Southern Plains Bison Pointers Aug 2014

A Time for Questions – Not Answers!
Many bison herd-managers and owners, feel that they are winding up the breeding season and are; pretty much ‘bred-up’ by now. If the largest percentage of the calves come in late March and April, this could be an accurate assessment of your situation. However if more calves are born to the herd in mid-May and June, then the math ‘don’t match’ for the herd to be ‘bred up by now’, or yet. September conceptions = May & June calves. The gestation period of North American bison is credibly conveyed as between 270 and 300 days, with one study in the North stating with accreditation 285 days, which is of course exactly between 270 and 300 days – to the day…
If you’re after a strong calf-crop in the southern plains, you better stay busy through September! Our neighbors to the North will likely have the bulk of their cows covered in July and August, so why is that? One possible question to that question is; does my herd feel like eating, breeding or doing anything but existing when the heat index is 115+ during the day, with no relief through the night? It gets damn hot in the north, but quite often cools off at night compared to the stickier southern plains reality. You will find; that when the nights begin to cool off, you will notice more tending behavior during the day, and that begins to happen toward the beginning of September = mid-May and June red-dots…
Another question is; are my cows in shape and on the gain for ‘breeding-up’? A question for that question is; what are their nutritional realities during August and September? If the answer is; they have lots of grass, there are too many questions for that answer to cover, but one might be; is the grass any good? Personally I like feeding for calves, and if I let my herd hustle, I’m gonna pick winter because bison are really good at getting through winter. Inevitably when I check on a herds condition that has been advised to ‘feed for calves’, I find and ‘end’ or subordinate group within the herd that is not shaping up or looking bloomy enough to be considered ‘on the gain’. This, like so many other things in bison-management, comes down to behavior and in this situation, places at the table. It becomes key to the success of ‘feeding for calves’ that you observe the competitive behavior during feeding. Simply putting out the right amount for the herd does not necessarily address the nutritional requirements of the entire group, which includes the subordinate animals as well. This behavioral factor also applies to free choice supplementation as the herd moves through feeding stations.
Question: Are you feeding them? – Answer: Are they all getting the feed?
The only answer that really matters will come from the bison.