Lots of grass, plenty of water; what could go wrong? Right? This year is different than many of the past, and in many ways including any normalcy in nature. We can expect that our native-grazers might also be a bit more mysterious if we don’t observe diligently – ascertain and react. I think the best way to accomplish this is to observe the herd, and their behaviors, with attention to how content they seem. The answers your looking for come in questions:
1] Compared to the herds history; are they consuming an inordinate amount of mineral?
2] Are they getting enough to eat?
3] Are they showing reserve-system, or is their body score slipping?
4] Are they wormy?
5] Have they totally shed their coat?
These are just a few questions I ask as I observe a herd. It’s this time of year that the job at hand has everything to do with questioning your answers to result in a herd entering the breeding season in good health, and on the gain. The forage regimes across the southern plains are diverse and can be drastically different. Therefore if you have a friend or mentor running bison in short grass, and your bison habitat is predominantly improved [exotic] with no fertilizer, the realities this time of year will be totally different for the herd and your plan.
Personally; I like to ask the bison about their circumstance and look for ways they can tell me what they need. Some of the ways to communicate with them might include: A rough [poor-quality] bale of hay accessible to them – Fecal analysis – upgrading my mineral formulation – forage samples – and my eye. If your eye is still in development, take pictures of your herd when thay are in optimum condition, and compare their body-score to that picture. This is a much better way of detecting severe changes compared to running them through the chute and weighing them in the heat, with red-dots in tow.
Summer in the Southern Plains is a good time to leave them alone and let them do their thing. It is also the time for us to have our thinking caps on, to their benefit and ours.