Old man winter showed up early for work in the southern plains this year with a historic ice storm. Roads were closed; cattle were huddled up against the fences; pigs, goats and chickens in the barn; dogs and cats living together and declaring armistice inside by the fire, but the buffalo; out in the middle of it all just laid down most of the time and waited for it to pass. This is what we all know as the bison-advantage and though their resilience to the North American environment is a matter of fact, we still need to pay attention.
Our charge of paying attention to what they have and what they don’t have during a winter blast, is a modern bison – captive reality. This is true whether they are free-roaming on 50 deeded acres or Yellowstone National Park. Do they have water – or some form of it? Do they have feed? Do they have the ability to perform naturally on their own behalves and respond with instinct to the elements? For most herds the answers to the questions asked are answered by throwing out some hay, chopping a little ice and going to the house while the neighbors with cattle, with the help of other neighbors with cattle, are putting in a full day. For other bison herds, none of which are in the southern plains, it involves crews of drovers, helicopters, overtime invoicing and putting in full days driving the bison back to their [captive realty].
Southern plains bison habitats without the benefit of food-plot technologies or perennial winter-grass and sedge diversity, become reliant upon supplemental feed. Average quality hay, with additional protein and energy supplementation can get you through in good shape until the [green-up]. Average quality hay below 8% protein alone, may result in a deterioration of body scores and hardiness through the blue-northern snaps. Body score assessment is the best barometer, therefore; a herd-check on regular intervals is good management. Always feed on fresh ground as well, for preventing parasite ingestion and other associated health issues. As for myself, I like strong food-plot preparation, a little hay [just in case], water – whether they have snow or not, and a whole lot of leav’n them alone during the rough weather. They’ve got it handled and that’s: the ‘Bison-Advantage!’
By: Tim Frasier