Having been told by Sir Percy FitzPatrick that the Irene Estate was for sale Johannes Albertus van der Byl came up from the Cape to see it in 1895 and, having inspected it, decided to buy it. When he brought his family to Irene his son, Alexander Henry, was eight years old. They came from Nachwacht near Bredasdorp where J. A. van der Byl had been responsible for preserving the very rare Bontebok from extinction. At Irene he proceeded to build up a dairy herd and set about improving the property by constructing a number of water furrows and dams and by developing the limeworks. He also kept ostriches and Wildebeest and several species of antelope and gamebirds.