Southern Plains Bison Pointers Sept 2018

How Do ‘They’ Look?

There is a term in animal husbandry called ‘an eye’ or the ‘eye of the stockman’ in farming and ranching. The term simply refers to changes, or judgments of herd and animal health that are visible. I help many different types of folks from a wide range of backgrounds with their bison herds. I often ask, when questioned on a management calendar item, “How do they look?”  This is always part of the equation when taking care of any animal, but especially in the fall when caring for Bison.  They should be building up body condition and be ‘on the gain’ in the case of the females. Being on the gain, secures them coming into estrus = calves. Remember; reproduction is the best indicator of good health.

The bulls on the other hand should be looking a bit rough, or at least not ‘fat’ if they are in multi-sire herds and compete for breeding. If your cows are fat, and your bulls are a bit thin, you are probably in for a good calving season. Conversely, if the opposite is true you might be short. Picking up the females with supplemental nutrition is still doable and will still pay off in October.

Some folks are unsure of their ‘Eye’. If that’s the case for you, then invite someone out to help you develop it, or get around to neighbors with bison and compare your herd to theirs. Indicators of health by your ‘Eye’ include; fullness through the front end and hump, hair coat rich in color, no winter tags remaining from last year and a demeanor that is both energetic and content.

The Bison community garners attention from many different scientific fields that can help us ask the right questions via scientific process and data analysis. Genetics, Parasitology, Epidemiology, Ecology and Climatology are all scientific fields and tools for bison management. I highly recommend utilizing all these tools and other scientific fields as you steward your herd health. I recommend even more highly that you never forget to ask;

How Do ‘They’ Look?