Southern Plains Bison: Nov 2014

  Making the Hard Decisions Easier 

Well…. Here it comes again – the season of change, with some for bison – forever. In the southern plains, winter does not have to be dead and dormant, but if we are not busy in September and October, we may not find ourselves in the bounty of ‘Happy-November’ with winter forage. Either way it’s all about feed. Knowing values and how they plug into equations will make things easier to manage with confidence. An example of this is your hay. You say you have hay, but what does it represent to the nutritional regime of your herd, and what does the herd require. You feed cubes, good! What kind of cube and how is it formulated, and is this supplement balancing the existing forage. You’re putting out salt and mineral, excellent! … What is it, are they eating it, how much are they eating?… and so on. All these questions have answers that resemble cattle-management, but contain the ever-present and atypical ‘buffalo-twist’. My horse-back or farm-boy calculations are going to hit pretty close, but I strongly suggest consulting a licensed nutritionist with experience feeding bison for your base line of operations.  I will caution the reader that experience with bison means more than a drive through YNP or knowing someone with 5 head when ascertaining the benefit of a nutritionist and his or her advice. Personally, there is another expert I like to consult. While they don’t speak English, or even human, they damn sure speak buffalo… They will tell you if something is in need of fixing, or if nothing is broke by their body-score and productive functionality. Animal nutrition is a dynamic and complex interaction between all the factors in habitats or ranch operation – and animal/ herd-health.

Another decision that requires a calculated review, is culling. Sometimes we have to cull and some cows have to go. It is all too easy to set, and stick to, a protocol of ‘if they’re open – they go’. The questions to ask yourself are dependent upon your ranch-reality. We have things to consider in culling bison like: is this her first miss? Is this her second year? Is her condition normal? Is it her fault and are we sure she’s open? It can be much ‘cheaper-to-keep-her’ [if] you have the ranch for it. After all, we are bison ranchers and species preservation is a big part of what we do. So… cull with care!

The bison don’t really need us for much, but they do need the basics like enough to eat and that feed being of commensurate quality with animal-health. Personally; I like to think they also need us to think deeply on their behalves.
Tater laying down for AWA text
Consulting one of my experts – before making a decision

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