Halkyn, North Wales - Where the buffalo roam
Meet the family who farm buffalo for meat in the North Wales countryside. Emma Mayoh reports PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS
Diversification is not uncommon in agriculture and in recent years farmers have been forced to think up new and ingenious ways of bringing home the bacon.
But John and Wendy Sigsworth, who run Midlist Farm in Halkyn, did it with buffalo. They were dairy cow farmers supplying milk across the country but just over a decade ago, after seeing the animals at a national fair, they took their first delivery of Asian water buffalo. They now they have a 150-strong herd on land which overlooks the Dee Estuary.
The couple, who run North Wales Buffalo, just milked the animals at first to produce milk and cheese. But as the animals matured they decided to concentrate on the meat side of the business and converted farm buildings no longer in use into a butchery.
They are two of only a handful of people in the country who farm buffalo.John, 61, said: ‘They are an easy animal to keep and people seem to enjoy it. There are some of our customers who have completely converted from beef to buffalo.
‘We originally planned to use the milk from the buffalo and we even thought about building a yoghurt plant on the farm. But the meat was very good and we wanted to make the best of it.’
Buffalo meat, which tastes like a high grade beef, is a healthy alternative to other meats. Buffalo meat is low in cholesterol and there is a lot less fat because the huge beasts are more active - they can run up to 35 miles an hour.
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Meat from John and Wendy’s buffalos is sold at farmers’ markets across North Wales, Cheshire and Wirral, and children at Hawarden High School cooked a buffalo pie using the meat to win a British Food Fortnight competition.
John, who is originally from Yorkshire, worked on a pig farm in Northop and in Cheshire before taking on Midlist Farm 26 years ago. The couple, who also produce meat from Saddleback pigs and Welsh and Texel cross lamb, have help from 34-year-old son Hayden who is heavily involved with the business.
The majority of North Wales Buffalo customers come from a 25 mile radius of the 160 acre farm and John added: ‘Our meat is produced from happy animals kept as close to nature as nature intended. The buffalo have a good life. If you buy local you can taste the difference. We just want to carry on producing top quality meat for the local community.’
Buying your buffalo
What does it taste like? Water buffalo meat tastes much like a piece of good quality beef with a light and sweet flavour. It is leaner than most meats, full of flavour and tender.
How do you cook it? Buffalo meat comes in everything from stewing meat all the way up to fillet steak. It can be used in dishes you would use beef in and works particularly well with marinades.
Is it expensive?North Wales Buffalo sell their meat from �7.99 for stewing steak to �29.99 for a fillet steak.
How can I try it?John Sigsworth sells his meat at a number of farmers' markets. You can also get it from his farm by calling 01352 781695 or you can visit www.northwalesbuffalo.co.uk
The majority of the world's population of water buffalo are in India, It is estimated that their numbers reach 80 million.
Water Buffalo are still an integral part of life in India today, they are rarely farmed for meat as the majority of the population are Hindus who are forbidden to consume beef.
Instead they are still used today to plough paddy fields in the rural areas and are farmed for the majority of dairy and leather products. Their dung is even dried in the sun and used as fuel for fires.
It is estimated that there around 80 million water buffalo in India today