Southern Plains Bison Pointers April 2015

Decisions – decisions – decisions…

Managing a bison herd and their habitat is all about decisions. During the changing of seasons; some decisions are being made for you – but without you. Dealing with the decisions made for you, by ‘mom-nature’, are the proverbial curve-balls that take a little more experience to hit. In bison ranching; with experience comes; humility and the knowledge that there is always more lessons just around the corner.

One of the decisions I get asked about this time of year involves working or selling animals during the calving season, or post calving handling-activities before the calves turn from red to brown. This is a curve ball that has to be dealt with sometimes, but the best and most productive decision is to wait until the calves are weaning age and brown. Another common decision, or management reality, is dealing with bulls that seem to be ‘detaching’ from the herd. This may be confused with ‘going rouge’ or unruly behavior, when it is actually quite natural and just ‘a bull thing’. Bachelor-groups are common in bison herds and are usually made up of mature bulls that have passed juvenile social status within the herd. They take the hint from the matriarch’s glares and ‘knife-eyes’ as the female contingent arduously labors for the good of their kind.  I can respectfully relate to this as a male of my species, being raised in the herd and learning to instinctively know when it’s time to hit the ‘man-cave’, wood-shed or shop for awhile. Understanding the social dynamics of ‘your herd’ can help with decisions to act, or to refrain from acting, depending on the circumstance. Sometimes it just seems like something’s wrong – when in fact, and according to nature, it’s very normal. This perspective may save you the cost of replacing a productive bull whose only crime is – acting naturally.

Personally; I tend to accept and regard bison as nearly perfect elements of a natural system. If I have a problem to deal with, or decision to make, I strip the circumstance of all human and/or tame variables, then try to understand what the bison are responding to, and why. Many times this will clear the field of vision and provide solutions, while other times – my experience level just becomes enhanced by one more lesson…