Stress management is the biggest issue for bison in the southern plains during the summer. It looks green and lush, but as the temperature rises and the ‘dog-days’ approach, we need to be mindful of the stressors that impact our shaggy guests.
Heat stress can be self-managed by the bison if they have natural features available to cool. This is especially important for newborn calves. If the ambient temperature is 100 degrees, the ground surface can be much hotter. Dirt tanks, mud, and shade will be good natural features for ‘cooling stations’. I have found in regions with high humidity, or rather regions that are not arid, the bison tend to use shade and water with more frequency throughout the heat of the day. In arid climates, it is still important to provide ponds for the new calves which are not homeothermic (able to control their internal temperature) until they are about 10 days to two weeks old.
Another stressor that is important to track (and know) is parasitism. This can be the #1 thing in the southern plains that robs the bison of resilience. The TXBP Stakeholder Citizen Science and Observations Initiative is a very effective tool for preventative herd-health maintenance and control of parasitism in your herd. New technologies, anthelmintic approaches, parasite behavior in our bison, and botanical solutions are being discovered and shared between TXBP/SCSOI collaborators. There are no dues, no service fees, only letters of collaboration and the cost of ‘knowing’ what’s going on in your herd – (before) your parasitism is ‘out of control’.
Hundreds of years ago, we think the bison roamed the American landscape largely unfettered by humans. Compare that reality to today and the fact that everywhere they roam, they encounter constructions, constructs, and boundaries that are unnatural and human. It’s as simple as taking the time to watch your bison and make sure your operation is not in their way, or an accidental trap.
After all; they are guests that we are lucky to have.