few years, Liam said “we’ve enough space to keep 100 to 110 animals, but we’ll see how it goes, something to look forward to in the future.”

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