Southern Plains Bison Pointers July 2015

Out where the buffalo roam, the mating season is marked by behaviors and sounds of territorial declaration. In my travels across the southern plains – breeding season normally begins now, and is evidenced by deep loud vocalizations, as well as a change in the attitude of otherwise un-aggressive bulls. All the sudden, the bull that acted like your ‘buddy’ for a cube, is looking at you differently while he multitasks reacting to the politics of the herd that includes uncooperative cows and competition for them as mates. In multi-sire herds, each and every bull is up against the same circumstance and as a result, they are very agitated. Weight loss and smart-bumps, especially on the young-guns, are normal to observe as they struggle for the right to reproduce. Personally, it’s my favorite time of year to witness with respect, and caution, as they do their thing. It’s also the time to give them their space, and the benefit of my absence as much as possible.

I like to mechanize the feeding of my bison as much as possible so that it is safe to feed throughout the breeding season. Extra nutrition through the breeding season can upgrade your calf crop significantly. Down south, we find ways to worm in the summer without putting them in the chute which also enhances the bloom and reproductive function of the cow-base. Some cows may look stronger than others and every herd has a weaker end, hopefully not caused by our management. The real value of the weaker-end cows is being tipped off to what the strong cows are dealing with as well, but just dealing with more successfully.

Breeding season is a good time of year to ‘ask not!’ what your bison can do for you, but ‘what you can do for your bison’. Pasture rotation, protein supplementation, mineral supplementation, worming and bull options, is the combination that will produce big calf crops. In nature; they would reproduce at a high level when the environment had a good year. In bison husbandry; we’re always thankful for what nature provides, but make up for what it doesn’t since our environment, and theirs, includes economic sustainability. Another way to look at it is; most people that I help want to have a healthy bison herd. If the bison are in good health, they reproduce; thus – big calf crops = healthy bison herds…