Where the Buffalo Roam
A visit to Macroom Buffalo Cheese in Clonclud an hour west of Cork city brings me in close contact with majestic beasts.
Water buffalo have been on Irish soil since 2009. The herd began with a head of thirty, brought over by boat from northern Italy and settled in the lush green fields of west Cork. The period of adaptation was brief and was followed by a time of strong growth. The herd is now composed of 150 buffalo, inclding three bulls.
Macroom Buffalo Cheese produce the only Irish Buffalo mozzarella in Ireland. Irish Buffalo Ricotta, a feta-style and a halloumi-style cheese are also available. They are not yet considering a burrata-style cheese but acknowledge that it may appear in the future.
Buffalo Best Practices
Water Buffalo have a life expectancy of 30 to 35 years, 20 years more than the average friesian dairy cow. A full-grown buffalo would be expected to weigh between 300 and 600kg. A twice-daily milking would produce 10 litres of milk, in contrast with a friesian’s 30l. Buffalo are wet for half the year and a pregnancy lasts for 10 months 1 week.
The farmer reported that the buffalo are exceptionally clean in the milking parlour and when we greet them they are inquisitive and then quickly bored. Intelligent glint in their eye, there is a mechanical back scratcher attached to the far wall of the barn that provides obvious pleasure for the buffalo in the winter when they are kept briefly indoors.
The females are as impressive as the males partly because both have large horns on display. The reason behind this is that buffalo horns perform temperature regulatory functions, aiding the regulation the animal’s metabolism. it would be highly detrimental to the health of the animal should the horns be clipped at birth.
Buffalo <> Cow (Holstein Friesian)
- Buffalo Milk has a 3% higher fat content
- Buffalo meat is leaner and darker
- Buffalo live for on average 35 years
||Top Tip: A local pub buys a carcass a month to be used for all its burgers and stews.||
The buffalo, although technically an alien species, are clearly happy and thriving in the Irish climate. Plans to expand the farm are hinted at and as a parting gift, the farmer presents me with 2 litres of raw buffalo milk.
I run home and spend the next four hours rolling a milk-filled jar around the kitchen table with the hope of making buffalo butter.