Southern Plains Bison Pointers Mar 2014

Spring has sprung and it won’t be long before it’s “raining red-dots” across the southern plains. There are a few points of interest in preparing for a new generation of American icons. The lush spring green explosion in the south can be less mineralized than the harder grasses during the warm-season, or summer. Micro minerals like copper have a direct impact to uterine tone and function. I like to make sure that a good mineral supplement, formulated for breeding stock in my area, is readily accessible to the bison herd prior to calving season to reduce the occurrence of calving related problems such as retained placentas. Additionally; I like to make sure that the bison have access to open grazeable acreage and are not forced to be in thick brushy pastures to help prevent cat-predation.

In my experience, coyotes and small cats are a predation non-issue, but the big cats; more prevalent than you might think, have the potential to succeed.  In the southern plains we not only have lions [cougars] but jaguars as well, mostly the blacks known commonly to local ranchers as blacks or panthers.  When we have a cat in the neighborhood, the bison act differently and we lose a calf, or two, occasionally. I have remedied this in more than one herd by pulling them into a pasture with less brush-cover, thereby allowing the performance of natural predation-response behaviors. The bison begin responding, with less ambush advantage granted to the cats, and the cats then move-on to easier prey and tend not to return to the bison herd for long periods, or until new cats invade the territory.

Another thing I deal with a lot is bison owners wanting to help the mother-bison during the calving season.  In my experience; more harm comes from helping the bison, than the good intended. They are pristine and require the benefit of our absence. Surveillance, from a distance, is the best way to keep track of what’s going on.  If you have problems, just think of how you might facilitate the bison handling it on their own.  The best way to help is to get out of their way, which is a very complex and loaded statement. Personally; I like to have a plan dedicated to the rare occasion of bison in need of calving help. This plan would include: handling facilities, relationships with veterinarians and protocols that regard the welfare of the entire herd and how what I do, in my little spot, may affect the integrity of the species.