Southern Plains Bison: Jan 2015

Getting Over the ‘Hump’

Thanks to an unusual November and an atypical polar blast, the southern plains is experiencing less winter forage than we usually enjoy. Even the dedicated forage-croppers are unusually stressed for feed, causing the need for additional supplementation for bison health. This reality can vary widely within the southern plains depending on the eco-region-home; where the buffalo roam. Texas, for example, contains 11 different eco-regions and a wide variation of realities for bison with regard to winter forage and ‘green-up’ planning strategies affecting both the physical and fiscal health of the herd. Different eco-regions have different plant communities and ‘green-up’ realities.  Short and mid-range grasses represent better quality ‘standing hay’ or native residue than tall grass, improved pasture or coastal prairie regimes. Personally I like to enhance the green-up windows by introducing options to the habitats that either belong ecologically, or represent a least-invasive dynamic to a native regime, but produce forage and re-germinate. One trick I’ve learned is to put out a medium to poor quality bale of hay for the purpose of ascertaining the available forage, or the selectability of the available forage to the herd. If the bale seems to last a long time, you probably have feed in their habitat. If the bale evaporates quickly, it’s time to move them or begin haying hard until green up. It’s important to note that this instrumentation is not affective if the hay is #1 quality or ‘candy’.

Most regions of the southern plains have only February to get through, while others won’t see green up until April or May. Maintaining the healthy condition of the herd should be the #1 consideration, regardless of how it fits into your plan, especially on a year that gives you a curve-ball to deal with. From my perspective; bison would have moved and kept themselves in healthy condition, as needed, throughout the year. Therefore; I postulate the species evolved to maintain a high body score, now our responsibility to manage for.

Green-up’s a comm’in – all we have to do is get them ‘over the hump’…

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