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Placid ‘pet’ water buffalo are turning heads in their new Castlehaven home

May 29th, 2023 8:00 PM

By Emma Connolly

The Castlehaven water buffalo enjoying their life in West Cork. (Photo: Andrew Harris)

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Dunmanway native Sean Hayes was inspired by sights he saw while working in the Middle and Far East to invest in rare cattle, with an ultimate plan to launch an agri-tourism business at home

A WEST Cork man who has been intrigued by water buffalo since he first saw them while working in Pakistan years ago has now bought his own animals, and has plans to develop an agri-tourism business. 

Sean Hayes had a successful career as a consultant for dairy factories and milk plants in the Far East, Middle East, Iran, Russia and beyond, for more than 10 years. 

Originally from Dunmanway, he grew up on a farm and previously operated a bar in the town before embarking on his dairy consultancy career which saw him travel the world.

It was while he was in Pakistan that he encountered water buffalo for the first time, noting how friendly and placid they are.  

And it was while he was working in Turkey, where he saw shepherds camping out in the mountains, that the seeds were sown to develop a glamping site on his 30-acre holding at Ballycahane,Castlehaven.

He got his two water buffalo from Johnny Lynch, who bought a herd of Italian water buffalo for his Macroom farm in 2009. Johnny makes award-winning cheese, including mozzarella and has infamously appeared in an Aldi TV ad on the back of one of his animals. 

Sean’s motivation isn’t in cheese, but to breed the animals and to develop a tourist attraction in Castlehaven. 

The water buffalo are the first step towards bringing that plan to fruition. 

His vision includes a glamping element and walking trails, and he hopes to invest in other rare breed cattle going forward. 

Having returned to Ireland 12 years ago, he now works as a project manager for Tetra Pak and his job can take him anywhere in the country. 

‘But I can’t wait to get home, to get back to West Cork.
I absolutely adore farming, and nature, biodiversity, growing native trees, building back up stone ditches, and I’m committed to doing my bit to protect the environment for the next generation,’ he said. 

He was previously turned down for planning for his venture but he’s determined to see it through. 

‘I’m not giving up on the idea,’ he pledged. 

Married to Eileen, the couple have two daughters and three grandchildren, who are as besotted with the water buffalo, as Sean is.

‘They are pure pets, really beautiful domestic animals and very social,’ Sean enthused. 

‘We’re really enjoying getting to know them. They’re just amazing  and possibly the most photographed animals in West Cork.’ 

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