Buffalo Farm: Steve Mitchell on ‘gut-wrenching’ administration decision and a pledge to founders

Steve Mitchell has spoken of the “gut-wrenching” decision to put The Buffalo Farm into administration - and his determination to make good for the founders whose financial backing has been lost.
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

He has bid for the assets of the award-winning Auchtertool business via a pre-pack administration sale in a bid to secure the jobs of 60 people, and protect his herd of buffalo, but the deal means people who sank thousands of £s into it won’t get the benefits promised in return.

All orders placed will be honoured and delivered, and both the shop and the bothy are able to continue to remain open.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The loan which allowed Mr Mitchell to move came from a founder, and he said he is committed to making good.

Steve Mitchell with one of his buffalo (Pic: TSPL)Steve Mitchell with one of his buffalo (Pic: TSPL)
Steve Mitchell with one of his buffalo (Pic: TSPL)

He said: “We are taking a huge gamble starting up again. I can’t make any commitment legally to founders, but repaying them is a huge motivation. In some way we will make good but I have no idea how that pan out at this stage. The priority has to be to get business up and thriving as we believe it should be and then start to look at our founders. To some it feels inappropriate top re-open and carry on, but this is the only way we can guarantee to keep everyone together.”He admitted he had had “ a lot of very difficult conversations” with those who invested - some up to £10,000 - and there are a huge number of founders who rallied round as he launched Scotland’s first Buffalo Mozzarella operation.

“The support we had locally and across the UK was fantastic,” he said. “One of the proudest things I have ever achieved was that people believed in me that much - to have to make this move is gut-wrenching. It was a founder who cared about the legacy who provided the loan - that was a lifeline. There is no guarantee we will succeed but we will give it everything we have.

First launched in 2005, The Buffalo Farm went into administration on the back of mounting, unsustainable historic debt - the economic climate impacted by COVID, wars, soaring energy bills, cost-of-living crises and TB were all factors which impacted on the business.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“It has been a horrible period for the whole team,” he said. “We made the decision it was better to try to create a new company and continue and safeguard all the jobs - that’s the driver. Some think it is lunacy. It has been a horrid year and I do not want to repeat it. We will take the learnings from it - because there has been so much good and so much support from the community. I feel a huge responsibility to try to turn things round.

“Our plan is to consolidate what we are doing - that’s the aspiration for myself and the team. We have some idea to make improvements. We do want to see progress, with a limited budget, and improve the longevity of the company.”

The Buffalo Farm’s mozzarella cheese took it into supermarkets and created a new customer base, and was a big hit.

But Mr Mitchell said: “We expected it to be further ahead, and in a cost of living crisis people are looking to budget rather than premium foods and I understand that. We are not a budget product. Our butchery has had such great support.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"We have had hugely busy periods, but it is the quiet moments that catch up on you and with labour being our biggest cost I recognise that we have a big challenge ahead to make sure we are consistently busy. We don;t want to make people redundant.

“We did have a team of 100 at the peak in Covid when people came to us but then reverted back to to supermarkets - that was a big legacy and we were a bit slow to react.

"We should have scaled back. I was maybe not ruthless enough and tried to make it work.”

Related topics: