WHEN a West Cork farmer announced he was selling his cattle to start farming Buffalo, many people thought he was talking "udder nonsense" but he's been so successful he's been made the star of a new TV ad.
Buffalo farming is normally associated with Italy but Johnny Lynch from Macroom decided to diversify his business due to declining cow milk prices in 2009.
His Macroom Buffalo Mozzarella cheese is now distributed and sold by Horgan's Delicatessen Supplies around the country.
His buffalo have proved to be outstanding in the field of cheese production and sales are 'mooving' fast from supermarket shelves.
Johnny has 245 buffalo roaming the prairies of his 250 acres near Kilnamartyra. He sits astride one of his herd in a new Aldi TV ad, voiced by Ardal O'Hanlon, and has become a local celeb.
“The ad was a year in the offing and there was 43 crew here for two days making it, which was a huge experience,” says Johnny.
“I was thrown off the animal a good few times before they got the right shot. I was black and blue for the following week but it was a great experience and great fun,” he adds.
Interest in his buffalo cheese is now so big, that Johnny's team of workers are struggling to meet demand.
“We've had lots of people contact us for sales. We don't have enough milk to supply our orders but we're growing 25% every year. We have 245 animals at the moment, 110 of them will calf this year. Next year we hope to have 140 calving,” says Johnny.
“Aldi were the first to go with us and we're dealing with all the other chains as well,” he adds.
The cheese is produced fresh and distributed to shop shelves daily and features no preservatives.
“We starting milking cheese between 3am and 5am each morning. That milk is turned into cheese for 1pm that day and is out the door between 3pm and 5pm. It's very fresh and it only has a shelf life of three weeks so we need to move it on."
The farm employs 10 people and they are also supplying buffalo meat - which Johnny says has a unique taste due to grazing in the lush green fields of Cork and there's no 'mis-steaking' it for beef.
Buffalo burgers, supplied by Johnny, are on sale at the Hub and the aptly named Buffalo Lane in Cork city.
“Buffalo meat, in my eyes is far tastier and juicier than beef. The calories are almost half of that compared to beef and cholesterol two-thirds that of beef.
“It is more expensive because they grow slower and don't put on weight as fast. What you're gaining with health, it is worth it. Eoin O'Mahony has it for sale in the English Market."
“I'm sure people were in fits of laughter when they heard we were becoming buffalo farmers. I'm not sure what they are thinking now because, thankfully, it's working out – especially in the last two years,” he adds.