If you see buffalo in a field in North Wexford, believe it. No, you’re not in the American West, nor in India, where the buffalo itself originated. No, you’re most likely at the front gate of Macamore Buffalo, Liam Byrne’s buffalo farm outside Ballygarrett.
“I started in 2016 with four calves and we’ve got 87 now, between bulls, cows, and calves,” says Liam, who credits wife Sinead with the idea to move from dry stock into water buffalo. A fourth generation farmer, he says the buffalo – who are social animals – have brought people back to the farm.
“Farming can be seen as a lonely occupation these days, but we have people coming to see the buffalo, including a group of Taiwanese visitors lately. Or, people with have had a Buffalo burger at The Strand Bar in Cahore and, when they find out how local we are, they come out to visit and end up buying buffalo steak in our farm shop.”
The closeness to his customers and the traceability of the meat are important to Liam. “Richie Doyle, one of the last independent craft butchers in Wexford, prepares our cuts of meat – sirloin and striploin steaks, burgers, sausages – and I collect them and distribute them myself to our customers.”
In terms of traceability, “we breed from our own cows and buy male calves from John Lynch, Macroom Buffalo, and he breeds all his own buffalo as well, so we have a sure and traceable supply there”.
Not only has Liam’s buffalo produce found favour with customers in North Wexford, his 6oz buffalo burger won a silver Blas na hEireann food award in 2018.
The buffalo are a sociable animal and certainly love Mocha, the Byrne family dog! Completely grass fed on Liam’s farm, the buffalo are also a robust animal and their resilience to disease mean they require almost no veterinary intervention.
Today, you can find Macamore Buffalo products in Pettitt’s Supervalu in Gorey and Wexford, the Strand Bar in Cahore, Table 41, Katie Daly’s Restaurant, Seafield Hotel, Upton Court Hotel in Kilmuckridge, The Wilds Café in Enniscorthy, and the Ferrycarrig Hotel. Or you can buy direct from his farm shop on Saturdays or from his online shop.
“The plan is to develop a buffalo hot dog for the summer market and we’d also like to produce a cold meat deli offering. There’s a great satisfaction in selling your own produce and we’ve received great support from artisan food producers as well. In terms of customers, people like that they can come and see the buffalo, see the farm and hear our story.”
And the meat, well, it’s darker in colour than beef, and is seen as a low-fat high-protein option. A sweeter, milder-tasting meat, you’re going to be seeing it a lot more on menus from now on!
Interview and photos this page: Deirdre O’Flynn