Just some of the buffalo and horse related media:
About 20 years ago, we hired Running J to make a video for us to share with people who wanted to use buffalo or bison in their horse training programs. We just heard too many horror stories not to try and help the bison. In the original video, we covered health, sales, and feeding. We have edited those subjects out, as things have changed over the years. How to train the calves is still pretty much the same and we hope you find this video helpful in your process. We are always here to help, where bison are involved.
March 6, 2017 12:46 am
LOMETA — Thousands of years before Spanish settlers introduced cattle to this land of extremes now called Texas, another cloven-hoofed mammal roamed the open range unfettered. Comanche Indians called these animals tasiwoo. Early pioneers incorrectly dubbed them buffalo. During the late 19th century, in a campaign to subjugate Native Americans, hunters almost slaughtered them to extinction.
But today the American bison is thriving in numbers, not just on public but private land as well. And some ranchers here in Central Texas are making a small, but important, contribution to the growing number.
Stacy Pauly and her father, Dave Smith, bought a bison bull and eight pregnant cows 20 years ago. They live on a windswept Hill Country ranch near Lometa that at one time was home to four generations. Pauly wanted to do something different than raising sheep, goats, and cattle like her neighbors. Today at Legacy Valley Ranch, they own 28 bison, including a bull named Big Easy and a favorite cow that is blind yet continues to deliver a healthy calf every spring.
Pauly said she prefers bison for several reasons. They graze lightly on the land compared to modern cattle herds that depend on exotic grasses. They live longer with lower veterinarian costs. A growing demand for lean red meat keeps prices high. And she and other producers say they feel a connection to the heritage of the Native Americans who depended on bison for food, shelter, and tools made from bones.
Pauly and her father sold their first two animals to a descendant of a Lakota Indian tribe from South Dakota. When the Lakota man visited the ranch he looked over the herd with a discerning eye.
“He kind of squatted down and looked at ’em, looked at ’em, looked at ’em. And he said, ‘I want that one. It has the spirit,’” Smith said. “He took ’em up there (South Dakota) and gave them to the tribe and they started their own herd.”
Tim Frasier raises bison in North Texas and owns and operates a consulting business that mentors folks such as Stacy Pauly. His first personal experience with bison was through his wife’s pet named Boo Boo. Frasier preaches that raising bison comes with an obligation.
“We have an ethical appreciation for stewardship of the species. Rather than raising a breed of cattle, we’re raising a species that’s important to restore back on the American landscape,” Frasier said. “Those bison are a gateway into holistic land care. You can think of your land as a habitat. You can think of your land as an ecosystem. You can think of it as a ranch or a farm. You can name it whatever you want, but if there’s buffalo on it, it’s a habitat for that animal.”
Although the state of Texas has made strides restoring bison to the open plains in such places as Caprock Canyons State Park and San Angelo State Park, the increasing number of bison roaming America is largely due to small operators.
“Ninety-five percent of bison being restored in America are privately owned, and 85 percent of those are in herds of 50 or less,” Frasier said. “And increasingly they’re getting scattered, as they should be, across the American landscape.”
Frasier stresses that bison are wild animals. Keeping a safe distance is important. When a bison curls its tail into the shape of a question mark, it is agitated and you should give way.
Due to high demand, getting started raising bison is not cheap. Expect to pay between $6,000 and $15,000 for a healthy bull. Females typically run from $2,500 to $4,500.
The Ellzey’s began raising bison when they purchased the ranch in 2008 and Dawn’s brother bought three females as a Christmas gift. She points out the benefits of bison meat.
“People want healthy food and healthy meat. Our grass-fed animals aren’t coming through feedlots with lots of antibiotics pumped in them, and growth hormones,” Ellzey said. “There’s a demand for that. Ours eat only grass.”
According to the Livestrong Foundation and other consumer reports, bison meat is typically lower in calories and fat than beef. Frasier said the American Heart Association recommends bison meat.
Here in Temple, ground bison and top sirloin center cut bison are sold at the H-E-B grocery store on South 31st Street. Wildfire Restaurant on the square in Georgetown serves a 12-ounce bison strip loin for $29.
Bison through the ages
- Before 1600, estimated North American herd size: 30 million-60 million.
- Prior to 1900, the estimated number of bison: less than 1,000.
- Estimated herd size in North America today: 381,000.
- An approximate number of bison slaughtered under federal and state inspection in 2015 in the U.S.: 60,000.
In 2016, Congress passed a law making the North American bison the official National Mammal of the United States. According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, bison live in 50 states today and serve as a “symbol of unity, resilience and healthy lifestyles and communities.”
May 21, 2012
Nearly extinct, bison are coming back strong in Texas
By DELANIA TRIGG, Register Staff Writer
Gainesville Daily Register
Gainesville — Livestock producer Tim Frasier’s introduction to American Bison began with a family pet.
“Years ago, my wife Rhonda got, as a pet, a single buffalo,” Frasier said. “ His name was Boo Boo. That’s what brought to my attention the fact that you could get along with bison.”
Frasier who earned an applied science degree in livestock technology is an advocate for the rugged, often-misunderstand animals.
He is also a bison production consultant and a proponent of the nutritional and ecological benefits of raising bison. “I have consulted clear across the state of Texas and up into the North. I went and helped the only herd of bison in the state of Hawaii. I helped them configure pens…I showed them how to humanely and effectively handle their bison herd.” Frasier said his main focus is the welfare of bison.
“It sounds like an adventure, but at the end of the day, it’s all about taking care of animals and facilitating the needs of somebody who needs help raising them,” he said.
Watching the buffalo herds in pens near their Cooke County home, Rhonda Frasier and Tim Frasier speak of their livestock with affection and a reverence that comes from years of observation and interaction with the species. Neighbors sometimes stop and watch the herds, lulled by scenes so majestic they look like they belong in a Charles M. Russell painting.
Rhonda Frasier — who operates the couple’s cutting horse business — said the notion that buffalo are intellectually inferior to other livestock is false.
An adult female buffalo named Trixie lives up to her name — shaking or nodding her head in response to commands and, in some cases, retrieving objects or giving the couple kisses on demand.
“They’re smart,” Rhonda Frasier said. “Treat them with respect.”
Bison are also resilient and can be used in place of calves for training cutting horses, she added.
One doesn’t have to look far to find a buffalo herd.
Tim Frasier said bison are in “every nook and cranny of the United States.”
He believes Texas is poised to become the number one bison producer in the nation. Texas already has more bison farms than any other state, but most of the approximately 618 Texas bison herds are relatively small. “The bison population per (Texas) farm is low,” he said. “The number one producing state is South Dakota, but within five to 10 years, Texas could become the leading bison producing state.”
Western Features: 2005
A Simple Substitute – Cutting horse trainers swap buffalo for cattle in the training pen.
By Jill J. Dunkel
Loping around the buffalo not only teaches the buffalo to stay in the middle of the pen, but it also settles the buffalo and is good for a horse.
Cutting horse trainers have long looked for a way to train horses without the large investment of buying cattle. After all, cattle are expensive, and a calf can be “used up” in one short month. A trainer riding 10 horses can use up 30 head of cattle in just 14 days, which leaves him always looking for a source of fresh cattle.
Over the years, trainers have used a variety of devices to substitute for a live calf, including a mechanical calf or even occasionally a “good hearted” employee, running back and forth on foot. But many trainers have found a unique substitute for a continuous flow of fresh cattle – a small herd of buffalo calves.
Russell Harrison, a trainer from Wichita Falls, Texas, whose NCHA lifetime earnings total over $300,000, utilizes buffalo in his training program. “I use buffalo to start my young horses,” he says. “They work similar to a fresh calf.”
Harrison also uses cattle, but says having buffalo helps stretch out his calf supply. “Right now I have a lot of cattle, but in the summer, the buffalo work better.” Buffalo are more heat tolerant, he says.
“They are a lot more resilient than a calf. One buffalo can replace 10 head of cattle,” says Scott Wilbourn, a trainer near Wichita Falls, Texas, who uses buffalo a large percentage of the time. “I can work two or three horses on one buffalo. When I change horses, I let the buffalo out to get a drink and cool off.”
Wilbourn uses them more as outdoor temperatures rise. “When it gets hotter, it’s hard to keep cattle good. But if a buffalo is in shape and conditioned, I can work him for 15 to 30 minutes straight. Then let him cool off, wet his face and his beard, and he’s ready to go again. If you treat them right, they will last a long time.” Wilbourn’s training business focuses on starting two-year-olds on livestock, with a limited number of three-year-olds.
His buffalo “stay good” for eight to 12 months, using them in a rotation, two or three days a week. “It depends how you use them and how you prepare them,” he says. But if you do your homework, train them right, and feed them correctly, they will last.
Wilbourn says the cost to keep a buffalo is similar to that of a calf, but with a different result. “It’s hard to get much gain on a calf before it’s used up. But with a good feeding and parasite control program, a 300 pound buffalo can get to 700 to 750 pounds in a year.”
Wilbourn feeds his buffalo a lot of good quality hay and a 12 to 14 percent protein grain ration.Preparing or training the buffalo involves a “pressure and release” strategy. “It’s very similar to the training techniques that Craig Cameron uses on horses,” he says.
Tim Frasier of the Texas Buffalo Exchange says training the buffalo is very important. “How you treat a buffalo the first few times you work him will determine how he works the rest of his life,” he says.
Wilbourn uses the buffalo both individually and in a group to teach his young horses. They work very similar to fresh cattle.
Frasier buys good-quality buffalo calves from reputable buffalo ranches and sells them to people in the horse industry. He gives customers a training video with every set of buffalo he sells. Frasier also trains cutting horses at his Gainesville, Texas, facility.
In today’s market, Frasier sells a buffalo calf for between $200 and $300 for a light weight calf, and he guarantees the health of the calf. “These buffalo are all weaned and have had their shots. They are healthy and ready to go.”
Most buffalo calves weigh between 300 to 400 pounds when Frasier sells them. “That’s when they are easiest to train.” After a horseman has used the buffalo for a year, Frasier will help the owner find a buyer, or in some cases can buy-back yearling buffaloes. Some go to feedyards to supply the increasing buffalo meat market and some are sold to working cowhorse trainers. “When trained right, a yearling buffalo will circle and fence just like a calf.”
Since buffalo are herd animals, Frasier never sells less than three or four at a time. “Buffalo establish family groups, and leaving one animal by himself for a long time leads to mental and eventually physical problems. Ten is about the perfect number to keep in a group.”
Wilbourn keeps between eight and ten buffalo at a time. “If I use them a lot, I might work a set for a month, then give them a month off,” he says.”Don’t get me wrong, I still use a lot of cattle. But working buffalo extends the amount of time I can work a set of calves. A buffalo is basically a mechanical cow with a heartbeat. It gives me the opportunity to work a live animal every day without the cost of cattle.”
For more information on the buffalo market for horsemen, log on to https:/frasierbison.com/BisonNutrition.html
Cutting Buffalo November issue of the Western Horseman
by Luanne Brown
The buffalo’s revenge against cattle for taking over the Plains might lie in the cutting practice arena. An increasing number of cutting-horse trainers use buffalo to reduce practice-cattle expenses and enhance their cutting-horse training programs.
Tim Frasier, a cutting-horse trainer from Gainesville, Texas, says successful use of buffalo lies in proper selection and training. Frasier emphasizes that an early investment of time and purchasing the right type of buffalo are crucial elements for their usability and longevity as cattle substitutes.
The benefit of using buffalo as cattle replacements lies in their behavioral patterns and stamina.
“One buffalo calf will replace a large number of cattle because of his longevity,” Frasier says. “If buffalo are fed well and broke right, buffalo calves will stay fresh for an indefinite period of time – at least 1 year, and in one extraordinary case I know of a group that was used for 4 years. Ten to 15 head of buffalo calves will easily do the work of 100 head of cattle.”
Ronnie Sharp, a 40-year veteran National Cutting Horse Association judge, testifies that a buffalo will give many good works per day. He’s been enthralled with the concept of cutting buffalo since the 1960s when a lone buffalo made the herd at a Missouri cutting event.
“The same 25 head of cattle had been worked all day, so of course they were sour,” Sharp recalls. “Someone finally cut the buffalo, and he worked great for him and every other cutter who used that buffalo that day.”
Sharp now utilizes buffalo for his training program in Hamilton, Texas.
Gary Gonzales, a Paso Robles, Calif., trainer who won the Pacific Coast Cutting Horse Association Futurity in 2001, starts his 2-year-olds on buffalo.
“Colts don’t need long workouts to get something positive done on buffalo,” he says. “Good buffalo give the movements I need as compared to sour cattle. So in two or three works the colts are able to accomplish something.”
Buffalo Benefits for Training Horses
Buffalo are predictable, a substantial attribute cattle lack.
“Most cutters have experienced frustration over the inability to work on a horse’s specific problem because of the unpredictability of cattle,” Frasier points out. “Properly programmed buffalo resolve that challenge by working the same pattern in front of a horse every time.”
Frasier points out that once a trainer knows the movements each buffalo will make, he can pick the one he needs to work on a horse’s specific problem. For example, if a horse is weak when releasing to the left, a trainer knows which buffalo to use to work his horse in that direction.
Frasier emphasizes the importance of returning to cattle work after solving the horse’s problems and building confidence while working buffalo.
“If a colt is getting beat up by cattle, I can give him a winning work on a buffalo, and then go back to cattle,” Frasier says. “But buffalo and cattle training must be combined,” he asserts. “I don’t recommend finishing horses on buffalo, unless that’s what’ll be used in competition – and I haven’t seen any at the (NCHA) Futurity,” Frasier laughs.
Older nonpro horses benefit from working buffalo at home because the horses get a nice practice session without being overworked, Frasier adds. Buffalo typically provide a flat pattern, moving back and forth and turning into the horse. If a horse gets bored, Frasier produces the 3-dimensional work cattle provide by opening a gate behind the horse, which draws the buffalo toward the horse and the gate.
To read the rest of this article, check out the November issue of Western Horseman. Subscribe by calling 800-877-5278 or going to the top left of this page and clicking on the subscription link of your choice.
FEB 2005 ISSUE OF THE QUARTER HORSE JOURNAL BY: JILL DUNKEL (Downloadable pdf)
You can still purchase issue from QHJ
Training Buffalo in Pennsylvania!
I had to e-mail you and tell you that I really liked your video on training Buffalo. I started training mine and following your guidlines. It was so easy that I would not have believed it if I did not see it for myself. As I told you my indoor is only 45X65 so I was skeptical as to how this was going to work in such close quarters. I put the 3 of them out there last week and rode a horse around them…In less than 15 minutes they were comfortable in the center of the pen with their tails down. The one hiefer even came up to the horse and sniffed noses? I guess they are happy with their environment. Yesterday, I started the one on one training…Again, They were perfect. Each one faced up to the horse after only a few turns. The bull worked the best. The heifers were good to but they look like they could think of challenging the horse if you “ticked” them off. I am thrilled with how they work and can’t say enough about them!
Thank You for your help..
I’ll stay in touch,
*PS I e-mailed the publishing Director of the Chatter and asked them to run articles like the one you did with the Journal. Anything else I can do to help get the good word out on these extraordinary animals just let me know!