Liam Byrne recently transitioned to farm water buffalo on his family’s 87-acre holding near Ballygarret, with a vision to bring something unique to the Irish market, targeting retail, restaurant and end consumer.
What inspired your move towards water buffalo?
At the time, we carried cattle on a small portion of the farm, with the remainder of the land leased to another farmer. Our desire was to stay with livestock but ultimately, we recognised the need to take a slightly different approach, because if we expanded our existing operation, it was unlikely to provide the best commercial opportunity. Then by accident, we stumbled on the concept of buffalo farming while watching a Scottish TV cookery programme.
We were intrigued and this is what really started us on a journey of discovery. We found that buffalo meat is a lean meat, high in both protein and iron, along with being low cholesterol, which appeals to what some consumers are looking for today. However, we soon realised that we would need the actual physical product, before we could meaningfully consider calling into restaurants or supermarkets.
“Our desire was to stay with livestock but ultimately, we recognised the need to take a slightly different approach”
Where did you source your stock?
In early 2016, we went ahead and purchased our first animals, initially buying from John Lynch, a buffalo farmer based in Cork. John trades as Macroom Mozzarella and he has been a tremendous help and support, providing insights and advice to help us on our way. We also purchased a small herd of sixteen in-calf cows and a bull from a farm in Wales. Our farm is located between Ballygarrett, Cahore and Gorey and the local population swells by a factor of four during the summer months. Our buffalo farm certainly attracts a lot of attention especially from the many cyclists travelling the roads, who stop to take photographs.
Did your business receive any development support?
Once we started building up our herd, we contacted and outlined our plans to Wexford Local Development. After considering our application, we were delighted when they came on board to assist us. Their support helped in developing both our cold-room and farm shop facilities and also assisted us with branding and our e-commerce website. By the end of our first year, all of these initiatives came together and allowed us to engage with our first local food service customers, such as the Seafield Hotel, the Strand Cahore and Katie Daly’s in Gorey.
“Then by accident, we stumbled on the concept of buffalo farming while watching a Scottish TV cookery programme”
Since then we have expanded our reach to SuperValu Gorey and Wexford and also with two Donnybrook Fair outlets in Dublin. We also have a lot of customers coming to the farm who like the idea of buying directly from the farmer and seem to enjoy the whole ‘farm to fork’ experience. We have received great feedback since the day we started. People enjoy the taste and flavour of our meat and they enjoy the story behind what we are doing and also appreciate that it’s being produced on their doorstep.
Who do you admire in business?
I have two great sisters, however from a purely business perspective, I really admire my sister Elizabeth Delahunt, who runs her own tile shop called Aquatiles in Rathnew, Co. Wicklow. Elizabeth started in business, renting a very small shop at South Quay in Wicklow town and by buying from wholesalers in Ireland. Twenty years later, through good times and bad, it has evolved into a very successful business, now operating from a two-storey building in Rathnew, Co. Wicklow. Nowadays, she imports her own tiles, exclusively for sale to her loyal customer base, built up over the years. Her business mantra always has been to ensure that everyone else gets paid first, with an ability to develop strong customer relationships, on a one-to-one basis.
“We found that buffalo meat is a lean meat, high in both protein and iron, along with being low cholesterol, which appeals to what some consumers are looking for today”
What about hobbies or off-farm interests?
As well as farming, I also enjoy being a musician, performing all over the country, playing guitar, bodhran and harmonica at small weddings and post-wedding parties. It’s very much a hobby and gets me away from the farm but it also provides me with an off-farm income. For anyone interested in music they can learn more at http://liambyrne.com/. I now enjoy being a musician more than ever, as it really helps me wind down from our busy day-to-day work, both on and off the farm.
What’s next for the business?
Like any business, it’s going to be all about volume, however our aim will be to grow the business, both slowly and organically and very much at our own pre-determined pace.
By Brendan Byrne
Published: 10 October, 2019