Breeding Season Awareness
In July and August, we need to focus on breeding season ‘awareness’. April and May’s calves are conceived in August and September. The gestation period for bison is 270 days to 300 days with an average gestation of 285 days. The southern plains will also likely continue the breeding season beyond September to late November and, in some cases, the first two weeks of December. The late breeding results in late calves and that can be a problem when temperatures spike to historic highs like they have throughout the southern Great Plains region this year. So – we can manage away from late calves by tending to the health of the females right now and checking the boxes I described in last month’s Southern Plains Pointers.
☐Parasitology/ Worming ☐Nutrition/ Protein ☐Mineral Intake/ Copper
Calf crop and conception rates are reflections of herd health.
Bison Management tends to be all about behavior. Breeding season ‘awareness’ would be a subject addressed with remiss were it not to include the dangerous behavioral shift of otherwise dog-gentle giants, and icons of the operation, the bulls. They can be deadly this time of year. The behavior is called ‘tending’ and it is almost always announced by vocalizations. The lion-like roar and ‘herding’ of the female is obvious and announces territory owned by the bull. He will defend it with lethal force if challenged, and that’s just instinct folks. After the breeding season is over, he will return to previous behaviors less precarious and the same ole dog-gentle giant you knew before.
The breeding behavior makes supplementing and other projects like fecal sample collection more interesting. Personally, I am on guard this time of year more than others and recommend: 1) mechanizing the supplementation if cubing and 2) always having a ‘spotter’ when collecting fecal samples.
There is no other time of year that makes us more mindful of the fact that we are stewards of wildlife and not domesticating anything, but rather working with them, and their instinct.